Why I started writing an open text and why I’m glad I did!

This post was written by Dr Bronte van der Hoorn, Senior Lecturer (Project Management), University of Southern Queensland

What academic has time to write an open text? Here’s why I embarked on writing my open text – it’s about using visuals in management – and why I’m glad I did.

Who is willing to print a colour book?

Central to my open text is a catalogue of visual diagrams, and these visuals had to be produced in colour. Mainstream publishers are nervous about colour-print runs, particularly if the potential readership is (relatively) small, and the market (and author!) untested. Incorporating colour diagrams was no problem for University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Open Educational Practice!

Diagram representing building with five pillars. Pillar one states 'values first project.' Pillar  two states ' company restructure.' Pillar three states 'customer first training.' Pillar four states 'ICT refresh project and pillar five states back to market project.'
Diagram with arrow in center and six arrows pointing at diagram. It is a depiction of KPIs for a fictitious organisation. It includes KPIs such as 24 hour call center, 25% frontline staff increase

My book’s usefulness relied on the reader downloading files

My reader would get maximum value from the book by downloading and adapting the visuals for their own work. Sure, mainstream publishing can set-up a website for such ‘add ons’, but with an open text the downloads could be embedded in the book, thereby providing a fully integrated experience for the reader. 

I wanted to give back to my research participants

Recruiting research participants is never easy. I always feel bad that I’m asking participants to volunteer their time for very little personal benefit. It’s not that the participants’ input doesn’t result in research outputs. But my research participants don’t share the same view as Q1 journal editors in terms of what constitutes a worthy ‘contribution’. An open text was a way to communicate my research in a way that could make a difference to practice.

Students want a take-away from their study

My current students get access to lots of eBooks and journal articles, and for many the loss of access to these resources at time of graduation is cause for disappointment. When I chose to publish an open text, I knew that at least this course resource would be accessible for students post-study – and they could share it with colleagues who weren’t students as well! 

As I started writing, I was also surprised about some unexpected advantages of open text publishing…

An unexpected level of interactivity

As I started writing my open text, I came across multimedia content that would make the book more engaging. The amazing USQ Open Educational Practice team encouraged me to make use of Pressbooks multimedia and H5P capabilities and embedded videos in the volume and created dynamic hover-overs to enable interactive annotation of each visual, that helps make the book’s content clearer. The book also incorporates a H5P slider preview that enables the reader to quickly flick through each visual – that’s not possible in a hardcopy publication! 

A screen capture of an interactive H5P object in the textbook. It depicts change over time.

Connecting me to academia

I was always committed to my open text project but my excitement when my ‘writing’ day came around each week surprised even me. Any academic knows the competing demands we face and that finding time to write an open text isn’t easy amongst the pressure to produce top quartile articles, teaching duties, and never-ending admin requests. 

However, I found this project to be refreshingly different to my other academic (and admin) work! My open text was a space for me to express my passion for the topic in a manner that accurately represented my ideas and made them accessible for my target reader. And this was a novel luxury! I acknowledge here that the USQ Open Educational Practice team were abundantly accommodating of my vision, they trusted me as the content expert to make design decisions (another delightful novelty!) and worked tirelessly to see my vision come to life. 

It was during the writing of my open text that I have felt most ‘academic’. Not ‘academic’ in a theoretical, distant, clinical way – but in the way I had hoped academia would be; I was making accessible a topic that I continue to learn (research) about and was helping others to learn and grow interest and capability in that area too – not just in my classrooms, but hopefully beyond.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *