Writing in Book Sprints

Link: Writing in Book Sprints (OER13 Conference Paper) (PDF)
Link: Writing in Book Sprints (OER13 Conference Paper) (MS Word .doc)

Outlines a novel approach taken by Jisc and Cetis to synthesise and disseminate the technical outputs and findings of three years of HEFCE funded UKOER Programmes. Rather than employing a consultant to produce a final synthesis report, the authors decided to undertake the task themselves by participating in a three-day book sprint facilitated by Adam Hyde of BookSprints.net. Over the course of the three days the authors wrote and edited a complete draft of a 21,000 word book titled “Technology for Open Educational Resources: Into the Wild – Reflections of three years of the UKOER programmes”.

While the authors all had considerable experience of the technical issues and challenges surfaced by the UKOER programmes, and had blogged extensively about these topics, it was a challenge to write a large coherent volume of text in such a short period. By employing the book
sprint methodology and the BookType open source book authoring platform the editorial team were able to rise to this challenge. Although BookType allows authors to restrict access to their works in progress, the team decide to produce the OER technical synthesis book as an open draft. This meant that colleagues who were not participating in the book sprint were able to monitor progress, and read and comment on the draft as it grew.

Book sprints are essentially short intense facilitated writing retreats, which bring together a group of four to twelve people along with a facilitator to produce a book in three to five days.The model involves little or no pre-production, and the aim is to have a published book (in ebook and print-on-demand formats) by the end of the sprint. Book sprints are not primarily an exercise in collating content from existing sources, the majority of the text is original material written during the sprint, however in the case of “Into the Wild”, some material was incorporated from relevant blog posts. Although the book sprint methodology was originally designed for producing open source software manuals, particularly FLOSS Manuals, the technique has now been adopted by other non-technical domains, including academic disciplines. For example, a group of Finnish high school teachers recently wrote a maths textbook during three-day book sprint (Harmon, 2012).

We believe that the facilitated book sprint approach and the open source BookType software will be of relevance to colleagues who are interested in developing books for or about open educational resources, particularly where they have the necessary background knowledge and access to content that can be adapted and reused, but lack the time or support to marshal these resources into a coherent, professional product.

In this paper we outline and reflect on our experience of employing the book sprint methodology and explore its applicability to the creation of open educational resources.

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  • Author(s): Phil Barker, Lorna M Campbell, Martin Hawksey and Amber Thomas
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  • Serial number: 2013:X01