When my colleague Katie Duncan (Inclusive Practices Manager) and I started work on our Students Explain Digital Accessibility project in 2020, we had no reason to imagine that we’d be returning to it a few years down the track. But when Mais Fatayer (Manager, LX Design) and Keith Heggart (Senior Lecturer, School of International Studies and Education) contacted us last year about writing up our process for publishing in a new open textbook, we were super excited and immediately joined the project.

Fast forward another 10 months, and the outcome of this project, Designing Learning Experiences for Inclusivity and Diversity: Advice for Learning Designers, is nearly ready for launch. I joined moderator Helen Chan (Manager, Open Scholarship And Copyright at UTS Library), Mais, Keith and fellow contributor Shaun Bell (Learning Designer, Learning Design and Technology) at a session for Open Education Week 2024 to chat about the textbook. At this session, titled From Concept to Classroom: Creating an Open Textbook in 12 months, there were plenty of valuable lessons and insights for anyone interested in open publishing, whether for a textbook or other types of media. 

Choosing a clear focus

For the inception of this project, Keith drew on his experience in building and coordinating for the Graduate Certificate in Learning Design. He had found many high quality, open access learning materials that focused on learning design, but noticed there was a gap when it came to inclusivity and accessibility in this area. From here, Keith and Mais both realised that they already knew many contacts who would be contribute their experiences to this textbook and help in filling the gap. 

I wanted a book filled with examples of how learning designers have designed for inclusivity in higher education, that we could share with prospective learning designers.


Strength in diverse authorship

The chapters in this book cover a wide range of sub-topics, with each author bringing their own unique experience and subject matter expertise to the table. You don’t necessarily need a large group of authors to be able to author a textbook. In fact, another open textbook project at UTS, Amanda White’s Accounting and Accountability open textbook, was created by a smaller group of authors. If you’re interested in creating an open textbook and feel confident with your vision of what the textbook should cover, you could go ahead and get writing on your own. But as Mais pointed out during the session, there are many benefits to having a wider range of authors when bringing this type of project together. 

One of the strengths of this book is the diversity of authors – our team represents a rich group. We come from different cultures, languages, ethnicities and abilities. We bring unique perspectives to each chapter.


Benefits of avoiding the traditional publishing route

The process of assembling this textbook and preparing for publishing was a joint effort, bringing together the LX.lab, the UTS Library, and academics from UTS and other universities. All chapters were peer reviewed, with feedback being provided to the authors before final versions were confirmed.

Keith noted that when working with a traditional academic publisher, decisions about the book are often beyond the author’s control – a sharp contrast to this project, where he and Mais were continually able to make decisions throughout the project based on what they wanted the final product to look like. This freedom of choice extended to the types of media that could be included in the textbook – one author opted to include videos with their chapter, something that generally can’t be done in traditional textbook publishing. Another chapter uses H5P embeds, so this process allows for a rich combination of different types of media beyond just text.

Practicing inclusiveness and openness

Both Shaun and myself are members of professional staff, and we relished the opportunity to be included in a project of knowledge creation, which isn’t always extended to non-academic staff. Shaun is a learning designer and holds a PhD in Literature, and worked with two academics who were formerly at UTS, and are now adjuncts – Associate Professor Katrina Thorpe (Academic Lead at Nura Gili, UNSW) and Professor Susan Page (Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Education, WSU). They noted how unusual it is as a professional practitioner to be involved with academic authoring, and how much they benefited from the experience and learning an “enormous amount” about Indigenous cultural and intellectual property, knowledge and history while working on the chapter with Katrina and Susan.  

I felt this experience could be documented to support others working in this space. As a learning designer, I think this was also a really great opportunity for me to close the loop on a subject design.


A collaborative success

Throughout our discussion, we often came back to themes of openness, inclusivity and collaboration. This project was one that was deeply grounded in the spirit of open education practices, as well as social justice goals.

Keep an eye out for the textbook, which will be published in the coming months. If you’d like to be notified when the textbook becomes available, send an email to Mais.Fatayer@uts.edu.au.

And don’t forget, anyone can create open educational materials. If you felt inspired by our talk, perhaps consider how you might benefit from incorporating open educational practices in your own work.

2024 OER Collective Textbook Grant Program

The Open Educational Resources Collective is an initiative of the Council of Australian University Librarians, and they are currently running their Textbook Grant Program with applications open until Friday 3 May 2024. Get the full details on the Textbook Grant Program on the OER Collective wesbite.

Catch up on Open Education Week

If you missed a session, you can watch all the videos from Open Education Week on this playlist.

Join the discussion