Seeburger’s JMM Minicourse: “Creating and Adapting OER Textbooks Using the LibreTexts Platform”

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This course will walk participants through the process of customizing an OER textbook for one of their courses on the LibreTexts platform.

  • Location: Joint Math Meetings of the AMS and MAA in Denver, CO.
  • Minicourse title: Creating and Adapting OER Textbooks Using the LibreTexts Platform
  • Dates/Times:  9:00 – 11:00 am, Wed. Jan. 15 and 9:00 – 11:00 am, Fri., Jan. 17

Abstract: This course will walk participants through the process of customizing an OER textbook for one of their courses on the LibreTexts platform. In addition to reordering and adapting content from existing OER course textbooks (from OpenStax and many other sources), participants will learn how to use a WYSIWYG content editor to seamlessly edit the textbook content and add their own sections, subsections, examples, and exercises using a consistent numbering system to form a textbook that looks professional and is customized for their course. Figure creation, integration of dynamic figures, editing of LaTeX math expressions, and working with mirrored vs. forked textbook sections will be covered in detail. The presenters have used LibreTexts to adapt textbooks for their courses in Calculus I, Calculus II, and Calculus III. See https://math.libretexts.org/Courses/Monroe_Community_College. The LibreTexts platform is completely free and is supported by grants, including the Open Textbooks Pilot Program Award from the Department of Education. See: https://libretexts.org/. Many of the most popular OER textbooks are already imported into the LibreTexts library, and more are being added all the time. See https://math.libretexts.org/Bookshelves for currently available content. Bring a laptop.​

The purpose of this minicourse is to help participants to become proficient editors in the LibreTexts OER textbook platform and to enable them to create a customized OER textbook for one of their courses.  LibreTexts makes this a simple process, providing a WYSIWYG editor that makes editing existing exposition and mathematics content intuitive and quick. Except for learning a few codes for consistent numbering (11.4.1, 11.4.2, etc.) on Figures, Examples, Theorems, etc., referring to particular equations by number, and the fairly easy LaTeX conventions needed to enter inline and display mathematics, the rest of the text content is created and formatted naturally as it would be in Word or GoogleDocs, etc.

The LibreTexts platform uses MathJax to render its math content.  This makes the textbooks accessible, with even the math content being understandably read by a screen reader.

In addition to making a customized OER textbook with personalized content easy to create and continually improve, LibreTexts also provides a number of advanced features that leverage the online environment or provide alternate ways to deliver the OER textbook to students.  These features include the integration of 3D rotatable figures created using CalcPlot3D, integrated algorithmically generated exercises using WeBWork (or another online homework system), LMS integration, integrated Jupyter notebooks, an integrated annotation system (Hypothesis) that allows students to personalize their version of the texts with notes and highlighting, and a way for students to obtain a Print-on-Demand printed copy of the text.  Of course regular URL hyperlinks to outside webpages, links to other sections or subsections in the same or a different book on LibreTexts, and embedded video content are also easy to include wherever appropriate.

Before the JMM where this minicourse is to be offered, the presenters will create author accounts for the participants and set up college placeholders in the Campus Courses section of the Math LibreTexts site.  The presenters will also contact the participants to learn which courses they wish to create OER textbooks for so that we can be better prepared to assist them and to make recommendations on which course might be easiest to start with and to provide suggestions on what participants should do to prepare for the minicourse.

In the first two-hour session of this minicourse, the presenters will demonstrate the LibreTexts environment, exploring the various components of the platform and reviewing of the available OER textbooks and resources for the various courses participants are interested in working on.

Then we’ll show some of the sections of the books we have adapted for our courses, demonstrating some of the available features in LibreTexts and showing how easy it is to edit and create new material in this platform.  We’ll provide instruction in using LaTeX to edit/create math expressions and discuss some best practices for LaTeX math formatting on the LibreText platform.

We’ll then get participants logged in and started on the process of creating their first book.  We’ll discuss the options available, and walk participants through the process of creating a new textbook folder and copying a mirrored copy of a source textbook section into it.  We’ll show how to fork this section if we wish to edit it further and then we’ll cover how to edit a page in the LibreTexts platform, using some examples from a tutorial handout. We’ll cover how to edit existing text and math, how to add a new example or exercise, and how to add a new subsection, etc.

We’ll then create a new page and show how participants can create a new Section from scratch.  We’ll use our tutorial to show some examples, but encourage participants to sketch out a section they may wish to create.

Next we’ll show how to use the Remixer to create a whole book from existing OER resources in the LibreTexts Bookshelves.  This provides a very quick way to get an entire OER text in place that is ordered as we desire and contains exactly the content we wish to include.  This is a great first step in customizing an OER text for a course, as the whole book is basically there. We just need to work our way through it, and make it our own.

In the second two-hour session, we will demonstrate how to create 3D rotatable dynamic figures for use in LibreTexts textbooks and also how to create standard image figures with various graphing tools (Desmos, CalcPlot3D, and the presenter’s 2D graphing tool).

We will also explore some of the other advanced features mentioned above and show how they can be incorporated into (or used with) LibreTexts.  Minimally, we plan to demonstrate the integration of WeBWorK exercises and the use of Hypothesis.

We’ll then address questions from the participants and spend the majority of the session working with participants as they work on their own textbook projects, providing assistance, as needed, and giving instruction from the front, from time to time, as we see a need for it.

Note that some of the content of this course would be helpful for participants adapting OER textbooks for their courses on other platforms as well, since many of the procedures are very similar.  But this course is ideally suited for those wishing to fully evaluate LibreTexts as an OER textbook platform, and who wish to adapt an OER textbook solution for their course(s).