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
- Teaching Is Not Neutral with Lauri Aesoph
- OER Degree Program Promotes Success for All Students Even During Extreme Weather with Tonja Conerly
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 email@example.com. 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.
Teaching is not Neutral
By Lauri Aesoph, Manager, Open Education, BCcampus
It’s interesting how what we’re looking for is often right under our noses, such as a textbook that is not only open with its permissions but also its perspective. Which brings me to the story behind B.C. Reads.
Three and a half years ago, I started working on an adult literacy project. The proposal was backed by an advisory committee of Adult Basic Education (ABE) instructors who were responsible for finding the perfect author to write this 12-book series. At the time, words like “inclusion” and “diversity” didn’t float to the top of most conversations though many of us were aware of their importance.
When Shantel Ivits was chosen as the author of the series, it soon became apparent that bias had met its match.
A little over a year later, when the project concluded, I was stunned by how Ivits had shaped simple language – required for an adult learning to read – into a tapestry of tales about how oppressed communities in Canada have resisted injustice. Reader 4, for instance, explored B.C.’s Japanese internment camps in one story and the activism that led to “queer rights” in Canada, in another.
The author, who identifies as “both queer and transgender”, says “I’d never encountered a literacy text with any mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or Two Spirit (LGBTQ2S) communities until I authored a textbook series myself. I wanted my students, who also come from various marginalized identities, to see themselves reflected in these textbooks, too.“
Know Your Biases
This past year, BCcampus has challenged its staff to see the broader, more interesting and diverse view of our colleagues and the world. Last fall, Dr. Jessica Motherwell, who is extensively involved in social justice work in the B.C. post-secondary sector, led us through a multi-cultural visual intelligence lesson to help us recognize our individual prejudices.
During a staff retreat last spring, our organization visited the Living Languages Exhibit First Peoples’ Voices in British Columbia at Victoria’s Royal BC Museum to gain appreciation for the 34 First Nations languages in our province. This was followed, six months later, with each staff member sharing research about which traditional aboriginal territory our house occupied, and how these past indigenous communities were affected by settlers.
These experiences took me back to my B.C. Reads work and Shantel Ivits’ words. “It’s uncomfortable to talk about current and historical wrongs. It’s not easy to talk about residential schools, or slavery, or Japanese internment camps. I deliberately included uncomfortable topics in the BC Reads series because learning can’t always be comfortable. There are painful social problems we must reconcile and remember because when we don’t, history repeats itself. ”
Making It Real
Here at BCcampus, we continually build into the support resources we create for faculty and staff, a reminder to think about accessibility, equity, diversity, and inclusion. For instance, one of the questions asked of faculty who review our textbooks, is how well the text “reflects diversity and inclusion regarding culture, gender, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, education, religion.” In our newly released Self-Publishing Guide, we encourage would-be authors to consider this topic in the chapter Accessibility, Diversity, and Inclusion.
More recently, we have added a new statement to our annual call for OER grant proposals. It asks that each submission describes how the proposed project:
- Impacts the largest number of students across multiple institutions
- So as many instructors as possible can use this resource to help their students save money: Consider all courses across the province that might use this OER
- So all students have an equal opportunity to learn: Address accessibility and make use of the principles of Universal Design for Learning
- So First Nations students and the aboriginal viewpoint are included: Incorporate Indigenous perspectives and pedagogies
- So all students identify with and feel included while learning: Consider equity, diversity, and inclusion and make use of Inclusive Practices
“Teaching is never a neutral act,” Ivits concludes. “The texts we bring into our classrooms have messages about social continuity and social change, whether we acknowledge these messages or not.”
OER Degree Program Promotes Success for All Students Even During Extreme Weather
By Tonja Conerly, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, San Jacinto College
Last fall the Houston Chronicle ranked our city as one of the riskiest places to live in the country due to natural disasters but San Jacinto College started to develop a strategy following Hurricane Ike in 2008. Faculty were encouraged to use the college’s learning management system, Blackboard, for storing student assignments that could be completed online if face to face classes could not be held at the college.
Nearly two years ago, San Jacinto College was selected to participate in Achieving the Dream’s OER Degree Initiative grant. Each grantee college would be supported through development of a full OER degree pathway reducing cost barriers for students and measuring the learning outcomes and institutional impacts of the program. Since then, 106 faculty at the college have adopted OER saving the 7100 students who have participated so far thousands of dollars in textbook costs.
Hurricane Harvey and OER
Our city was devastated by Hurricane Harvey last August which brought 40 inches of rain in 4 days and affected our students and faculty emotionally, physically and financially. The start of classes had to be postponed for more than a week and special funds allocated to assist students and faculty some of whom were without food, clothing, or shelter. In a normal semester, it takes our students 1-2 weeks to purchase their textbooks and get with the “groove” but in the OER classes, these students did not experience any “lag time”. Able to start classes on opening day without worrying about purchasing a textbook or receiving their financial aid was a huge advantage for our students. With the growing use of OER, we are assured that our college is making significant progress on providing access and equity to our diverse student population..
Chancellor Dr. Brenda Heyller wrote this for our college publication, “San Jacinto College reached record enrollment in the Fall 2017 semester with 30,509 students enrolled across the College district. This record enrollment is a testament to the work that our faculty and staff do every day in and out of the classroom. The Fall term was tough for all of us with Hurricane Harvey, and I know many of our students and employees are still recovering. However, I am proud of our faculty and staff for persevering to make sure that our students got enrolled and completed the semester.”
Sociological Strain Theory
As a faculty member, I have seen the positives of OER during good and bad times at our college. Normally, before I start a lecture, I define words so that my students can better understand the topic of the lecture. Equity is defined as “the quality of being fair and impartial”. Robert Merton, a sociologist, explained in his “Strain Theory” over 80 years ago (1938) how our educational system is not fair and we are still having this discussion today.
In his theory, he discussed how all members of our society have the goal of financial success which can be reached by two means: hard work and education. He continues to explain that because we do not all have the same access to employment and education, it causes a “Strain” for those unfairly denied the means of access to obtain financial success. In summary, because we don’t all have the access to the “same” type of education e.g. teachers, books, facilities, etc., this brings about inequality to find employment in turn, making it challenging for those trying to gain financial security in our society. OER promotes equality and success in our educational system by allowing students access to the same type of textbook regardless of their financial ability to pay. This additional knowledge will give students an opportunity to gain better employment therefore in turn assisting them with obtaining a better way of life.
At San Jacinto College, our mission is to ensure student success. Incorporating OER in our curriculum allows our students to have access to their textbook immediately and creates seamless transitions from hardcopy to online textbooks. We provide technology inside and outside most classrooms and enrich the quality of life in the communities we serve by assisting our students to meet their life goals with little or no “strain”.