And now for the sixth story in our ongoing series related to Camosun’s Open Education Sustainability Project: Sandra Carr. Sandra teaches in the Fine Furniture (Joinery Trades) program at Camosun. In fact, she is the only one who teaches in this program which as you can imagine, has created some challenges as she embarked on creating open textbook materials to support her students.
Like Brian Coey, Sandra’s goal in applying for this project was to “create something that dealt with all of our stationary machinery in the shop because our program currently doesn’t have a textbook.” She had used open content in the past, for example, the Trades Common Core materials, saying that she “tried as much as I could to bring in that content into the program to save having to use other materials that would cost the students.” What she finds very powerful about working with open materials is the ability to tailor the content to her own program. “Within the text, I can use examples of things that we actually do in the shop using our own machinery, meaning there would be a familiarity there for the students. And then of course I can keep editing it.” Finally, Sandra is excited that open materials give students not only the opportunity to review content before and after their shop session, but also to access the content after they finish their programs. “A lot of what we do is ephemeral – they have access to material for the term, and then it’s gone. Whereas this is something that they can refer back whenever they need to.” But recognizing that access to open content can go beyond her students, Sandra hopes that high-school teachers will also use and share (and potentially adapt) her open content because they typically don’t have much of a budget, nor do they have a textbook.
In addition to the challenge of being the lone instructor in her program (meaning that to work on this project, Sandra had to request leave leaving a substitute to teach for her, and use non-contact time, in order to find focus time and mental space to work on the project), Sandra tells me that one of the bigger challenges she had embarking on this project was “understanding and navigating the copyright around images. In the end I learned it was easier to create images myself rather than trying to navigate copyright for what I wanted to do.” In addition, because she had never written anything like this before, she found deciding what to include or not include, as well as figuring out the appropriate writing style challenging. Basically, it was all about “just getting up and going on something brand new that I never done before.” Finally, “one other challenge was creating graphics and images, which I quickly learned that I could have our graphic services help me with”
With all challenges come lessons learned, as well as new skills. “I learned how to write succinctly and simply and also how to standardize the format of the information I presented.” Sandra also greatly appreciated Pressbooks once she learned how to use it. “I think it’s a valuable resource, and I would love to move more of my content onto Pressbooks.”
Sandra does have some advice for other faculty thinking of moving their content into the open, and in particular into Pressbooks. “Create the most comprehensive outline that you possibly can. And if possible, work directly in Pressbooks rather than copying content from WORD. Standardize your images before you begin uploading them to Pressbooks because the more you figure out beforehand, the more time you will save. Finally, “if you’re writing several sections, create that outline, and then create one full section because you will discover what organization and formats will work best overall. I initially focused on the first section until I had a template for the rest of the sections.”
Moving forward, Sandra is still working on completing the (six) chapters she has created in Pressbooks. She would like eventually to add videos saying “the value of video is something I’ve heard from students – they can go back in their own time to review the videos, learn the processes better, and become more confident. And since I’ve got my webcam and microphone now, and have been creating videos for other projects already, all I need is to put together the copy and images, and then I can add video to my book.” Sandra also sees the benefits of video adding a consistency to demonstrations for students. “Having videos, rather than demonstrating in person multiple times, adds consistency and leverages your capacity as an instructor. Our courses will never be self-directed, but having content available where students can watch the video as many times as they need to, in addition to having me demonstrate in real time is so beneficial to the student. Some students need to view the content multiple times to really grasp the procedures, and it’s there for them at the time they need it.”
Sandra’s final thoughts to me reiterated how happy she is to be able to share content, not just with students, but with the wider community. “I’m here doing this work anyway, and to be able to publish it and share it, and then have others edit and contribute to it is amazing.”