What I wanted:
How do I publish an OER (open-educational resource) open textbook at UW-Madison?
Furthermore I wanted it to meet these requirements:
- Requires no technical expertise to revise and maintain the content.
- Allows for remote collaboration among co-authors.
- Requires no log-in for the reader (content as completely public webpages).
- Readers who want to print out entire units/chapters can do so easily.
- Hosted at UW-Madison at no cost*.
- Easy for the reader to navigate a complex structure with many chapters, and many sections within chapters.
- Fully accessible for readers with disabilities.
- Mobile-friendly (reads and navigates well on a smart phone or tablet)
- Search-engine optimized (so that learners Googling for a specific content question discover this resource.)
- The reader can search the contents of the textbook to find matching textbook sections for their question.
- Make it easy for readers to see what content changes have been made recently, without adding administrative tasks for the authors.
* Cost: DoIT Shared Hosting can host WordPress sites for you. They do have an annual fee if you are setting up this server just for this purpose. But many academic units have a Silver or higher-level Shared Hosting account already going for other purposes, in which case adding another WordPress blog to that server, with this e-textbook theme installed, would have zero cost.
What I tried
After surveying the UW landscape and having many conversations with many people, I ended up building a WordPress theme that did all of the above. You are welcome to have a copy of this theme for you to install on your own WordPress server. You only need to have also installed the official UW-Madison WordPress theme available from http://wordpress.wisc.edu/ plus a couple free plugins detailed here: https://courses.dcs.wisc.edu/wp/readinggerman/style-guide/
Next time I would…
The first textbook launched on this platform was https://courses.dcs.wisc.edu/wp/readinggerman/ on Oct. 22, 2014. So I will be able to answer this question in about one year. So far I’m quite satisfied.
We conducted a pre-intervention survey in early October 2014 to establish baseline data and we will conduct two post-intervention surveys in 2015, one among learners who experienced the transition from print to this e-book, and one among learners who only experienced the new textbook. The latter group will give us an objective comparison in learner perceptions.