International accolades and new collaborations for La Trobe’s open textbooks

La Trobe Library launched their eBureau OER textbook publishing service  in 2016. The platform enables La Trobe authors to develop high-quality, peer-reviewed, open access resources for online and blended courses.

The eBureau supports equity in higher education by providing these learning resources at no cost, available anytime and anywhere. These resources activate student engagement by linking up course content in a digitally interactive and meaningful way (Erickson, et al., 2019)

La Trobe’s Digital Literacies and Open Education Coordinator Steven Chang has been a key part of the journey and also tracks progress of the initiative. Steven said that since its inception in 2016, La Trobe’s eBureau website has engaged students and educators with over 70,000 website views and 45,000 sessions, overwhelmingly from Australia. La Trobe students and staff are the main audience, however, some titles have attracted wider attention. Democracy in Difference by Carolyn D’Cruz has won accolades from international scholars and has been adopted for the University of Technology Sydney course Communicating Difference. It has also been included in community activism and advocacy resources such as the Creative Equity Toolkit and the Commons Social Change Library.

How to do Science: a guide to researching human physiology by Louise Lexis and Brianna Julien was evaluated and found to be successful to support 3rd third year students needing to design their own scientific investigation (Julien et al., 2018). In Australia, it is currently being adapted for use in the University of Southern Queensland biomedicine curriculum and adopted at Australian Catholic University.

 It has also been adopted by overseas institutions such as:

  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Indiana University
  • Ciputra Medical School in Surabaya, Indonesia

I emailed the authors for some more information. Louise Lexis and Brianna Julien said “we’ve had emails from colleagues at other institutions letting us know that they’ve adopted our text book. There are probably other places where our textbook is being used but they haven’t let us know!”

One of the most unexpected and exciting outcomes of ‘How to do Science’ has been publication of a student-authored book, The Little Cell , with accompanying teachers notes. “Our student wrote and illustrated the book as part of an assessment” said Louise and Brianna. The assignment asked students to communicate a scientific concept of their choice to a non-scientific audience.

“Students have created some amazing work and we were really glad we could get one of these pieces out to the public” said Louise and Brianna.

“Also, we’ve been discussing changing our CC licence so we can collaborate with colleagues at another university and allow them to modify the text to better suit their student cohort – we’re still learning about CC and what open can mean and it’s great that things keep evolving.”

I asked Louise and Brianna if they have any future plans for creating OER for their teaching, either big or small?

“We’ve just started a collaboration with colleagues at USQ” they replied – “we’re in the process of modifying our CC licence to allow for adaptation of the e-text to meet their students’ needs. We’re working on a How to Do Science: a guide to researching in oral health and dentistry with colleagues from University of Melbourne and are in the early stages of development of How to Do Science: a guide to researching in pharmacology with colleagues from Monash and Victoria Universities. We’d like to find a way to publish more student work as OER – including books and videos. We’d like to do some work to evaluate The Little Cell to find out if the target audience find it engaging and educative as well as promoting it (and H2DSG) more widely. We’re also keen to keep encouraging more colleagues to engage with OER by producing resources and adopting them in their classes.”

I’d say that was a pretty big collection of OER plans!


Erickson, S., Hodgkin, S., Karasmanis, S., & Murley, G. (2019). An innovative approach to teaching research and evidence in health sciences. IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2019, Athens, Greece.

Julien, B. L., Lexis, L., Salisbury, F., Russell, K., & Loch, B. (2018). Human Physiology Students’ Perceptions of etextbooks: Towards Open Access as an Alternative to Traditional Textbooks. International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 26(7), 38–51.

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