Yarning about USQ’s ‘College Success’ adaptation

In 2020, University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Library staff developed an open text titled Academic Success, which was adapted from College Success by Amy Baldwin and colleagues from the University of Central Arkansas. Guest bloggers Debi Howarth (Manager, Student Learning and Development) and Dr Wendy Hargreaves (Learning Advisor) answer some questions about the motivation and process of adapting the book for local students.

What inspired you to adapt ‘College Success?’

Debi Howarth (Manager, Student Learning and Development) said that study support academics are confronted daily with sometimes dire student circumstances aligned to basic study need. Some of that relates to an inability to afford good quality, academic study support texts or to recognise the commitment required of study; adjusting one’s life to accommodate timetables, due dates, long hours, and new ways of thinking and doing.

In short, the team was motivated by providing support for students to fully participate in their higher education experience.

Secondly, Debi said: where academic study texts are available, they are rarely fully contextualised to the idiosyncrasies of the local, higher education scene. Therefore, I asked Tahnee Pearse (Associate Director) if an existing text on academic study support was available. She contacted me with a possibility; Amy Baldwin’s College Success. With the support of a grant, we adapted College Success to suit the Australian tertiary environment.

A team of 23 learning advisors and librarians reviewed the text, working to contextualise content. Upon recruitment of a Learning Advisor (Indigenous), other possibilities emerged. The text now includes a discussion on yarning and appropriately placed student stories and learning maps.

Through the application of an Indigenous lens we were able to create splashes of text, diagrams, and imagery designed to not only engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students but all students. 

map of getting started at university concepts in indigenous style by Sam Conway at USQ

How did you undertake the adaption process? 

Dr Wendy Hargreaves (Learning Advisor) said that two questions drove and expediated the adaption: 1) What specifically is the nature of the original text? and; 2) What is a vision for Academic Success that fits our purpose and can be produced in nine weeks? As project lead, Wendy’s role was to connect the answers conceptually, and facilitate the transformation.

To begin, Wendy said: I read the original text closely and produced a detailed spreadsheet, mapping the book’s structure and content. I also noted the purpose and audience of College Success, and its writing style. This helped identify which components could be retained appropriately and which needed alteration.

Next, I produced a master spreadsheet for the new book structure and noted where new writing was needed to meet our vision.

The master spreadsheet anchored the adaption process, enabling our team of learning advisors and librarians to work independently on sections while maintaining cohesion in the text. I also created writing guidelines which unified stylistic elements for the team.

Localisation and contextualisation and were key considerations during adaption. The new text transformed the activity-based format to a more extensive handbook addressing the key areas we encounter in our daily interactions with students. Other changes included adopting Australian vocabulary and spelling, and inserting Australian examples, images, and references.

indigenous map of mindset or approach to uni tips by Sam Conway at USW

What advice would you give to other potential open text authors?

Debi and Wendy provided the following tips.

  • Create a coalition of the willing. It is critically important that the team is committed to creating an open text, and that you connect with staff with expertise in copyright, technology and open initiatives. At USQ, we could not have achieved this without the assistance and guidance of Adrian Stagg (Manager, Open Educational Practice) and Nikki Andersen (Open Education Content Librarian).
  • Explore funding opportunities to allow you to dedicate a project manager to the text development.
  • Map the structure, content, purpose and writing style of the original resource in detail and reimagine a structure for the new resource that fits your purpose.

Readers: have you adopted Academic Success?

Have you adopted Academic Success at your institute? If so, please contact us at open.content@usq.edu.au and let us know. Additionally, if you have any feedback or suggestions for improvement, please complete this survey.  

Image credits: All images are by Sam Conway, Learning Advisor (Indigenous), Library Services, University of Southern Queensland. They are licenced under Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-NC  – you may re-use for non-commercial purposes with attribution to Sam Conway so long as you share them under the same licences “Share alike”. 





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