As one of its first research activities, the DOT4D project is conducting a landscape survey of open textbook publishing at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in order to produce a comprehensive list of open textbooks produced by UCT academics to date. This is a novel task within the institution, which, to our knowledge, has not yet been undertaken. It is hoped that the data surfaced in this process will reveal greater insight into what is happening on the ground in terms of open textbook production and inform other research processes.
In the proposal development phase of the DOT4D project, a preliminary scan of open textbook publishing activity within UCT revealed that, while still nascent, the production of open textbooks had already emerged through the efforts of a number of academics – most likely as a means to deliver more affordable learning materials and experiment with new forms of content delivery. Activity does, however, still appear to be fragmented and confined to small pockets within the institution.
Through the UCT open textbook landscape survey, the DOT4D project aims to explore the open textbook environment at UCT and produce a foundational dataset on current open textbook activity which can be utilised in further research and advocacy activity. It seeks to identify:
how authors classify the kinds of resources produced (e.g. as textbooks, monographs or manuals);
instances of collaborative authorship approaches;
levels of findability and access;
quality assurance mechanisms;
format and multimedia integration;
levels of ease in terms of interactivity, print functionality and redistribution;
copyright and licensing provisions; and
extent to which resources are being utilised.
The methodology employed is a desktop review approach combined with institutional stakeholder consultation. The data generated in the landscape survey will be aggregated and presented as a synthesised report along with openly published microdata.
In addition to the landscape survey, data will be collected in a policy landscape survey as well as case studies, which constitute the project’s two other research activities. All of these outputs will be utilised to inform institutional and national policy-makers on the dynamics associated with open textbook publishing, and the innovations required in order to promote further development in this area.
Investigation to date has already surfaced challenges in establishing a structured definition or understanding of what an open textbook is. A number of resources also exist on multiple platforms, resulting in varied levels of accessibility and reuse, as well as differing licensing and publisher statements.
The project hopes that the data uncovered through the landscape survey can provide a better aerial view of the workings of open textbook publishing within the university, the potential of this emerging environment, the challenges that can be acted upon, and the lessons that can be learned to facilitate better development of and access to knowledge within a higher education institution such as UCT.
The project plans to conclude the first phase of the landscape survey by March 2019 and continue refining detail throughout the course of the project.
DOT4D invites comments and suggestions for improvement on the work-in-progress spreadsheet in which we are tracking existing instances of open textbook development. We are particularly interested to know if we there are any open textbook publishing initiatives at UCT not represented. Comments and suggestions can be directed to DOT4D Researcher Bianca Masuku.