Ben Archer

Introduction and Context

The need for a new approach to assessment within the Master of Guidance and Counselling became clear during the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, students enrolled in the capstone unit would need to undertake a research project while on their placement. Students would be able to interact with clients and their workplaces as both practitioner and researcher, allowing for a rich experience and hopefully a long-lasting relationship with the host organisation.

However, as the pandemic took hold and lockdowns became the norm, placements shifted online and the workplace experience became significantly different. Even when the lockdowns lifted, there has been significant resistance to allowing students to remain in the workplace longer than they need to be, in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Subsequently, high levels of resistance came from host organisations with regards to students undertaking research on-site or with clients. This resistance led to the re-working of the assessment to be a research proposal, as opposed to an actual research task.

Authentic assessment is at the heart of our institution’s policies and procedures regarding student achievement (James Cook University, 2023). The re-worked assessments for this unit are now intended towards growing the research capacity of the university in the field of counselling, as well as demonstrating the need for more research to be done in the Australian context.

Through publishing an Open Educational Resource (OER), our students are not only showcasing their own work, but also making important contributions to the field of counselling in Australia. Potentially of greater contribution though, is the establishment of an open resource that can be utilised by future students. This is the first step in ensuring that the assessment is not only authentic but also sustainable into the future (Richter & Veith, 2014). By placing Open Educational Resources into the assessment regime of the Master of Guidance and Counselling, we can ensure that the resources developed remain relevant and useful for our students into the future.

The benefits of OERs have been well established for some time. OER textbooks have been shown to have:

  • Academic benefits
    • Students who have access to OERs access them more frequently, and subsequently achieve higher results (Colvard et al., 2018).
    • Students from under-represented cohorts tend to use OERs more frequently than traditional textbooks (Julien et al., 2018).
  • Financial benefits
    • Students are able to access the textbooks at anytime, removing access bottlenecks for eBooks as well as removing the need to purchase hard copies (Ponte et al., 2021).
  • Flexibility benefits
    • Educators are able to make adjustments to the text as needed, as opposed to waiting for the next edition to become available (Otto, 2021).

Within the Master of Guidance and Counselling, all three of these areas are of core concern. Students will choose postgraduate courses for the skill development opportunities they offer (Archer, 2021). The skills students develop within the Master of Guidance and Counselling is critical to their academic success as well as future employability. To further build upon this, there is a need to develop greater Open Educational Practices (OEPs) and have them embedded within the degree. While this is very much a ‘work in progress’, the benefits of deploying OEPs could be crucial to James Cook University continuing to be a place of success for students from under-represented backgrounds (Bossu & Stagg, 2018).

What you are about to read within this book is the first contribution out of the Master of Guidance and Counselling towards creating a more equitable and accessible educational experience. This is by no means a “finished product”, but a work in progress showcasing the excellent work of postgraduate students demonstrating their passion for the field of guidance and counselling.


Archer, B. (2021). Impact of postgraduate qualifications on the career progression of middle leaders in schools. Aksara: Jurnal Ilmu Pendidikan Nonformal, 7(3), Article 3.

Bossu, C., & Stagg, A. (2018). The potential role Of Open Educational Practice policy in transforming Australian higher education. Open Praxis, 10(2), Article 2.

Colvard, N. B., Watson, C. E., & Hyojin Park. (2018). The impact of Open Educational Resources on various student success metrics. International Journal of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), 262–276.

James Cook University. (2023, February 21). Assessment@JCU. Centre for Education and Enhancement.

Julien, B. L., Lexis, L., Salisbury, F., Russell, K., & Loch, B. (2018). Human physiology students’ perceptions of etextbooks: Towards Open Access as an alternative to traditional textbooks. International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 26(7).

Otto, D. (2021). How to promote the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) in higher education. A parley with OER experienced teachers. Open Praxis, 13(4), 354–364.

Ponte, F., Lennox, A., & Hurley, J. (2021). The evolution of the open textbook initiative. Journal Of The Australian Library And Information Association, 70(2), 194–212.

Richter, T., & Veith, P. (2014). Fostering the exploitation of open educational resources. Open Praxis, 6(3), 205–220.



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