6 OER + Social Justice

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:


Adapted from “Changing our (Dis)Course: A Distinctive Social Justice Aligned Definition of Open Education” by Sarah Roslyn Lambert under a  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

Additional Resources

The following resources contain additional information on how to apply these principles in course materials:




Fraser, F. (1995). From Redistribution to Recognition? Dilemmas of Justice in a “Post-Socialist” Age. New Left Review1(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 Education53(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 Review1(222), 147–160. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470756119.ch54



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OER @ Niagara College: A Quickstart Guide for Faculty Copyright © by Jackie Chambers Page and Siscoe Boschman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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