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Apply Inclusion and Diversity Standards

Diversity and Inclusion and Open Textbooks

The open textbook movement is all about inclusive access to education, which is why it’s essential open textbooks:

Taking these steps will ensure students can identify with and relate to your textbook and don’t feel alienated or excluded by the content or design.

A recent study into whether open textbooks could improve the educational experiences and outcomes of under-represented students in Australian higher education found:

  • students believe diverse reading lists prepare them better for future professions
  • staff believe more accurate representation in courses improves outcomes for all students – not just those from under-represented backgrounds.

Making Open Textbooks Diverse and Inclusive

Some strategies for making your textbook more diverse and inclusive:

  • Acknowledge that your perspective is limited.
  • Consider how your social and cultural background is reflected in your content.
  • Identify which perspectives are and aren’t included in your content.
  • Consider which authors you’re citing and why – could you be more inclusive?
  • Think about how your textbook could be more diverse – for example, through pictures, names or examples.
  • Bridge the gap by inviting instructors or professionals in your field from different backgrounds to contribute to your open textbook.
  • Be conscious of how your project’s design welcomes or deters people of other ethnicities, races and cultural backgrounds – for example, are your meeting times feasible for co-authors in other time zones?

You may also want to ask students for input or feedback on the inclusivity of your textbook.

Above all, remember to present other cultures accurately, not according to stereotypes or perceptions based on the standards of your own culture.

If you’re not sure how or where to include examples relevant to other cultures, that doesn’t mean your textbook will never include these perspectives. Publishing your textbook with an open licence means instructors from other countries, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds can modify it to suit their course’s needs. You can also revisit your textbook or work with others to add more diverse examples later on.

Avoiding 'Othering'

When trying to make your content inclusive, watch out for ‘Othering’. Some best practices for avoiding othering:

  • Never assume your audience’s gender identity, ability or sexual orientation.
  • Avoid calling the most commonly seen traits in your context ‘normal’.
  • Make materials accessible for all students at all times

Acknowledging Limited Perspectives

If you chose to develop the content yourself, rather than consult colleagues or recruit co-authors, consider including a disclaimer acknowledging your background wherever applicable – for example at the end of chapters addressing issues related to gender, gender identity, sexuality, race, culture or religion. This will show that you’re:

  • aware of any biases or blind spots
  • are trying to address them
  • are open to feedback.

For example:

‘I [Name], the author of this work, am a [description of gender identity/sexuality/race/religion/gender, etc. – e.g. cisgender white woman] from [country]. I have not experienced the types of bias that affect those from marginalised backgrounds related to race, cultural background and sexual orientation. I have tried to keep this chapter simple and to link out to external resources whenever applicable, however, there may be cases where my writing betrays my lack of experience with these topics.

If there is any part of this book you find to be one-sided or dismissive of any aspect of your identity, please contact me at [email address]. I welcome any comments or feedback that might improve my work and help inform my own understanding of this topic. Thank you.’


Lambert, S., & Fadel, H. (2022). Open textbooks and social justice: A national scoping study. Curtin University.


Adapted from:

Diversity and Inclusion’ in OER and Alternative Textbook Handbook by Ariana Santiago, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

Centering Diversity and Inclusion’ in The OER Starter Kit by Abbey Elder, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

Accessibility, Diversity, and Inclusion’ in Self-Publishing Guide by Lauri M. Aesoph, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.