The great Ontario business textbook sprint

A woman in a beige blazer presents at a black wall covered in brightly-coloured post-it notes, while two coworkers look on. Capture d’écran d’un manuel numérique montrant un lien vers un questionnaire interactif
03.06.2019 - 4 min. Read

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Open digital textbooks are affordable and portable for students and easy to customize for educators. In February 2018, eCampusOntario gathered leading business faculty from Fanshawe College, Lambton College and Conestoga College, along with instructional designers, content developers, graphic designers and supporting staff for a “sprint” – a two-day, intensive working session – with the goal of adapting two open digital textbooks for Ontario college business courses.

Screenshot showing a Youtube video with stick figures as part of a digital textbook.

Image: Interactive elements can be included.

Textbooks or groceries?

As the cost of Ontario’s post-secondary tuition continues to rise, so does the cost of textbooks. eCampusOntario Program Manager Peggy French describes how, in her experience working with students at Mohawk College, the unexpected cost of course textbooks can impact students’ livelihood, sometimes forcing them to choose between a required course reading and an essential monthly cost – like groceries.

“Depending on what study you read and what program you’re in, books can be upwards of a thousand dollars a semester. It comes out of the blue for students and adds a lot of stress. They may have to pick up another job or do without.”

Additionally, textbooks can be physically cumbersome, particularly when wedged in a backpack on a long commute. Paired with a static nature – difficult to update or customize – and it’s no wonder learners and educators are increasingly embracing OER as an alternative.

Solving the time crunch

A successful OER project depends on contributions from multiple skill sets, including academic, graphic design and technological. The diverse project team—made up of educators and support staff—chose an Agile methodology, commonly used by tech-based organizations that face tight deadlines and limited resources. Using a “sprint,” a key component of Agile projects where pre-specified tasks are completed in a set timeframe, the team split into small groups and spent the two days working through the original textbooks, suggesting updates, revisions and areas for added interactivity.

Creating course material for today’s learners

According to Matthew Hutchinson, one of the sprint project leads who also teaches business at Lambton College, OER interactivity is key to making them more widely adopted.

“The premise with building online electronic resources is to create the gold standard – it’s moving to those higher learning objectives and outcomes,” he says. “The idea is to be able to provide students with the theory, but also the application. We’re taking a static textbook resource that provides the basic theory and theoretical components, but also having the students apply that knowledge in an interactive way.”

 Image: Videos can be embedded into OER.

To introduce interactive elements, the team used H5P, an open-source content framework based on JavaScript that allows creation and sharing of 38 different interactivities, including drag and drop elements, quizzes and hotspot video. The digital element makes it easy to introduce hyperlinked, external resources as needed.

H5P also works seamlessly with Pressbooks, an open publishing platform, which eCampusOntario offers as a shared service for all Ontario colleges and universities to support the creation and adaptation of OER.

Screenshot of a YouTube video incorporated into the digital textbook.

Image: Drag-and-drop features, like quizzes, are easy to customize.

What the team learned

With the conclusion of the sprint, the project team created an effective digital adaptation in a short timeframe. Two new resources for introductory-level business courses were created: Fundamentals of Business: Canadian Edition, a Canadianized, online adaptation of Fundamentals of Business, and Communication for Business Professionals – Canadian Edition, which was remixed from two separate sources (Communication in the Real World: An Introduction to Communication Studies and Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication).

The sprint strategy not only helped the team produce the digital texts but also empowered educators to experience customizing course materials using a methodology that can easily be replicated in their own institutions.

“The cool thing about the sprints is that they bring in other people to really talk about the content, to have really frank discussions about what we need to include, and we don’t need to include,” says David Simon, sprint project co-lead and eLearning Coordinator at Lambton College. “I also learned about the process around Pressbooks, how to input content and use the platform. Those were really the key pieces for me.”

eCampusOntario continues to expand the creation, use and adaptation of Business OER in the Open at Scale – Business OER project. Get involved in a sprint today by visiting: https://business.openatscale.ca/updates/

Do you have an eCampusOntario-supported project you would like to see featured? Contact Lana at lhall@ecampusontario.ca