Research Plan

Key research topics and question to be addressed: 

RQ1: To what extent do free open textbooks provide a boost to grades and reduce failure for equity students? How does this compare to provision of financial scholarships?

RQ2: To what extent are Australian academics ready to embrace open textbooks as widening participation initiatives as seen in the USA, Canada and the UK?

RQ3: Can a social justice approach to open textbook initiatives in Australia deliver financial and motivational study benefits to students and a stronger sense of belonging for under-represented and disadvantaged students?

RQ4: How can Australian higher education institutions use open textbooks to redress educational injustices for indigenous students?

RQ5: How accessible are digital open texts for students with disabilities? How can they be improved?



RQ1: Compare three years of student equity success data (unit failure, grade averages of LSES/equity students compared to rest of cohort) with post-textbook adoption data for large 100-level undergraduate units. Compare success data with what is achieved by provision of Australian scholarships as reported by NCSEHE (Zacharias et al., 2016). Compare success data with US research on impact for Pell (equity) students (Colvard et al., 2018). This represents an innovative approach by connecting student success data from seemingly un-related initiatives ie free curriculum resources and financial scholarship support. This will help assess the best return on investment between very different approaches with shared financial support elements. Dr. Kelly George will lead this component utilising the same longitudinal and comparative methodology developed with the C.I. and other inclusive education researchers over five years for HEPPP equity initiatives reporting.


RQ2: Replicate the Open Textbook national academic readiness survey as used in the UK Open Textbook projects and compare Australian outcomes with the UK context (Pitt et al., 2019). Compare results with the literature on Open Textbook adoption in the US, and with Canadian usage for indigenising curriculum, higher education policy and processes (Antoine, Mason, Mason, Palahicky, & Rodrigeuz de France, 2018). The C.I will lead this component of the project and will engage with the members of the Australasian Open Educational Resources Special Interest Group (OER-SIG – affiliated with ASCILITE the peak member body for educational technology in Australasia) and the PVCs/DVCs Teaching and Learning to promote participation in the survey to higher education staff.


RQ3, RQ4 and RQ5: Case studies of units using open online tools to localise digital content for regional, multi-cultural and socio-cultural equity cohorts, including cases of indigenising the curriculum, promoting gender-equity in STEM, and incorporate LGBTIQ+ perspectives. Presage, Process, Product methodology (Biggs, 1987) used by CRADLE researchers will be used to document context, processes and outcomes including focus group interviews with staff and students. The C.I and Prof. Yin Paradies will lead this component of the project and will engage with the members of the Australasian OER-SIG to recruit case studies from around the country, in addition to 2-3 anticipated Deakin cases (gender/STEM, indigenous, and LGBTIQ+). Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory has already expressed interest in producing indigenous content for their undergraduate nursing program. Dr Ben Whitburn will lead student digital accessibility testing of each pilot open textbook (RQ5) and the tools to engage with modifying the contents

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