Collaboration, as we understand this supportive approach, works best when we adopt the following three principles, whereby people:

  • work together as equals;
  • develop shared meaning about what they’re doing; and
  • show consideration for each other.

Collaboration can take many shapes throughout the open publishing process – people can collaborate on co-creating materials, and then at later stages (such as the adoption phase), they can lead lively discussions around ideas for use and remix.

Something I appreciate about OER is its flexibility and uniqueness that every project has. Projects can consist of small, single author teams to large scale teams. Who you collaborate with and how you collaborate shapes the impact your resource can have. Having a diverse and representative mix of people on your project lets different perspectives and experiences shape the book, so it’s not just a product of one person and actually reflects the experiences of readers who are multiple, varied, and complex.

6 people canoeing northeast in a river in front of a sunset. In the sky, you can see the sun setting and the moon rising, as well as the Northern lights in a colourful background filled with blues, purples, greens, oranges, and pinks.
Front Cover of Pulling Together: Manitoba Foundations Guide (Brandon Edition)

While collaborating on Pulling Together: Manitoba Foundations Guide (Brandon Edition), the Manitoba Foundations Group immediately recognized the importance of collaboration and relationship building. This adaptation is the work of many communities in Manitoba ‘pulling together’ to localize the knowledge shared within the resource with the hope that readers take their learning off the page, as deeper understanding is experienced when readers thoughtfully engage in the activities that go beyond the resource itself. This open resource honoured Indigenous knowledge, cultures, and ways of being while continually seeking to develop and nurture relationships with communities to ensure content was valued and culturally appropriate. Throughout the project, non-Indigenous collaborators learned to focus on building relationships and trust, and to put the needs of Indigenous collaborators at the centre of the project.

The Artist Statement highlights both the purpose of the guide and the collaboration journey that went into making it:

“The end of the birch bark canoe bleeds off the page to represent the space that there is for everyone on this journey. The river flows from the foreground to the background, from left to right, and ebbs back and forth to express the journey’s path into the unknown, and acknowledges the organic nature of it. The only way forward is together, guided by our grandmother and grandfather’s teachings of the land.”

Book cover for Introduction to Philosophy: Epistemology. Cover is a sketched right hand in black and white.
Front cover for Introduction to Philosophy: Epistemology

Another example is the “how these books were produced” section of Introduction to Philosophy: Epistemology, a part of the Introduction to Philosophy open textbook series. This section explains why the series was created and how. Series editor, Christina Hendricks, on the process:

“Each of the books has its own editor, and multiple authors from different parts of the world who have expertise in the topic of the book. This also means that there will inevitably be shifts in voice and tone between chapters, as well as in perspectives. This itself exemplifies the practice of philosophy, insofar as the philosophical questions worth discussing are those that do not yet have settled answers, and towards which there are multiple approaches worthy of consideration (which must, of course, provide arguments to support their claim to such worth).”

Collaboration, especially as illustrated with these two examples, is about incorporating viewpoints and knowledge that have traditionally (and deliberately) been marginalised and excluded while deliberately decentering the dominant Western canon of knowledge. This intentional collaboration can have a profound impact on our interpersonal interactions, how we conceive of education, as well as student learning. These collaborative projects provide different perspectives, ideas, and workflows for teams who are in the process of creating or adapting an OER.


Pause & Reflect on Gaps and Strategies

  • What perspectives are missing in current textbooks?
  • What is the perspective that you can bring to conversations (in your role/on your project)?
  • What are some initial strategies you would like to use to help build productive working relationships between the members of your team?
  • What are some ways that you include a richer array of voices?
  • What do you want this resource to accomplish?

Action Plan: Finding Collaborators

Think of some potential collaborators for your subject matter. This could mean students, industry experts, colleagues at your institution or abroad, or community members. Interdisciplinary collaborations can also bring multiple perspectives to a discipline that enables a deeper learning of the subject matter.

Develop a plan for how you can collaborate with others and how that may shape your collaborative process.

Find an editable worksheet here.

Media Attributions


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Making Ripples: A Guidebook to Challenge Status Quo in OER Creation Copyright © 2023 by Rebus Community (Kaitlin Schilling, Apurva Ashok, Jördis Weilandt) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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