Pressbooks: Easy online publishing

Pressbooks: Easy online publishing for course materials, student work, and more

Jeani Young, Principal Digital Learning Consultant, IUPUI Center for Teaching and Learning

Have you ever been frustrated with your textbook or lab manual options and thought "I could do better than this!" but didn't know where to start?

Pressbooks is a customizable, collaborative online publishing tool that anyone at IU can use to write and share textbooks, lab manuals, compilations of copyright-approved readings, student handbooks, student work, and other publications.

It's built on WordPress, a popular blogging tool, and allows you to not only write text, but also embed images, videos, complex tables, mathematical notation, documents, and reader interactions. Developed to be accessible, the tool also avoids many of the pitfalls of PDFs and Word documents. And it allows you to control the visibility of everything in the book and the roles of other authors, editors, and collaborators. You can create a publicly available book, or connect it to your Canvas course so only your students can access it.

Textbooks and lab manuals

Sarah Hare wrote about the use of Open Educational Resources previously in this column and Pressbooks is a natural place to create or adapt OER work. While you can apply any copyright you like to a Pressbook, some IU faculty are using it to adapt, remix, and write open texts.

  • Kim Donahue at IU Indianapolis combined and extended multiple OER works on Marketing
  • Miranda Rodak and Ben Story at IU Bloomington adapted the existing OER text Prose Fiction
  • Genevieve Shaker and Meng-Han Ho at IU Indianapolis created a compilation of readings on Giving and Volunteering in America

Note: It's not from IU, but Português para principiantes by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at University of Wisconsin-Madison is a nice example of a department integrating rich media into a Pressbook.

STEM instructors and course coordinators are also using Pressbooks for lab manuals. Yu Kay Law at IU East has published an Experimental Chemistry Laboratory Manual, and there are many other manuals to explore in the Pressbooks Directory.

Some instructors are also authoring Pressbooks that they publish through IU Press and offer to their students at a cost lower than traditional textbooks, such as for the Kelley School of Business' C204 and C205 Business Writing courses at IU Bloomington.

Showcases of student work

Pressbooks can also be used for student work. Michael Morrone of IU Bloomington has the students in his Perspectives on Black Markets class write book chapters instead of final papers. You can see two semesters of his students' work at Perspectives on Black Markets v.2 and Perspectives on Black Markets v.3. Other uses include

  • Assigning pairs or small groups of students to write a study guide for a given chapter or topic in Pressbooks, which then creates a full study guide for the entire class to use
  • Having students create portfolios in Pressbooks, either as parts or chapters in a book you create or by creating their own Pressbook
  • As a publishing tool for student writing associated with a co-curricular activity or project like the IU East Celebration of Student Writing

Student handbooks and other administrative publications

Some schools and departments with internal student handbooks are moving away from version upon version of PDFs to Pressbooks that keep students up to date. This allows staff from multiple departments to be responsible for updating their own section and reduces the burden on the staff members who have been compiling Word docs into PDFs.

Pressbooks are also a great place to collaborate on and collect information for periodic publications like newsletters, strategic plans, and annual reports. IU East and IU Kokomo have even moved their undergraduate viewbooks to Pressbooks.

General resources

You can also use IU Pressbooks to build resources for your community or the world at large. For example, the Canvas Semester Checklist was originally created for IU but has been accessed by over 23,500 visitors this year alone—most of them from search engine referrals from people looking for help with Canvas, Kaltura, and Zoom. Zoom to the Next Level: Active learning in the virtual classroom provides activities and resources for anyone using Zoom to teach synchronous online classes.

For more examples, explore the IU Pressbooks Demo Catalog or the full Pressbooks Directory with over 5,600 titles. For more on using Pressbooks, check out the IU Knowledge Base on Pressbooks and the Pressbooks User Guide, or contact your local campus teaching and learning center.