Creating a wiki for OER resources for communication

My latest efforts to use OER’s is to collect resources and tools for content creation using a wiki.

I have been experimenting with wiki and website creation, mostly for creating an online presence for my own use but also aspiring to a wider audience. I experimented with creating an OER website, entitled Basic Course OER, from scratch at Reclaim Hosting. This is a web host that is geared to higher education, offering hosting and domain name service for $12. (Their efforts are a bit of an experiment, so I am not sure this low price will last long.)

I tried creating a Mediawiki-based wiki site there –http://wiki.basiccourseoer.org/Main_Page . Mediawiki is the same base of code that is used for Wikipedia. It was cumbersome to use, and I have found a hosted wiki that is easier to use at Wikispaces. At this site, I am actively developing a wiki devoted to resources for the general education core communication course, https://basiccourseoer.wikispaces.com. This will give me a central point for collecting materials and, since it is a wiki, eventually other faculty can also contribute to it.

Faculty other than communication teachers may be interested in one page of the wiki, which lists sites for on-line content creation. The wiki looks very crude at the moment. I am hoping to spruce it up and add lots of links and content over time.

I know there are repositories for resources and many have clearly marked sections for disciplines such as communication. I think this wiki will have a narrower focus, as it is concerned with the core course in oral communication. I think this will grow in value over time. As I learn about new resources, links will be added to the wiki. I will also add material I generate, probably as PDF’s.

One example of how the resources on the wiki will grow just happened this week. I just returned from the Central States Communication Association convention. While there, I learned that one of the association’s interest group just created a web site for GIFTS (Great Ideas for Teaching Speech). With a wiki, I am able to create a link to that resource in the wiki, making it readily available to others.

OER at Central States Communication Association Convention

In April, I attended two Community College Interest Group panels at Central States. I shared some ideas about developing open resources that might one day be used as a textbook replacement. I discussed some of the frustration I have had with students not buying or using the required textbook. Several faculty expressed similar concerns.  I am going to be working with a couple faculty members from other schools on at least one panel to discuss OER at our convention in Minneapolis next year. 

I also learned about an open source book that is coming close to meeting some of the needs of my class. I was aware of an earlier draft of this book, but this version is much more complete. While it is not exactly a perfect replacement, I could see using a few of the chapters to replace or supplement a textbook’s discussion of some topics. The book is on Wikibooks — http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Survey_of_Communication_Study .

Open source textbooks and existing books

I haven’t made much progress in finding and/or adapting open-source material for my fundamentals of communication class. In the meantime, I ran across an article that addressed an issue concerning the larger project of possibly creating an open source textbook replacement recently though.

This was a post in the “Wired Campus” blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education. It discussed a lawsuit between textbook publishers and an open source book publisher called Boundless. The textbook publishers argue that Boundless is creating collections of open-source material that follow the organization and structure of their books too closely.
http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/free-textbook-company-rewrites-its-content-following-publishers-lawsuit/42809
Some of the comments that follow the article are interesting, observing that the book companies borrow each other’s structure all the time. This is certainly the case in my field and in the course for which I would like to find/develop an open source alternative. Books for this course have gradually become homogeneous, with exactly 15 chapters, each covering the very similar material. I spoke to a textbook author a few years ago who had just published a new textbook for the course. He said publishers wouldn’t allow him to include certain topics because they needed the same structure as existing books to compete with them.

Part of the open source publisher’s argument is that you can’t copyright ideas and facts. This is a key issue in my thinking about how to create an open source textbooks for this course. The set of ideas has been gradually standardized for the sake of competition. The situation cries out for an open source solution, since the publishers themselves have limited the set of topics in this course, creating this standard set of ideas. Making materials engaging, or the treatment of the ideas, is something that should not be copied. This is the writer’s craft. But the set of ideas is clearly spelled out for this class. This could serve as a structure for a collection of open source material in a wiki-like structure.

OER for Fundamentals of Communication

I am interested in finding a textbook replacement for the fundamentals of communication course I teach. I am not aware of a currently-available, quality open source book or even that much quality open source materiala for communication. Finding/creating/adapting suitable material is going to be a long process, so I also want to explore some smaller goals.

I am motivated to explore OER and textbook replacements because of textbook costs and the impact these costs have on my students’ ability to achieve their educational goals.

If I were to dream big about OER, I would love to have a 15-chapter textbook that was approved by an academic communication association like the National Communication Association. It would be ideal if this hypothetical book were created through crowd-sourcing the best ideas from many expert faculty across the globe.

I am trying to decide what might be some first steps toward this goal. A smaller goal might be to find/create/adapt enough quality material to allow students to purchase a cheaper custom version of an existing textbook by replacing some portions. This goal will also probably need to be done a little bit at a time.