Creating videos: What should make the cut?

Video directorWe’ve all seen some excellent videos (and some really awful ones) for instructional purposes. It’s no secret that video is a powerful medium for learning, but as with any technology, it should be used strategically, and done in a way that enhances the learning process.

During his presentation on “Video Creation for Textbook Authors & Instructors” at the Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference in Santa Fe, Sasha Vodnik, author of video courses with lynda.com (aka LinkedIn Learning), shared his tips on what to include (and what to avoid) in your instructional videos. [Read more…]

How-to: Video creation for textbook authors and instructors

Video creation for textbook authors and instructorsVideos are increasingly integral to the learning process. As a textbook author, you can increase the value of your book for both students and instructors by creating and publishing videos linked to your content. And as an instructor, videos you create to supplement your course can help students review and retain material outside the classroom.

You can get started making your own videos with nothing more than a modern computer. Using functionality that’s built into both Windows 10 and macOS, you can create a screen capture video and narrate along with it. [Read more…]

How to create textbook supplements

Karen Timberlake

Karen Timberlake

Chemistry author Karen Timberlake created a website for the seventh edition of her textbook, Chemistry: An Introduction to General, Inorganic and Biological Chemistry (now in its 10th edition) several years ago, before publishers entered the Internet and began adding online materials such as website supplements to textbook packages.

At Timberlake’s website, students can access learning and teaching activities that complement both her chemistry classes for allied health and her Chemistry textbook, including:

CheModules: PowerPoint Tutorials (PPTS) use mini-lectures and short learning checks to actively engage students in learning.

ChemLinks: Web sources related to each of the topics may enhance a student’s study and learning.

LecturePLUS: Chemodules using (PPTS) develop important chemistry concepts for many topics in the allied health and preparatory chemistry courses.

Books: These give more information on the textbook and supplements.

Quizzes: Self-graded quizzes give practice and immediate feedback on topics covered in chemistry for allied health.
[Read more…]

7 Tips for creating your own website

John Soares

John Soares

Writing College Textbook Supplements

It has become increasingly important for academics to create an online presence as a means of networking and marketing your work. One way to do that is to create your own professional website.

To reap the most rewards from your website, John Soares, a freelance writer and author of the popular Productive Writers blog (www.productivewriters.com), offers the following advice for each step in the process:

  1. Register a domain name. It is important to create a name that is easy to remember, is fairly short, and is related to the content on your site. You can reserve a domain name at any time—even if you’re not ready to create your website yet—in order to make sure nobody else beats you to it. As Soares suggests, “At a cost of only $10 to $12 each, it is worth the effort and expense to reserve a domain name that you may want in the future.”
  2. Select a hosting service. Using a large, national hosting service is recommended so that you will have access to tech support immediately if you need it. Soares uses hostgator.com for his own websites.
  3. Select software. Soares has long been a proponent of WordPress blogging software for personal websites, even for people who don’t intend to blog. WordPress is a good choice for beginners because it is easy to use and customize, and it is easy to set up for social media sharing and search engine optimization. WordPress is free and comes in two varieties—you can download the software yourself through WordPress.org and host your site elsewhere, or you can create a website that will be hosted by WordPress itself at WordPress.com. Creating a WordPress.com site is the quickest and easiest option, but Soares prefers to download the software through WordPress.org because sites created through WordPress.com have less customizability, must include “wordpress.com” in the domain name, and can be removed by WordPress for any reason. Blogger.com, another free and customizable blogging service, is very similar to WordPress.com in terms of both benefits and limitations.
  4. Design a professional looking website. Make sure the content and formatting on your site is professional and proofread everything carefully. To make your website look as sharp as possible, Soares recommends having your website professionally designed. A professional website developer can help create a site that is attractive, easy to navigate, and maximizes social media integration. “The cost for designing a basic WordPress site ranges from $100 to $500, and the cost goes up from there for a more elaborate site,” said Soares. “It is well worth the investment because it makes a site look more professional. When considering a designer, check references and look at other WordPress sites that designer has created.”
  5. Make your site easy to find. To increase the traffic to your site, learn about search engine optimization (SEO). You can start by learning the basics with a book, but since SEO strategies change frequently, Soares recommends consulting websites such as SEOmoz’s Beginners Guide to SEO or Search Engine Land to stay up-to-date. Another way to increase traffic to your site is to officially submit your website address to search engines Google and Bing. This way they are immediately aware of it and will start indexing key words from your website in their databases so that your page will appear in relevant search results.
  6. Set up social media share buttons. Social media share buttons allow others to share your content with their networks on social media, which can help build your site’s popularity. Soares recommends setting up social media share buttons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.
  7. Optimize your traffic. Once your site is launched, your number one goal is to increase traffic. In addition to adding your website URL to your email signature and other print materials, you should also work to get reputable individuals and organizations to link to your site. If you write something for other someone else’s website, include a link to your site with your article, and be sure the content on your site is newsworthy so that related websites will link to yours as well.

Throughout this entire process, it is imperative that you make sure your content is interesting, relevant, and updated on a regular basis.

To see Soares’ tips in action and access more information on creating and improving websites, please visit his websites at www.productivewriters.com and http://writingcollegetextbooksupplements.com/blog/.

Should you receive royalties on derivative products?

Q: “Should I receive royalties on products such as Vango Notes and other derivative products?”

“I have a business textbook with Pearson/Prentice-Hall. I picked Pearson for this book because I really like the level of development they invest in new projects, and now that we are in the second edition, the book is doing reasonably well. With the second edition Pearson also launched a VangoNotes version of our book. This is how the Vango site describes them:

‘VangoNotes are exclusively for Pearson Education textbooks. Some VangoNotes subject texts may still be helpful, so browse by subject at www.vangonotes.com. Alternatively, your professor may be able to recommend a Pearson textbook that will be relevant for your class.’

I’ve listened to the material on my book and it could be a substitute for it (though in brief), and the quote above clearly suggests that Pearson/Vango view the resources as interchangeable. I don’t receive royalties on VangoNotes, even though it is essentially a summary version of the book, by chapter. Does anyone have some guidance for me as to what steps I should/could take to remedy this? I have talked with another Pearson author who has the same experience and concern. I also have experience with another publisher, Flat World Knowledge, which pays me a royalty on all derivative products related to my book, even study aids. My sense is that this is coming from the legal side of Pearson, not the editorial side, and I like working with my current editor.” [Read more…]

Should you create textbook ancillaries yourself?

Q: “Should you create ancillaries yourself?”

A: Michael Sullivan, author of 50-plus mathematics textbooks:

“In the first edition of your book and if you’re in an area where a solutions manual is typical, do it yourself. The pattern of a solutions manual must match the way they are done in the example. If this is not consistent, it will be confusing to the reader. In later editions, you can have someone else do it because you’ve created the model for how to do it.”