The following post is written by Cara Chang, Leeward CC English Instructor.
This semester (Fall 2018) is my first semester teaching and piloting a new OER textbook for English 209: Business Writing. Prior to teaching the class, I found two possible OER textbooks for my class on OER Commons. The first textbook was Business Writing by Lumen Learning and the second textbook was Business Communication for Success from Open Textbook Library. I found both books to have important information; the Business Writing textbook focused more on writing skills and concepts while the Business Communication for Success text focused more on oral communication. I also noticed that there was some overlap in the content in both textbooks; in fact, some of the chapters in both textbooks were exactly the same. As I started thinking about what textbook I wanted my students to use, it became apparent that both textbooks had something to offer. Though most of the SLOs in the course focused on writing skills, one of ENG 209’s SLOs mentioned delivering an oral report, which my students would be doing for their final assignment. Therefore, I figured it would be helpful for my students to have access to material on both written and oral communication skills.
In April and May of 2018, I attended a workshop led by UH OER Technologist, Billy Meinke, who shared about Pressbooks, which is a simple e-book production software. He shared an example of a UH Mānoa Nutrition textbook, which had used Pressbooks, and I really liked the appearance, layout, and clean look of the textbook. I also liked how compatible and easily accessible the textbook was on my phone since I knew that would mean that students could also easily access the textbook. I also learned that some OER materials could be easily imported into Pressbooks, which would mean that I would not necessarily need to create material from scratch.
I spent July and August creating the textbook for the business writing class. After planning the course schedule and looking through the two OER textbooks, I decided what information I wanted to include and exclude. I ended up keeping information from both books and combining both textbooks into one textbook while organizing the information in an easy to understand way. I was able to do this quite easily by importing one textbook into Pressbooks, but I wasn’t able to do this for the other textbook, which I ended up copying, pasting, and organizing in a cohesive manner. The book starts with general content surrounding communication, covers the writing process and types of business writing, narrows down to specific writing rules and conventions, and concludes with presentations. Lastly, I made a cover page for my textbook and named the textbook Business Writing for Success, which is a combination of both of the textbook titles.
Overall, I liked working with Pressbooks. It seemed fairly easy to use, and the layout was visually appealing and organized. Furthermore, it seemed to be easily accessible for my students. When I finished creating the textbook, I included the textbook as an external website link in Laulima. My students seem to like the textbook. They like that they don’t have to pay for a textbook and that all of the course materials are located in Laulima. To be honest, I’m not sure they really utilized the textbook as much as I hoped. However, they did have group presentations on how to give presentations where each group was required to read and present on an assigned chapter in the book. I plan to have them take a survey regarding the textbook at the end of the semester, so I know how to better improve it.
While teaching the course and using the book for the first time, I came to realize how I would like to revise the textbook to make it better. As I progressed through the semester, I realized that there was not enough business writing examples for my students. I ended up creating examples for my students that we would view, discuss, and critique in class. Furthermore, I also realized that there are possible chapters I would like to add in the textbook. For example, I had my business writing students create a website and blog in class, and I needed to find external websites for students to read to assist them in this process. Finally, there is room for creating and curating more lectures/videos for students who wish for supplemental materials.
In conclusion, I learned a lot from creating an OER textbook using Pressbooks. It was user friendly and allowed enough customization for my needs. I would definitely consider utilizing Pressbooks to create another OER textbook in the future if I need to, and I invite other faculty members to participate in this valuable experience, as well.