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The movement toward open education and other more inclusive pedagogical approaches has created opportunities for new ways of designing learning experiences in higher education. At the same time, our learning design practices are often influenced by historically embedded approaches and existing legacy artefacts and systems, including textbooks, resources and learning management systems, assessment expectations, institutional boundaries, and traditional course publishing/development models.

As learning design professionals and faculty strive to adopt new approaches, including more collaborative and open ways of sharing, there are questions around how traditional tools and spaces that shape our educational systems can meet these pedagogical and epistemological shifts. Learning designers and other learning support specialists encounter tensions in their daily practice, as they try to critically engage with institutionally mandated curriculum, provisioned tools and resources, and the dynamics of their roles as leaders, advocates, and colleagues.

As learning designers and educators who are committed to embracing open educational practice and open pedagogies, our goal for this resource was two-fold. The first was to create a resource that can be used by learning design students and professionals to engage with ideas in a manner that critically examines contemporary practice and learning design issues. The second was to create a model for an inclusive community developed resource that opens up different kinds of spaces for authoring, engaging, and learning. Our hope is that it will be a living community-sourced resource, where students and professionals continue to iterate, expand and reframe issues through extended responses and new contributions.

Through the development and planning for this resource we have been grappling with the following questions as we consider both the content and the design of the resource itself:

  • How can we build open pedagogy and other critical approaches into the design of educational resources so that students can contribute more effectively?
  • How can the design of educational resources challenge the structures, roles and hierarchies encountered in traditional learning environments?
  • How can we design resources that can help challenge traditional notions, processes and roles of the learning designer?
  • As learning designers are inspired to change practice in response to more critical approaches, what are the practices and issues that they will encounter or need to consider?
  • What does critical learning design look like in different settings?

It is our hope to create spaces that will allow for multiple modalities, diverse contributions, and varied structures. Beyond open licensing, how can the traditional textbook/resource form evolve to support the interactivity, agency, and accessibility needed to enable spaces that honor multiple voices and perspectives, co-create knowledge and challenge traditional roles and hierarchies supported in open pedagogical approaches? We have based the design for the resource on community feedback. We hope that it can lead to a more open and participatory platform for digital resource development that will provide some opportunity to move beyond the hierarchical and linear ordering of content, and to move beyond dominant western epistemologies and knowledge sharing traditions.

This resource is to be published under a CC-BY open content license (for more on Creative Commons licenses, see:, but authors were also encouraged to determine which license they preferred for their contribution, so you may encounter different creative commons licenses throughout. The CC-BY license lets others distribute, remix, and build upon this work, even commercially, as long as they credit the author(s) for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of the creative commons licenses offered and is recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

Reframing the Textbook

The invitation to contribute to this resource on learning design represents a later stage in a design-based research project being conducted by the editorial team of this project. Introduced as an “untextbook” in its early stages, as a customized WordPress site, we are now calling it an open digital learning resource. Both scholars and graduate students have been and continue to be invited to contribute as well as participate in further developing the concept.

As highlighted earlier, one of the goals of this project was to create a model for an inclusive community developed resource that opens up different kinds of spaces for authoring, engaging, and learning. Through community feedback, insight from colleagues, this experimental variation on the open textbook concept, is now available for others to use in various educational settings. With a focus on learning design in this iteration, this digital publication was designed to permit an ongoing evolution, extension and reframing of the original content in learning environments. Using this model within course settings, instructors can invite students to continue to add to this resource as part of their coursework in a process of ongoing co-creation in a manner consistent with open licensing and pedagogy. In particular, it is designed to encourage student responses from critical perspectives. While the focus of this text is learning design, the model can be adapted to any other field or target of inquiry where knowledge is continually evolving or problematized and there is a desire to invite and incorporate alternative perspectives in the educational setting. It has been field-tested in graduate-level online courses in educational technology and leadership.


The following description of the original contribution guidelines is included here as it represents the ongoing intentions and structure undergirding this project. One of the goals of the resource was to expand the scope and inclusiveness of the textbook, and to bring student voices into the ongoing process of developing educational content in an open resource. We were looking for contributions either in text or other media (audio/video) that could be used as a prompt for discussion and discourse around topics related to critical approaches to design. We were particularly interested in areas of design where change is needed or is happening. In a short essay or audio/video file, we asked contributors to provide a descriptive overview of the learning design challenge associated with any one (or more) of the following dimensions that others can respond to and extend in different ways:

  • Issues – Topics and areas of concern that require further thought and development in theory and/or practice
  • Lenses – An issue or topic can be framed by a particular lens, such as decolonization, historical justice, anti-racism and other such anti-oppressive perspectives that centre on alternative narratives.
  • Role perspectives – Different roles can have an impact on the interests and perspectives of learning designers, as roles are impacted by systems, hierarchies, and power.
  • Settings – Different settings may impact the role of the learning designer and the possibilities for design. For instance, learning design in higher education is often quite different from the corporate world or within government.

Textual contributions were limited to between 750-1500 words, and video/audio contributions no longer than 15 minutes. Other possible formats were also encouraged.

The following topic areas were of particular interest in the invitation to contribute:

  • Designing for open platforms and tools
  • Assessment
  • Learning design in different settings (HE, corporate, public service, etc,)
  • Leadership in learning design
  • Open pathways for learning – outcomes and frameworks
  • Learning design from various worldviews
  • Open pedagogies and practices
  • Inclusive and/or Universal Designs for Learning
  • Scale, space and place in digital design
  • Data, surveillance and privacy


The initial twelve contributions in this resource reflect diverse perspectives and approaches to learning design that range from practical cases of implementing open pedagogy, to theoretical examinations of critical approaches to learning design, to strategies to introduce simulations as well as conversations about decolonizing curriculum. Each of these contributions is a starting place for further reflection, reframing and/or retelling (for more “R”s see the chapter reference below) and each includes prompts and activities that help frame these next iterations, explorations and responses. For further discussion on how this resource was designed please see the following resource.

Harrison, M, Paskevicius, M., Devries, I., & Morgan, T. (2022). Rethinking and recasting the textbook: Reframing learning design with open educational practice. in Jaffer, T., Govender, S., & Czerniewicz, L (Eds). Learning Design Voices.

Peer Review Process 

The original contributions went through an open peer-review process, where constructive feedback was provided by other contributors and the editorial team and returned to the contributors for revisions as necessary.

The criteria for peer review included:

  • Respectful of diversity and all people and cultures
  • Represents credible research and knowledge
  • Coherent development of ideas
  • Well written and argued
  • Puts forward a position or question suitable for a classroom discussion and further development
  • Acknowledges other resources used
  • Permits open licensing of content


Faculty are encouraged to experiment with this project in their own educational settings. As noted, it is designed for areas in the curriculum where it’s desired to invite alternative perspectives through the re-framing of openly licensed content. It is hoped that this process will continue the work of open digital pedagogy in practice, and the editors/designers welcome any questions or comments on the project itself or how to implement it.

For results of the first cycle of DBR research that helped inform the design of this resource please see the following article:

Harrison, M, Paskevicius, M., Devries, I., & Morgan, T. (2022). Crowdsourcing the (un)textbook: Rethinking and future thinking the role of the textbook in open pedagogy. The Open/Technology in Education, Society, and Scholarship Association Journal, 2(1).


Thank you to the following contributors who have helped support this work.

We would like to recognize the contributions of Dr. Tannis Morgan, who has been an instrumental member of our research and collaboration team on this project. Her insight into open educational practice, educational technologies, and critical learning design were instrumental in the framing of this project and the rethinking of the learning design model and approach.

Thank you to Nicole Singular who provided the overall visual design, including banners, icons and visual scheme. Kirsten Glass was instrumental in the development of this resource, as she built the chapters, configured the homepage and author pages, and used her expertise and insight to bring a visual focus. Thank you to Stephanie Gountas who has been providing her technical expertise to troubleshoot issues and help with improving the functionality of the site.

This project was supported by a SSHRC Exchange grant, which helped support knowledge dissemination and collaboration. With these funds we were able to support authors in disseminating their knowledge and expertise at OER22 and OTESSA 22, and to support two research assistants.

This project was also supported by a Thompson Rivers University Open educational resource (OER) grant, which allowed for a custom WP theme to be designed. Thank you to Tom Woodward for his insight, technical wizardry and support in translating a vision of non-linearity and inclusion into a workable model.

Thanks to Devin Kyle, member of the Thunderchild First Nation and student at the University of Saskatchewan, for his help editing audio podcast files and producing transcripts for the “Decolonizing and Opening the Academy via Study Abroad” contribution.

Thanks to Professor Randy Morin of the University of Saskatchewan and member of the Big River First Nation, for sharing his Cree language expertise.