Retrenchment, Day 2

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm going to be reporting on a daily basis about my "Retrenchment Journey" over the next 279 days. Some of these posts will have to do with how the situation I find myself in seems to be a very clear demonstration of the current crisis in Higher Ed. This is one of the main reasons I want to document this experience and why I think it will be resonant and attract readers. But along the way, I think I'll also be surprised by some experiences and ideas I hadn't anticipated. Today I have one of them.

Writing Open Educational Resources (OER) is something you do when you are employed. This isn't something that has really ever occurred to me before, because since I began writing OER I have always been employed. I did recognize pretty clearly that it was the type of activity that attracted early-career overachievers, eager to make a name for themselves by going above and beyond the call of duty. But I figured, "what goes around, comes around" and expected that as Rajiv Jhangiani once said, "change often comes one retirement at a time". While I believe that is still true, I've recently run headlong into the reality that sometimes change comes one retrenchment at a time.

It's one thing to give away valuable content when you are an employee and the content both enhances your organizational value and provides benefits to students. The institution benefits tremendously as well, through increased enrollment and retention as students discover they can eliminate the crushing expense of commercial textbooks. However, it's a bit much, I think, to expect people who are not collecting a paycheck to be expected to donate their intellectual property and effort in this way. So once I am no longer earning a paycheck, I'm considering ending the giveaway.

I gave away several of my OER textbooks on the Open Textbook Library, over the years. These began with my American Environmental History textbook, which I'm revising this summer for my fall class. Then I wrote a Modern World History textbook that I later revised with another Minnesota State professor. I may want to revise this again, if I decide to teach a Modern World course on the web. Next was a US History I text that began as a remix and revision of a pre-existing open textbook, but evolved into my
American History Told By Contemporaries primary source anthology. I'm still working on that one, adding podcast links so students can listen to the sources in addition to reading them. I'll be using it this fall in a class as well.

Finally, there's my note-making and writing guide,
How to Make Notes and Write. This began its life as my father's A Short Handbook for Writing Essays in the Humanities and has been through a couple of revisions. The most recent one was last year, when I added a whole note-making section to make it a more complete "Methods" textbook for students wanting to learn to write a research paper. This one may be the most obvious candidate for removing from the Open Textbook Library. I'm not teaching a course during my final year of employment that uses it, so there's no paycheck currently associated with it. And it does have a bit of a following. I suspect that if it was no longer available as a free e-book, I might sell a few more copies. And since there are only 279 days left in my career at BSU, that's something I need to think about.

So, as of now, I'm removing the free ebook of
How to Make Notes and Write from the Open Textbook Library and making it available for sale on Amazon. In the near future, I'll probably create a research and writing methods class that I'll offer online. So, hopefully, people who value this content will support the author now that I'm transitioning to freelance.

Link to YouTube: