A new Australian OER advocacy narrative

Last year I gave a presentation to ascilite’s OEP-SIG entitled: Institutional Recommendations for Open Textbooks: making the most of technology, curriculum innovation and equity policies. This post gives an update, with a link to the YouTube recording of the presentation as well as some recent examples of OER supporting curriculum renewal and diversity policies in practice.

The institutional advocacy narrative presentation

The presentation was based on the Institutional insights, strategies and recommendations made from the national scoping study into the potential of OER Texts in Australia. And in it, I proposed a new model of OER advocacy that’s suitable for the Australia context. For us, the standard US-based advocacy about reducing students’ individual study costs is less of a problem due to the longstanding role of libraries to provide free digital content.  There is also a lack of OER funders here (govt or philanthropic), although I note the great work of the Council of Australian Librarians offering grants to support cross-institutional OER work. So for us, OER is not likely to become a significant policy/funding target unto itself. But OER can enable and progress other important local institutional policies. The video recording is up and the main presentation starts at around 3mins 50 seconds.

The numerous Australian institutional recommendations we made all stemmed from the core recommendation to re-frame Open Textbooks as strategic digital innovation linking digital delivery with curriculum renewal and equity/accessibility policies. When I presented at OER22 in the UK – this  also resonated with the UK policy context.

The presentation explored each recommendation in some detail and reflected on the differences with other contexts such as the U.S.A which has state-based legislature to promote the use of OER.

Instead of an OER policy leading to OER funding, we tend to use current digital transformation, curriculum or diversity policies as a lever to get staff and funding support to create OER.

Image CC-BY-4.0 Sarah Lambert. Instead of an OER policy leading to OER funding, we tend to use current digital transformation, curriculum or diversity policies as a lever to get staff and funding support to create OER. 

While large-scale institutional investments in open textbook authoring programs have many benefits, our results extended the international literature by finding that open textbook initiatives can be an enabler, connecting other institutional policies and strategic initiatives, such as students as partners, inclusive digital learning experiences, and equity and diversity policies. This, I would argue, is a different type of advocacy narrative for the benefits of OER.

What does this look like in practice?

One example I’ve had a little bit of involvement with – Dr Amanda White at UTS has recently developed an “Accounting and Accountability” textbook for 100 level students in the Australian context. 2 North American texts were adapted and new sections and chapters were added. This was done over a 12-18 month period as part of Amanda’s subject development, with support from the Library and a little bit of Faculty funding to cover upper-level students as partner-reviewers. The writing and editing process allowed Amanda to update the sections so that the course better met a new Graduate Outcome focused on indigenous and global cultural knowledge perspectives. I particularly like this introductory section and its framing of the history of accounting from a more global and local perspective.

Our institutional recommendations also identified opportunities to integrate diversification of reading lists and smaller-scale open textbook initiatives into regular staff teaching preparation and other existing resourced processes, such as revisions to assessment policy, major course review and new subject developments including transitioning subjects to distance/online learning.

RMIT has developed a bunch of OER toolkits to support these objectives, and has embedded a social-justice framework into it’s new Open Scholarship Institutional policy (where both research and teaching are covered.) I will share these as they are formally released over the coming months.

Meanwhile, university libraries overseas continue to pursue supporting their teaching staff to diversify their reading lists. Check out this recent Guide to Decolonise your Reading list from the University of Saltford, Manchester (UK.) And locally, Nikki Andersen’s Enhancing Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) in Open Educational Resources (OER) from USQ was released making a strong case for linking DEI with OER. Her book made it to the Pressbooks list of “Favourite Pressbooks of 2022”. Great work Nikki!

Inclusive images for this post

To create some images for this blog post, I checked out Supermemes.Ai image generator. I’m doing some work looking into how we can prompt these tools to be more inclusive as well as “on point”. In my first test, prompts which mention OER and digital tended to regurgitate a lot of white male IT image stereotypes. It wasn’t a great first experiment as you can see in this twitter post. Below is the first attempt and the Oprah Winfrey meme (blog banner) was the fifth attempt before I gave up. More on this in future posts…

Sarah Lambert



One of the amusing images the SuperMemes AI generator created when I typed in “A new OER advocacy narrative from Australian universities”

Another garbled Supermeme.ai image generated from my text prompts

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