31 Improvements and Maintenance Summary

Every book should have an ‘afterlife’ beyond its initial use — changing and evolving to ensure ongoing relevance and continued adoption. Regardless of whether your resource is web-based or printed, it will need some amount of editorial attention in order to remain valuable.

In this way, your role shifts from creation to a focus on maintenance, updates, corrections, and planning or coordinating future versions and editions.

  Underlying principles

Maintain the resource so as to strengthen it and improving its perception. Books that are not updated can be seen as out of date and therefore not be considered seriously by potential adopters.

Be responsive to changes in theory, discourse, and practice. Corrections, updates, and additions can be based on reviewer and adopter feedback, as well as wider shifts in the book’s discipline or subject area.

Be public about in-progress and completed updates. Anyone invested in the resource will be motivated to keep it up to date; informing them about expected improvements can prompt them to help or simply look forward to the update.

Carefully time when you carry out changes. Although making changes to OER is relatively easy and flexible, be considerate towards current users of the book. Updates in the middle of a semester or teaching period can have a disruptive impact on learning.

Parse, process, and plan before you do. Prioritize which tasks need completing first, based on the resources at hand and the complexity of the tasks. Use the scale of changes to determine timelines and the release of new versions and editions.

  Who’s Involved?

The possibilities of improvements, spinoffs, and adaptations are endless, but they don’t all need to be done by you alone. Reach out to the rest of the team!

  • Project managers: coordinate and notify teams about similar projects, make connections between new and current collaborators, oversee projects through to completion
  • Authors: implement changes, record them in the Version History
  • Editors: prioritize work for future versions or editions, implement changes, record them in the Version History
  • Adopters: assist with implementing changes, take charge of a spinoff project
  • New collaborators: assist with implementing changes, take charge of a spinoff project
  • Adapters: share improvements back to the original book, implement changes, lead new adaptation projects
  Key Tactics

Whether the changes you are working on are new, or were planned earlier in the project but never executed, keep the following in mind:

  • Look for grammatical errors, broken links, and accessibility of formats.
  • Find newly created OER repositories and submit your book for inclusion.
  • Make small maintenance changes to the webbook anytime during the year.
  • Only make larger additions or updates to the webbook and other formats during breaks in academic sessions.
  • Look for trends or shifts in your discipline or subject area, and make updates that reflect and respond to them.
  • List error reports and corrections publicly.
  • Record larger changes, like edits, additions, updates, and expansions in the Version History.
  • Indicate new versions by point increments (e.g., from version 1.2 to version 1.3) and new editions by whole number increases (e.g., from edition 1 to edition 2)
  • Add ancillaries, new formats, and media—another type of improvement that moves beyond simple corrections.
  • Contact the team and collaborators, including adopters, to help as needs arise.
  • Set up clear communication pathways from the book and ancillaries, so new collaborators can reach out.
  • Identify an interim project manager if you need to step away or share the workload.
  • Always keep everyone informed about ongoing work and estimated timeframes for completion.

Part of what makes open textbooks important is the community building that goes hand-in-hand with their creation. This doesn’t stop when the book is released, so continue to gather people together as you plan updates, and encourage them to add to or modify the resource as it suits their needs.

Keep reading to learn more about maintaining and improving your open textbook.


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The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far) Copyright © 2019 by Apurva Ashok and Zoe Wake Hyde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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