Because the creation of eBooks—particularly collaboratively authored eBooks—is still in its infancy, we want to share our experiences developing this volume. Our efforts were greatly aided by the work and lessons of the first Cultivating Change in the Academy volume (Duin, Natar, & Anklesaria, 2012). This first authoring team was composed of sophisticated information technology professionals, blazing a new trail to document innovations in teaching technology. They pioneered the use of eBook software, and offered ample training and documentation. In contrast, while the design team of this volume possessed people with some information technology skills, none were experts; eBook publishing software and blogging platforms are now developed enough that there are few barriers for generalists.
Most notable about the creation of this eBook was the ways we deployed the Art of Hosting approach throughout the whole process. As such, this epilogue functions as another descriptive chapter showing how Art of Hosting—supported by information technology—transformed the conventional academic process of book writing, editing, and publication.
Inspiration & Invitation
Watching the collaborative and nimble publication of the first Cultivating Change in the University, Public Affairs Associate Professor Jodi Sandfort was inspired. At the time, Sandfort was involved in basic research with Professor Kathy Quick about the Art of Hosting model in the upper Midwestern region. Others at the University of Minnesota were developing a report based on interviews with Art of Hosting training participants. While useful, these conventional social science surveys, interviews, and analysis were too time-intensive given the diverse applications of Art of Hosting reportedly being carried out throughout the University. Moved to action, Sandfort issued a request for participation in a documentation design team to capture the diverse applications of Art of Hosting at the University.
Purpose & Principles
Ten people responded to Sandfort’s general call, sent out to an email list including all those previously trained in Art of Hosting at the University. During three meetings, this design team laid out a vision, articulated the purpose statement, and created the overall design process, applying the Chaordic Stepping Stone framework. The principles this group felt important included:
- The eBook should free and as accessible as possible—a contribution to the commons, published under creative commons licensing.
- This project would be about sharing stories, not creating a “how to” manual.
- The process should encourage authentic co-creation. To the extent that it made sense, we would work face-to-face and collaboratively as a project team.
- The process should encourage community-building. We would bookend the project with gatherings of the broader UMN Art of Hosting community, hosting both a kick-off gathering and a book launch celebration. Similar to the 2012 Cultivating Change eBook, we would create a companion WordPress site to stimulate online discussion and community interaction related to the stories and video content.
- Everyone would be welcomed to contribute where they feel they could best do so.
- We would keep the process moving; attempting to complete the process in a manner akin to the booksprint approach being used globally to collaboratively author open source textbooks.
As a result of implementing these principles, we moved from initial meeting about the concept to full publication of the eBook and companion website in less than six months. We did so by leveraging the power of the community of Art of Hosting practitioners, creating working groups for events, marketing, technology, and content.
Prototyping the Technology & the Stories
Even since the 2012 eBook had been published, more eBook publishing platforms had entered an already crowded marketplace. In keeping with the principles of accessibility and co-creation, the tech team selected a publishing software that would not only functionally allow for collaborative authoring, but also create an eBook based on ePub open format. This would ensure it could be readable on as many platforms as possible, including iPad, Kindle, Nook, Android-based tablets. It also meant that video and audio could not be embedded directly in the eBook, but would instead have to be directed to through the use of hyperlinks.
To begin, the design team thought it best to create a prototype eBook, with an introduction and three chapters (with multimedia content) during April. This helped the team familiarize itself with the selected eBook and website development software (i.e., Sigil/Calibre and WordPress, respectively), enabling them to draft simple submission guidelines for authors, and provided a tangible example of what was being co-created to inspire storytelling broadly.
In May, the design team issued an invitation to all University of Minnesota employees trained in Art of Hosting. This invitation not only welcomed community members to submit a story but invited all community members to support the creative process by participating in a kick-off gathering. The purpose of this gathering was to help individuals and authoring teams practice sharing their story. The gathering was hosted by members of the design team as a modified Proaction Café, allowing storytellers to share their ideas, and further develop their ideas and outline their stories through focused small group conversations. Twenty people attended to share their questions and insights with others in the community.
Writing & Editing
Following this gathering, authors were given two weeks to draft their stories and an offer to be paired with other community members serving as writing coaches. The original design team served a key organizing function, reaching out to colleagues whom they knew to be practicing hosting to invite them to submit stories. After two weeks, 20 stories were uploaded to a shared Google drive folder to which all authors and design team members were given access.
An editorial team of six “content weavers” gathered to read the stories to provide additional feedback to authors, determine the book’s flow, draft framing text for each of the book’s sections, and overall continuity. Authors were given an additional week to incorporate final edits before they were loaded into the eBook software and the companion WordPress site.
Licensing & Distributing
The involvement of the University libraries was valuable for ensuring effective licensing and distribution. In keeping with the 2012 Cultivating Change eBook, it was determined that a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 license would be desirable, allowing end users to utilize materials in the eBook as long as the materials were attributed to the authors. The University Libraries acquired and provided a permanent URL for hosting and distribution of the eBook. The eBook was also converted from the ePub format (i.e., iPads, Nooks, etc.) to the Amazon Kindle format for the widest possible distribution. Accounts were created on iTunes, Google Books, and Amazon Kindle, as well as on public libraries’ open source systems (e.g., OverDrive, GOBI, etc.) and databases (e.g., ERIC, Google Scholar).
A marketing and distribution plan was developed and initially implemented by the design team. We connected with University Relations to share this news with the University community broadly, as well as reached out to the Art of Hosting community both regionally and internationally, and the higher education community. A conversation campaign was initiated in which one of the eBook stories and a powerful question are sent out via social media to stir up conversation. A series of in-person gatherings around the themes of the stories has also been envisioned as an avenue for co-learning and community building among anyone interested in the practice of Art of Hosting across the University of Minnesota and regionally.
Just as the team of editors and contributors to the 2012 Cultivating Change in the Academy eBook left a roadmap for us to follow, we hope that this epilogue (as well as capturing our process and resources on a team wiki created as a Google site) will provide documentation enough for others interested in using a similar collaborative authoring and eBook publishing method to share their stories. We are happy to have a conversation with anyone interested.
In keeping with the Four-Fold Practice this book truly was the result of a community being present to what is emerging and possible, participating in meaningful conversation about what we’re learning, hosting each other in sharing stories and co-creating this eBook. As with the original Cultivating Change eBook and any hosting experience, this was a result of shared leadership in which many individuals were willing to contribute their skills and wisdom while exploring their own learning edge. We hope this project inspires many at the University of Minnesota and other institutions of higher education to explore new ways to enrich the work. We also hope this project contributes to the dialogue among the community of Art of Hosting practitioners both regionally and internationally.
First and foremost, we thank the 2012 Cultivating Change eBook team who not only inspired us but also generously shared a roadmap for us to follow. They also welcomed us to co-brand, acknowledging the importance of harnessing both virtual and human technologies in cultivating change in the academy.
We deeply appreciate the contributions of our authors—those courageously practicing Art of Hosting with a beginner’s mind and willing to deeply reflect and share back their learnings. These people are truly passionate about the University’s mission and are working day-in and day-out to make it a transformational place to learn and work. And they took the time to author a story on an abnormally short timeline. To this, we owe a great deal of appreciation.
We also owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the project design team and editors: Dave Dorman, Susan Engelmann, Pam Enz, Wendy Lane, Cristina Lopez, Myron Lowe, Jen Mein, Kristen Mastel, Karen Seashore, Marcela Sotela Odor and Karen Zentner Bacig. Without their creativity, enthusiasm, and outreach, this book simply would not have happened. Though the initial call was only for participation in three project design meetings, many of these individuals stuck with the project through its entirety or entered the project just when we needed them, contributing as authors, gathering hosts, and serving as editors. This team proved what powerful results can come from co-creation.
We also thank the copyedit and technical support provided by Abram Anders, Meghan Krause, Angela Stehr, and Kristen Mastel. We appreciate the beautiful graphic design work provided by Sandra Wolfe Wood, inspired in part by the graphic work of Joel Dickenson for the 2012 Cultivating Change eBook. In Art of Hosting, we talk about making spaces beautiful and welcoming—you have wonderfully hosted our readers in this literary space.
Leah Lundquist, lundq113(at)umn(dot)edu
Jodi Sandfort, sandf002(at)umn(dot)edu