This blog post is a call to action. We want to surface our conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and hear from CCCOER members about how you’re addressing EDI in your work. At CCCOER we’ve been discussing issues of EDI for the past couple of years – partially because of our work with Achieving the Dream and the OER Degree Initiative, and partially because it is the right thing to do. To extend that conversation, we’re hosting a series of guest bloggers writing about their efforts in these areas in order to help our members and readers build professional practices that support efforts related to the intersection of EDI and OER. You’re invited to contribute!
Table of Contents
- Overview of EDI and Open Education with Quill West
- EDI Gaps in Open and No-cost Adoptions with Vera Kennedy
- Minimizing Barriers Through Open Practices with Kaela Parks
by Quill West, Open Ed Project Manager, Pierce College District and CCCOER President.
This is Scary
I volunteered to be the person to write the overview blog post because I want to engage this community on this topic. However, this is probably the piece of writing that has terrified me the most in the past five years because I am no expert in EDI work. As a novice, I worry that there are things that I’ll get wrong – and the stakes seem particularly high in exposing myself as a professional who doesn’t “get it.” In a day and age when I’m constantly asked to #staywoke, I’m afraid to admit that I don’t always know what it means to be awake – especially in relation to my teaching and learning. I’m told by colleagues that a big part of EDI work, and modeling that work to my students, is admitting my insecurity. So, here we go. I’m vulnerable because I don’t have all the answers. If you have some answers, please volunteer to be one of our guest bloggers on EDI. I would love to have your voice.
Access is not Equity
A lot of our collective arguments for embracing OE at our institutions have revolved around the issue of cost and increasing access to education. It’s a good argument. When traditionally produced educational materials carry a prohibitive cost, the argument for no or low-cost options is obvious. As important as access is to students and to institutions, it is a starting place for leveraging other benefits of OER, and I hope that our conversations about OE go beyond access, because saving money on materials doesn’t address bigger issues in student persistence and completion. That is why I have been so excited to hear a growing interest in equity, diversity, and inclusion in the wider open education movement. I think we need to embrace the questions about how to be more inclusive educators who value diversity and recognize that access and equity are not the same thing.
One of the biggest questions that I have is, “What does equity look like in relation to OER? What can I do to help OER equal equity?”
Diversity and Inclusion
As we heard from Francesca Carpenter, Preston Davis, and Daphnie Sicre in their recent CCCOER webinar, OERs are not inherently diverse, nor are they necessarily inclusive. It is definitely possible for OER to include more diverse voices, but I suspect that intentional design is more important in creating inclusive learning than the licensing on the materials. For weeks I had this really messy drawing on my office white board. It showed the process of authoring educational resources. I was trying to compare a traditional publishing model to an OER model so that I had a sense of how to address inclusivity and diversity in the design of courses at my institution. One of my realizations was that still, even with OER, authorship looks like a single or cohesive collection of people authoring materials meant to be used by everyone else. There is a very clear line between who writes educational material (mostly academics educated in a Western tradition) and who consumes educational resources (mostly students who are growing into a Western tradition of education).
Diversity, in the OER sense, can be introduced when we curate, remix, and revise resources into our courses. We can also leverage OER-enabled pedagogy to solicit students in creating diversity for class materials. The goal being to ensure their voices and perspectives are authentic and accurately represented. I’m curious to hear how people approach diversity, both of content but also of thought in their teaching practices. I want to hear what all of you are doing, and I want to know how it is going.
Consider this our call for you to be our guest bloggers. CCCOER wants to hear from our members and readers about how you’re considering equity, diversity, and inclusion in your teaching and learning practice. How do OER and EDI overlap? How do you work to foster both in your work? What can you share about overcoming personal or pedagogical challenges and remixing and creating OER with an EDI perspective? We’re going to keep considering these issues in the CCCOER blog, in our email lists, and via our webinars as the year progresses, and we’d love to hear from you.
Please consider contributing to this blog regarding your EDI work. (Even if you’ve written about OER and EDI in another space, we can link to other writings.) Please share your perspective by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t wait to hear how you are focusing on EDI in your professional practice.
Image made available from pixabay.com
Gaps in Open and No-Cost Adoptions
by Vera Kennedy, Sociology Faculty, West Hills College Lemoore
“Free textbook?” Yes, this is why I adopted OER. I wanted to help students save money. However, I soon realized OER might be a barrier to learning.
When my colleagues and I decided to adopt an OER text in our introductory courses, we followed the same process we always had when adopting commercial textbooks. Our adoption decisions focused on the quality of the text. Was the text comparable to the commercial texts we use? Are there supplemental materials? How do we embed the materials into our LMS? How much time is this going to take me if I commit to the change?
Acknowledging Social and Cultural Capital Ceilings
It was not until we were in the classroom that we began to identity the challenges of adopting an OER text, which at that point in time had little to no supplemental materials. Of course, we all jumped in and started re-designing our courses to match the new text. It was during this first year that we realized we really were not making any significant changes to how we use a new textbook or how we teach. This epiphany made us realize that by historically using commercial publications we had taught ourselves to follow the text and materials provided with occasionally seeking out and including some external sources in an attempt to make class interesting. We were not teaching to our strengths or teaching based on student needs and their prerequisite knowledge.
We started talking about the challenges we faced in learning and the ivory tower philosophy of being “talked at” rather than being taught “how to” learn when we were in school, and now we were reproducing the same learning environment. We recognized our teaching approaches were not supporting the development of our students but simply reinforcing a culture where students had to come equipped to achieve or figure it out on their own. We were truly delivering the same teaching style we criticized and that we struggled with because of our backgrounds and challenges around accessibility, language, relevance, and inability to relate or identify. We were reinforcing the cultural capital that had created barriers in our lives. This realization established a paradigm shift in how we were going to reuse and remix the OER text to create an engaging learning environment that focused on course objectives, real world applications, and helping students overcome their content challenges by empowering them to use and develop their own skills. If we were going to invest time in re-designing our courses, we were going to embrace equity, diversity, and inclusion.
A Time for Transformation
I can honestly say deciding to adopt OER changed how I see my role as an instructor and how much more I am now able to give my students by learning about them and including them in the design of my courses. I now seek active participation to ignite active learners. I have a general framework for each course (i.e., reading assignment), but content, discussions, and exercises are fluid and are different from class-to-class and semester-to-semester. I empower students to read OER course material that aligns with the course objectives. I do not lecture from the text or other reading assignments. Instead, I ask students to take notes as they read and write up their challenges or interests about the material. Students bring their summaries to class and this guides discussions, exercises, assignments, and assessments. This approach allows me to identify any disconnect between what students are being asked to learn and the challenges they have in accessing course material, understanding content, and bias (in both presentation and interpretation of the material). By sharing their challenges and interests I am better able to identify and develop activities that we work on together to answer their questions or connect their history and biography to new concepts and theories.
Therefore, my student are no longer passive learners but rather active participants in designing and teaching course content to each other with me. I am no longer a passive instructor where I regurgitate written materials but an active facilitator and resource in helping students identify and utilize their learning styles, abilities, and cultural difference to enhance their skills and knowledge in the subject.
Creating Space for Active Learning and Engagement
Here is an assignment I created for the first day of class from the television show “Join or Die” airing on the History Channel. The lesson plan is applicable in face-to-face, hybrid, and online learning environments. Faculty can substitute the lesson topic to align with specific discipline courses. The activity is applicable for individual or team learning. The lesson plan contains a CC-BY license and is accessible at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B92UqzTjrcvuUTNYbzF4VWlfZlE/view?usp=sharing
Playing a game of “Join or Die” gives me the opportunity to discuss OER and introduces students to analyzing, evaluating, and remixing open sources. I will be demonstrating the activity at the e-Learning Conference hosted by the Instructional Technology Council on February 11-14, 2018 in Tucson, AZ. I hope to see you there!
Minimizing Barriers Through Open Practices
By Kaela Parks, Director, Disability Services, Portland Community College
I was intrigued when I saw that a webinar was being offered on “How OER can support student equity, diversity, and inclusion.” I am drawn to open education for a variety of reasons. Some are pragmatic, some are philosophical, but all have to do with equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Thus – even though I have more questions than answers, I am joining in. I’m going to share some of the aspects of this huge and complex topic that resonate particularly for me as an educator and as a learner, and I am going to eagerly look forward to the contributions of others as this important conversation continues.
Please understand. The examples I share here are mere drops in the bucket.
I recently watched recordings from a series called “Black Minds Matter” facilitated by Dr. Luke Wood of San Diego State University. One of the episodes was focused on promising educational practices for black boys and men, and it included conversation with Ilyasah Shabazz and Dr. Chance Lewis, as well as an interview with Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu.
I found myself reflecting on the piece in the days and nights following my initial viewing. I was seeing connections between the practices that were described as being important for black minds, and the practices that are embodied in universal design and open education. I don’t know how to express all the connections that I think are present, but in this blog post, I will try to briefly highlight a few examples that I think can illustrate the potential for synergy.
Promising Practices – Challenging the Dominant Perspective
The table below represents connections between three conversations; promising practices for black minds, universal design for learning, and open education practices. Each of the three is offering a critical response to dominant educational practice, but doing so from a different base, and to a certain extent, in conversation with a different population. That said – the connections are there – the ideas are compatible.
And really, for the purposes of this blog – the point I want to make is that while OER might or might not be any more equity focused in and of themselves, if we shift our focus from just trying to lower costs through open licensing, to trying to minimize barriers through open practices, then we get closer to a model of education that is consistent with what universal design and black minds matter might call for. Open education can lead to greater equity if the rejection is not only of high cost commercially produced texts, but also of commercialized educational practices.
Table: Challenges to the dominant perspective
|Dominant Practice||Promising Practice from Black Minds Matter||Universal Design Practice||Open Practice|
|Sage on the Stage||● Using people’s names
● Providing mentors
|Multiple means of engagement||Students as content contributors, curators|
|Commercial textbooks||● Accurate history
● Relevant readings
|Multiple means of representation||Materials cultivated from rich source set|
|Timed exams||● Project-based learning
● Right-brained activities
|Multiple means of Expression||Student-led demonstrations|
Learn more about Universal Design for Learning
A more person-centered practice?
As it is, I often see conversations within diversity efforts that focus on race, and conversations in accessibility circles that focus on disability, and in OER initiatives that focus on lowering costs. But really – all are (potentially) talking about the same thing – we are talking about rejecting dominant practices that favor profit over people, and shifting to be more person-centered, more exploratory, and more authentic as we seek ways to encourage learners to uncover meaning.
Why we need open to address equity
There are more challenges than solutions, and more questions than answers, but at the end of the day – if we are hearing what research tells us, and looking at the history, then it becomes clear why open is needed. Dominant practices are benefiting some individuals but harming others. We need open because whiteness is real and discrimination is pervasive, because “born digital, born accessible” is not the norm. We need open because textbook costs have outstripped inflation and students are going without.
Ultimately, we need open because we deserve access in the true sense. We deserve access for all of us. I don’t know how we bring it all together – how we leverage the folks in each of these (often distinct) circles – but I hope there are ways to do so. I’d love to see more conversations and collaborations that bring those interested in equity and inclusion together. I’d love to see us connect and reinforce efforts, using open practices to dismantle barriers as we go.