Equity & Openness

There are challenges to OER, such as inequitable access to technology and resources among students and institutions. While open educational resources and open practices present opportunities to create and share diverse and inclusive resources, inequities in OER exist. For example, the open community is lacking in diverse voices who author OER. There also are known difficulties finding openly licensed content that is culturally relevant and inclusive. Representation matters and there is work to do in this area!

When discussing open educational resources and exploring their use and benefits, remember that equality and equity are not the same.

Equality vs. Equity  The image for equality shows three people of different heights reaching for apples in a tree. They are standing on boxes of the same height and only one person can reach the apples. The equity image shows the same three people standing on boxes that allow all of them to reach the apples.

Equity vs Equality” by MPCA Photos, 2016 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) has collected resources and articles exploring OER through the lens of equity, diversity, and inclusion. These resources are included (and continue to expand) on their Equity & Openness blog.

As OER users and promoters, faculty can work to resolve the known inequities that exist in educational resources. Creating or revising OER allows educators to make them truly culturally relevant, inclusive, and representative.

...OER provide a unique opportunity for educators to access learning materials, and then tailor them to the specific needs of their classroom. This is particularly important for teaching diverse groups of students. Where culturally-responsive curriculum redesign must include funding to print textbooks that often fail to reflect student diversity and quickly become outdated, OER could instead be used to give students access to high-quality learning materials that educators could then continue to adapt as understandings of student needs and identities change. ~ Prescott, S., Muñiz, J. & Ishmael, K., 2018

The Value of Open Demonstrated During a Time of Crisis

In early 2020 the world experienced a public health pandemic. Globally, researchers frantically turned to data, research, and reports to better understand the novel coronavirus and find a vaccine. In many cases research existed behind paywalls making critical scientific data and research inaccessible or unaffordable. Members of the scientific community responded by sharing their pre-print publications and datasets online (often via Twitter). Individuals used such hashtags as #preprint, #openaccess, #openscience, #opendata, and #covid19 to share their research openly. Other examples of communities sharing research and data during this crisis include the VODAN Network (Virus Outbreak Datanetwork), ASAPbio, and the WHO’s global research on COVID-19 database.

As the impact of the pandemic grew, schools around the world from K-12 to colleges and universities closed their campuses. Institutions rushed to transition to remote learning and services in a matter of weeks. For students who previously relied on college and university libraries for access to physical copies of commercial textbooks (in collections or on course reserve), this access was no longer available. Within days of many institutions announcing their transition to online learning, commercial publishers and vendors aggressively marketed their resources and products to students and faculty as freely available for a limited-time (often with other hidden restrictions). Libraries responded by reaching out to faculty and students to connect them to freely available open educational resources or library-licensed content. An example of this communication is articulated in this blog post from Florida State University Libraries, Supporting Students Through Open and Affordable Materials.

Open education is not a short-term fix to a passing problem—it is a long-term solution to ensuring equitable, inclusive access to effective educational resources and learning opportunities. ~ Vézina & Green, 2020

Explore Further

Additional research and videos discussing the impact and benefits of OER for faculty and students are linked below.

Carpenter, F., Davis, W.P. & Sicre, D. (2017, November 15) How OER can support student diversity and equity. CCCOER Webinar. https://youtu.be/gBUKVRN86sw

Colvard, N., Watson, C. & Park, H. (2018) The impact of open educational resources on student success metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30 (2), 262-276. http://microblogging.infodocs.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/IJTLHE3386.pdf

Grimaldi, P., Basu Mallick D., Waters A., Baraniuk, R. (2019) Do open educational resources improve student learning? Implications of the access hypothesis. PLOS|One. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0212508

Hilton, J. (2020) Open educational resources, student efficacy, and user perceptions: A synthesis of research published between 2015 and 2018. Education Technology Research and Development, 68, 853 – 876. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-019-09700-4

Jenkins, J. J., Sánchez, L. A., Schraedley, M. A., Hannans, J., Navick, N., & Young, J. (2020). Textbook broke: Textbook affordability as a social justice issue. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 1(3), 1-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/jime.549

Reynado, Kharl. (2018, October 11) OER Diversity discourse: Bring in the student advocates. OpenStax Blog. https://openstax.org/blog/oer-diversity-discourse-bring-student-advocates

Vézina, B. and Green, C. (2020, March 31) Education in times of crisis and beyond: Maximizing copyright flexibilities. Creative Commons Blog. https://creativecommons.org/2020/03/31/education-in-times-of-crisis-and-beyond-maximizing-copyright-flexibilities/


Information for this module was consulted and adapted from:

"An Introduction to Open Educational Resources" by Abbey Elder is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

"Leveraging the Benefits of OER" in Welcome to Understanding OER by SUNY OER Services is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

"Open Education" by SPARC is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

"Why Open Education?" by CCCOER is licensed under CC BY 4.0.