OER and its Social Justice Potential
The OER movement has long sought to foster more equitable access to education, for example, by allowing faculty to provide free textbooks to all students on the first day of class. However, the movement has only recently begun to consider ways to bring together OER with frameworks for diversity, equity and inclusion, so that materials and learning experiences demonstrate that diverse perspectives are valued. With the onset of COVID-19, and the transition to online learning, the time is ripe to leverage the flexibility and adaptability of OER toward more socially just learning experiences.
Lambert (2018), in Changing our (Dis)Course: A Distinctive Social Justice Aligned Definition of Open Education, argues that to meet the needs of today’s students through OER, we must design explicitly for social justice. Drawing on principles of social justice from John Rawls (1971), Nancy Fraser (1995), Amanda Keddie (2012), and Iris Marian Young (1997), Lambert demonstrates how OER can support access to education, pay respect to cultural and gender differences, and open up possibilities for giving voice to traditionally marginalized voices, as outlined below:
The following resources contain additional information on how to apply these principles in course materials:
- Peralta Community College Online Equity Rubric – An evaluation instrument to help faculty make online course experiences more equitable for students, which addresses student access to technology, avoiding bias in content, and creating more culturally relevant materials that learners can connect to.
- OpenStax’s Guidelines for Improving Representation and Diversity in OER Materials – An OER evaluation rubric and set of general guidelines for developing more diverse, equitable, and inclusive course materials.
- Zero Textbook Cost Pathways: OER & Equity – A Canvas Commons course developed by Aloha Sargent, as part of the California Community Colleges Zero Textbook Cost Program, which explores the connections between equity and OER.
Fraser, F. (1995). From Redistribution to Recognition? Dilemmas of Justice in a “Post-Socialist” Age. New Left Review, 1(212). https://newleftreview.org/I/212/nancy-fraser-from-redistribution-to-recognition-dilemmas-of-justice-in-a-post-socialist-age
Keddie, A. (2012). Schooling and Social Justice Through the Lenses of Nancy Fraser. Critical Studies in Education, 53(3), 263–279.
Lambert, S. R. (2018). Changing our (dis)course: A distinctive social justice aligned definition of open education. Journal of Learning for Development , 5(3). https://jl4d.org/index.php/ejl4d/article/view/290
Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Young, I. M. (1997). Unruly Categories: A Critique of Nancy Fraser’s Dual Systems Theory. New Left Review, 1(222), 147–160. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470756119.ch54