Posted by Una Daly Una Daly

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


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 whiteboard. 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.

Going Forward

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 We can’t wait to hear how you are focusing on EDI in your professional practice.

Featured image made available from

Everyday Social Justice: Using simple words to talk about equity and oppression

By Jimena Alvarado, Social Justice Educator and Women’s and Gender Studies Faculty, Portland Community College

Jimena AlvaradoEverydaySocialJustice is an OER website for teachers or folks who are just curious and want to learn more. On the site, you can find all the teaching materials for a few courses on social justice, so people can walk themselves through it or talk about it with a “book” group. 

This site is a unique resource because there are almost no complete curricula available for folks who teach intersectionality. This site shares the entire curriculum for multiple college courses that introduce the basics of social justice. The readings, videos, and conversation guides are meant to get people to re-think what they’ve learned about 18 different kinds of oppression. The courses use an intersectional feminist perspective, so the focus is on the ways that all oppressions connect; the similarities between racism and classism, the connections between sexism and ageism, the ways that ableism affects transphobia. One of the hardest things about equity work is talking with people about the worst parts of humanity, the ways we hurt each other on purpose. These courses help you think about ways of doing better through empathy, compassion, and patience.

Flipping the Classroom

Instead of lectures and traditional academic articles, the courses use simple words and popular culture materials to think through complex ideas. The lesson plans are built around 2-hour conversations that analyze real-life scenarios and help people connect emotionally to the ideas (flipped classroom pedagogy). 

These courses center on conversations and problem-solving; the best part of a flipped classroom is getting to apply the theoretical concepts with the support of classmates and the instructor. The pedagogy of Paulo Freire drives the design of the courses: applied problems that are relevant to the student’s lives, in their own language, to help develop critical consciousness and emancipatory and transformative education. These are some examples from the courses:

  • In the early lessons, students explore their own identities in a social location map that uses 18 different dimensions of oppression and work in groups to come up with 5 examples of privilege for each of the identities. 
  • Later in the term, they explore the impact that visibility and non-visibility have on how the patterns play out for each oppression. For example, when learning about non-visibility and the dynamics of closeting and disclosure, the students have to weigh the difficult choices that queer parents have to make about keeping themselves and their children safe. 
  • When we study the economics of reproductive labor and the value of childrearing to a society, students work with scenarios that help them visualize the famine and disruption that would result from not having enough young people to keep a society functioning; and they also calculate the salary that a worker would earn for 20 years of child-rearing services. 
  • The concept of Equity sounds simple until we start to realize the radical restructuring that it is proposing. In the applied work we explore individual examples of differentiated treatment and restitution and finish with reparations

Online or On-Campus

Additionally, there is one course that is designed to be taught online, centering around a weekly 1-hour synchronous conversation in small groups. Each of the lesson plans include the prep materials and prep questions, the conversation guides, extra materials, and most of them include a summary video. 

Online students have commented that they were initially resistant to the idea of synchronous conversations, but that it truly allowed them to deepen their understanding. On-campus students have talked about the impact of spending the majority of the class time solving scenarios in small groups instead of following a lecture.

Everyday Social Justice Courses

  • The Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies course provides an overview to shared patterns between multiple forms of oppression, as well as an emphasis on ally skills, reproductive labor, and capitalism. 
  • Queer Studies emphasizes empathy and understanding between the many identities housed under the Queer umbrella, as well as a reimagination of families and relationships. 
  • The Women, Social Change and Activism course strives to explore systems and structures and ways of pushing back; with an emphasis on student activism and academic rights. 
  • The Intercultural Women’s Studies course gets into international systems of domination: globalization, capitalism, diaspora, and migration. 

This work was supported through four Open Educational Resources grants, so this site can be helpful for teachers who are looking for activities, materials, and inspirations for their own lessons. Content on Everyday Social Justice is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) meaning that everyone is welcome to use any and all of the materials and alter them, but must attribute back to the website, and don’t use them for commercial purposes.

Last Updated March 2020

Looking for Images that Reflect Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Ask the Community

Contributed by Heather Blicher, Assistant Professor and eLearning Librarian, Southern New Hampshire University.

Heather Blicher, SNHUConversations and initiatives bringing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the learning environment continue to be a focus in higher education. Some initiatives steadily gain traction while others struggle to make even a footprint in the often fast-paced process of creating and teaching courses.  As an OER advocate and resource to faculty, instructional designers, and other members of the institution, I consider it a responsibility to support those creating the learning experience by developing and maintaining an OER Guide that puts at least one aspect of DEI in the spotlight so that it is easily accessible for use in the learning environment. This led me to search for repositories of free or openly licensed photos and images featuring people of color, trans, non-binary, indigenous, and other diverse population groups.

While there are numerous content-filled sites with filtering capabilities to assist in narrowing the search, I sought collections that were specifically DEI-focused.  Becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of collections highlighting these groups. I reached out to the CCCOER-Advisory email group for suggestions and compiled this list of repositories to share.

  • PICNOI: Free photos of people of color; no attribution required, but can give credit by linking to site

Please share these repositories with others in your community to help make our institutions more equitable and inclusive for all students.  Connect about this and other best practices for open education on the CCCOER-Advisory group

Feature Image:  Photo by @taylorckt1 from (CC0)

Last Update:  January 2020

New America Blog Series:
Leveraging Open Educational Resources for Queer Students

Kelsey SmithSummary by Kelsey Smith, OER Librarian, West Hills College Lemoore

On October 22nd, 2018, New America uploaded the first blog post in a five-part series that discusses how Open Education can support LGBTQ. The five postings can be viewed individually or in one single posting.

As student demographics in the United States become more diverse every year in both K-12 and higher education, faculty are turning their attention toward more inclusive teaching and learning materials to better support the wide variety of students in their classrooms. The New America blog series discusses ways in which our school policies are becoming more hostile towards LGBTQ students and highlights research showing that queer students that felt safe and supported were less likely to drop out and were more likely to maintain higher GPAs. One way in which queer students can be supported is by embedding LGBTQ histories, examples, and topics into the curricula. The blog series also covers several roadblocks to queer-inclusive curricula, like “no promo homo” state laws and school policies. 

Both California and New Jersey are the first two states to require the inclusion of LGBTQ history in the curricula. Since there is not a standardized curriculum for this yet, there can be a vast difference in what is taught in each individual classroom and the cost of updating current textbooks to be more inclusive is costly and time-consuming. Since Open Educational Resources (OER) allow for free content adaptation and revision, they are being considered in place of traditional publisher material. Not only does OER save students (or K-12 school districts) money, they can be completely customized to reflect each institution’s student population leading to a more equitable and inclusive learning experience for all. 

“Open educational resources could be a viable option for removing those time and cost barriers. OER are not only free to access, but free to retain, reuse, redistribute, and revise—meaning that teachers anywhere could not only obtain materials to help prepare them to teach LGBTQ-inclusive content, but they could download, share, and tailor those materials to the individual needs of their classroom. The ability to tailor content in particular, which is not possible with materials that are only free and not open, provides unique opportunities for exploring the immense diversity and historical breadth within the LGBTQ cannon”

Sabia Prescott

Senior Program Associate, Education Policy Program, New America

Though more schools are beginning to see the benefit of more equitable and inclusive learning environments, there is not much guidance, support, or resources when it comes to including LGBTQ content into the classroom. The New America blog series is a step in the right direction to bring attention to the issue and leverage the use of OER to support queer students moving forward.

Last Update:  October 2019

US map showing states with "No promo homo" legislation

United States map showing states with “No Promo Homo” laws
Map courtesy of GLSEN (2017).

Taking OER Off-Campus: Equity Is About More Than Saving Money

By Ursula Pike, Instructional Initiatives Coordinator at Austin Community College

When I was invited to speak at the Building Bridges Community Dialogue gathering in Austin, Texas, I assumed it would be a typical presentation with a slideshow followed by questions and answers. We called it “How Free Textbooks for College Promote Equity” and I found dramatic graphs (textbook prices have increased 204% in the last twenty years!) and Pixabay images of diverse students holding textbooks. Loretta Edelen, Austin Community College’s Community Engagement Director, extended the invitation to me but she made it clear that this was not a presentation. “It is a discussion,” she told me.

Building Bridges is a program led by the Travis County Sheriff’s Department to facilitate dialogue among neighborhoods, communities, and institutions. Nelson Linder, the President of Austin’s NAACP chapter and Building Bridges Chairman Flynn Lee moderated the meeting. The meeting was held in the annex of the Simpson United Methodist Church, one of Austin’s oldest African American churches. 

Cost of Textbooks

I started the conversation by talking about the cost of textbooks and how the use of OERs can save students money. As a commenter on the CCCOER listserv pointed out, community members who aren’t attending or paying for someone’s college may be unaware of how expensive textbooks are in 2019. Everyone in that room already knew that Austin is an expensive place to live. The college can’t control other costs like housing and childcare expenses that students have but our Zero Textbook Cost or ZTC initiative (our term for OERs) has helped students save over $3 MILLION in the last two and a half years. Several attendees wanted to know how we were communicating to students that ZTCs are available. We have added sorting options in the online course schedule and in the student registration system to help students – and the advisors who help them register – find the OER class options. But the participants of Building Bridges challenged me to make sure that the lowest income students, the ones who could benefit the most from free textbooks, knew about OER options. It made me realize that I need to include the Financial Aid department in my outreach efforts.

A Question of Quality

The quality of Open Educational Resources was brought up in a way that I hadn’t considered before. At every OER workshop or conference that I have attended, someone questions the rigor and quality of the materials. Usually, the presenter will explain approaches to reviewing OER materials with a reminder that, as Wiley has said, quality is not necessarily a function of copyright status.” However, sitting in that circle, I saw the concern about quality in a new context. Schools in high-poverty communities, like the East Austin neighborhood we were in, have been historically underfunded and had to use outdated textbooks. The suspicion that low-quality free textbooks are being recommended to high-poverty communities is understandable given this history. I explained the peer review process ACC followed for all of the courses developed as part of the Achieving the Dream OER Degree Pathway but, honestly, I’m not sure if my answer addressed all of their concerns.    

Cultural Inclusion 

As a baker passed around her freshly made gluten-free cupcakes, I told the Building Bridges participants that equity is about more than making education affordable. OERs are changing how students learn and how faculty teach. I related the way that Daphnie Sicre, PhD., Assistant Professor, Department of Speech, Communications and Theatre Arts Borough of Manhattan Community College City University of New York, helps her students evaluate representations of black and brown individuals in their textbooks and online. I revisited her presentation as part of the CCCOER webinar “How OER Can Support Student Equity and Diversity” recently and I recommend it to everyone. 

I finished by letting the participants know that for me, working with OERs is personally important. In college, I never saw myself reflected in my textbooks. I’m Native (Karuk tribe of California) and I can only imagine how validating and motivating it would have been for me as a student majoring in Economics to learn anything at all about Native Americans’ ability to build wealth. In this way, equity in our OER work is not just ensuring that all of our students have quality course materials available to them on the first day of class, it is also about ensuring that our students see themselves in their course materials and know that they CAN be successful in college. I always appreciate the opportunity to talk to the community about the important work we’re doing at Austin Community College and I really loved walking away feeling like I had a new perspective on my work. 

Ursula coordinates initiatives focused on increasing options for students at Austin Community College.  These include supporting open educational resources and managing the weekend classes. With open educational resources, her role is to build and support the infrastructure of OER development at the college. She ensures that faculty interested in OER receive the support they need from librarians, instructional designers, and grant projects so their OER courses are easy for students to find and enroll in.

Last Update:  August 2019

A Question of Labor:
Reconsidering OER and Inequality

By Elvis Bakaitis, Adjunct Reference Librarian at The Graduate Center and New York City College of Technology (CityTech), both part of the City University of New York

The Graduate Center at CUNYOver the past two years, the City University of New York (CUNY) was offered generous state funding towards the development of Open Educational Resources (OER). The funding was primarily intended to target high-enrollment courses, with the aim of lowering the overall materials costs for CUNY students, and as a form of immediate financial relief. Administered through the Office of Library Services (OLS), each campus submitted a funding proposal for individualized programming based on the existing infrastructure at their institution.  

OER at The Graduate Center

As the primary doctoral-granting institution of CUNY, The Graduate Center serves a unique population – approximately 4000 students, enrolled in PhD and Masters programs. A high percentage of Graduate Center students are also employed as adjuncts across the twenty-five CUNY campuses, teaching upwards of 7600 courses per year, and affecting as many as 150,000 CUNY undergraduates.

With these considerations in mind, the Graduate Center Library applied the grant funding to create an Open Pedagogy Fellowship. The Fellowship was specifically designed to address the underlying financial need of CUNY undergraduates, through a process of converting courses to OER or Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC). The program offered a conceptually well-rounded training on how to curate and license open content, as well as the deeper complexities of finding educational materials in a commercialized landscape.

There were fourteen participants in the Fellowship, doctoral students from a variety of disciplines. The Fellowship was structured around two primary components: required attendance at the OER Bootcamp, an intensive workshop held over four days in mid-January 2019; and Breaking Open: An Open Pedagogy Symposium, on Friday, May 3rd. The Fellows received direct and ongoing support from GC Librarians and Open Education Technologists, participated in an online forum, and developed individual course sites on the CUNY Academic Commons.

The OER Bootcamp offered a robust introduction to issues of open content, beginning with a presentation by Chief Librarian Polly Thistlethwaite about her activism during the AIDS crisis in New York City. Thistlethwaite described the urgent need for publicly accessible research about HIV/AIDS medications, in contrast to a political climate of silence and hostility – and the activist work that ultimately led to wider dissemination of government-funded medical research. Each of the four days was split into a working session and featured presentations from GC library faculty or visiting speakers. Jean Amaral, Open Knowledge Librarian at Borough of Manhattan Community College, shared examples of open pedagogy, while Emily Drabinski, Critical Pedagogy librarian, questioned the sources of knowledge production through a collective brainstorm session.   

Chief Librarian Polly Thistlethwaite introduces the Symposium.

Chief Librarian Polly Thistlethwaite introduces the Symposium.

Breaking Open: An Open Pedagogy Symposium was designed through the leadership and vision of Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, Head of Reference at the Graduate Center Library. The event built upon the Bootcamp’s critical framework, expanding the conversation into the realm of content creation, and labor practices surrounding OER. It was anchored by a dynamic Keynote address from Clelia Rodriguez, who spoke to her own experiences as a woman of color in academia, and the relationships between different forms of knowledge. Wanett Clyde, Collections Librarian at the New York City College of Technology, referenced the overlap between her professional life and research interests, and the impact of limited access to source material.

OER and Diverse Representation

One of the major questions surrounding OER is sustainability. The state funding represents a meaningful, multi-year investment in the labor involved to develop, curate, and host open content. And as the CUNY Year One Report observes, significant monetary savings are evident across the University. 

At the same time, the funding works on a limited timeframe, narrowing its scope: it has mostly been used to convert individual courses, and not, typically, towards the development of original, openly-licensed works. The required labor is not recognized within the tenure and promotion process and is, therefore, an unsustainable “add-on” to other non-adjunct / full-time faculty priorities.

Questions of labor are essential to consider, especially in regards to content creation. Who is being compensated to create/curate OER, and how is this reflected in their choices?  As Quill West observes, referencing work by Francesca Carpenter, W. Preston Davis, and Daphnie Sicre, “OERs are not inherently diverse, nor are they necessarily inclusive.” While OER offers the opportunity to revise, and newly conceptualize educational content, it would be just as easy to unintentionally invoke traditional power dynamics, and re-invent a familiar wheel.

At the Graduate Center Library, we sought to shift the funding towards Graduate Center students, as an intentional nod towards their status as adjunct faculty. Lacking the benefits and research leave of full-time faculty, adjuncts may not have the time to contribute to OER. On the national level, there is an increase in diverse representation among adjuncts, but not necessarily full-time faculty. The instability of these gains (particularly for women, who make up the majority of adjunct faculty nationwide) points to deeper issues in academia, but is also reflected within OER work, which at CUNY is frequently supplemented by a reliance on adjunct labor, and individuals in lower-paid, college assistant positions. 

Fundamentally, OER has significant potential to reshape the course construction and define a new value system across higher education. But without continued focus on these underlying issues – representation, labor, and content – the movement towards open is likely to replicate many of the inequalities that we are already familiar with, and that characterize a wide variety of educational content today.

Last Update:  June 2019

Reaching Underserved Students through Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning

Overview of Dr. J. Luke’s keynote at the Online Teaching Conference 2018 By Una Daly

Last month I was fortunate to hear Dr. J Luke Wood’s opening keynote, Reaching Underserved Students through Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning in the Online Environment, at the annual California Online Teaching Conference.  Wood’s research at San Diego State University focuses on factors affecting the success of boys and men of color in education, with a specific focus on community colleges. He co-directs the Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL), a national research and practice center at San Diego State University.

Being Equity-minded

Wood started by defining equity as “a heightened focus on groups experiencing disproportionate impact in order toEquity understanding remediate disparities in their experiences and outcomes.”  This runs counter to current practice which suggests that we should treat everyone exactly the same in order to be fair. Equity means recognizing that some students will need different interventions to be successful.  He provided four ways that equity-minded educators can enhance their teaching practice:

  • be cognizant of exclusionary practices and systemic inequities that produce outcome disparities in educational contexts
  • attribute outcome disparities to breakdowns in institutional performance rather than exclusively to student deficits or behaviors
  • continuously reflect upon their roles in and responsibilities for student success
  • challenge their colleagues to be equity-minded educators

He pointed out the paradox that most faculty use the same teaching methods they experienced as students since many receive no instruction on how to teach, and as the statistics show, these methods are unlikely to help underserved students. This is compounded by the fact that teachers often don’t see the diversity in their classrooms, particularly in online classes with no synchronous interaction. In the online environment, teachers often default to teaching to the mainstream population because they don’t see or interact in relational ways with their students.

Research on Equity

When looking at statistics from CCEAL’s research on student retention and success from over 150 institutions across the nation, disaggregated by gender and race, a stark contrast between men of color in online vs. in-person classes emerges.  Statistics for underrepresented women also show a disproportionate lower success rate in asynchronous courses such as most online courses. Wood points out some common challenges faced by underserved students and which are often invisible to administrators and faculty:  racial micro-aggressions, campus racial-gender climate, environmental pressures, prior schooling experiences, and structural racism in preparation experiences. In addition to those factors, research shows that nearly one-third of community college students experience housing insecurity and greater than 12% experience food insecurity on a regular basis further undermining a student’s ability to focus on their academic work.

Equity Presence

The mission of our community colleges and commitment to social justice demands that we develop an “equity presence” for supporting the success of underserved students. Changing the traditional community college goal of “expanding access” to “expanding equitable access” for high-quality, low-cost education for all students clarifies the aim. The key to helping underserved students achieve successful outcomes is embedding an equity presence in the classroom and Dr. Wood shared five key equity teaching practices for instructional and counseling faculty in both face-to-face and online environments.  More details on these practices are available in the slides and video below:

Five Equity Practices

Five Equity Practices for Teaching Underserved Students of Color

  • Be Intrusive    (e.g. early performance monitoring, encouragement to persevere)
  • Be Relational  (e.g. online office hours, find out what/why students want to learn )
  • Be Relevant (e.g. culturally relevant reading materials, images, assignment choices)
  • Be Community-centric (e.g. discussion forums, shared perspectives)
  • Be Race conscious (e.g. monitor forums for micro-aggressions, pose questions that address issues of race and racism in society)

Black Minds Matter Course

Helping faculty and other student services professionals effectively support the success of underserved studentsBlack Mnds Matter requires transforming perceptions and professional development for best practices.  Fortunately, the Black Minds Matter course, developed by Dr. Woods and CCEAL is being offered for the second time this fall to help educators who are seriously considering how they can integrate culturally aware teaching practices into their online work.  CCEAL is currently looking for institutions and organizations that will become replay sites for the course and facilitate the local interaction. You can find more information about registering as a replay site for the Black Minds Matter course here.

Dr. Wood’s Keynote slides
Dr. Wood’s Keynote video 

Last Update:  July 2018

Hurry Up and Slow Down

By Rose Roberts, Educational Development Specialist (Indigenous Engagement and Education) and Heather M. Ross, Educational Developer; University of Saskatchewan

The intersection between OER and Indigenization is a new area within academia. OER is about opening up the world of knowledge to as many people as possible. Indigenization is about opening up the world of Indigenous reality to as many people as possible.

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) has identified Indigenization as one of its 4 pillars in its Institutional Strategic Framework. As an Indigenous person (Rose) who has worked within a western based educational institution for most of my work life, virtually everything that I do is indigenization. However, Indigenization as an academic institutional endeavor is a new phenomenon, and because it is relatively new, we are in many ways continuing to figure out what it is and how to go about it in a good way.

What is Indigenization?

First a bit of explanation of where we are coming from. Indigenous is an overarching term used for the original inhabitants of a territory; in Saskatchewan those original peoples are known as First Nations and Metis. The third indigenous group in Canada are the Inuit, however, since Saskatchewan was not their traditional territory, there are relatively few living in the province. Approximately 16% of the Saskatchewan population self identified as either First Nations or Metis (2016 stats). The University of Saskatchewan has a student population of roughly 25,000, 12% of them are First Nations or Metis. Indigenization is not only about creating safe spaces (inclusion and diversity) for Indigenous students, staff and faculty, it’s also about rewriting and correcting the historical representation of Indigenous peoples. Indigenization is also about bringing in Indigenous knowledge into academe.

In May, the U of S hosted a two-day conference around Indigenization and OER, in an effort to create an opportunity for advocates of these two important initiatives to come together for conversations around where there may be cross-over priorities and how we might collaborate on bringing change to higher education. While the majority of the sessions and attendee interest related to indigenization, there were some presentations around OER and indigenization, including a fishbowl discussion around how the two initiatives might work together.


Intersection of OER and Indigenization

OER has enjoyed grassroots support at the U of S for the past four years, with the number of students benefiting from the use of OER instead of commercial textbooks growing from fewer than 100 students in 2014 to more than 4,000 in 2018, saving students more than $800,000 in less than five years. In addition, there has been a growing interest in the past year in the integration of open pedagogy.

This cost savings for students is vital as tuition and housing costs continue to increase for post-secondary students and their families. These costs can be particularly challenging for indigenous students, and can be a barrier to entering and staying in post-secondary education. Targeting programs with high Indigenous student numbers such as nursing and education for the integration of OER should be a priority for institutions interested in better serving members of Indigenous communities, something the authors of this post have been advocating at the U of S.

Another opportunity and priority area that post-secondary institutions should target for the use of OER alongside Indigenization is in history. The use of OER in place of commercial textbooks allows for adaptation of history texts to provide both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students with the needed foundational understanding about colonization, including the history of residential schools. Historical truths needs to be told and corrected in the books before there can be reconciliation. Much of what has been written about Indigenous peoples has been by non-Indigenous authors. This must change – Indigenous voices need to be heard in the re-telling of our collective history.

Making it Authentic

However, in other areas of Indigenous knowledge and OER, we urge you to slow down. Learning about Indigenous ways of knowing through the lens of a euro-western worldview will perpetuate the ‘othering’, as well as continue the colonization and appropriation. Indigenization isn’t about inserting pieces of appropriate Indigenous information within the western based course. It also isn’t about inviting an Elder or Knowledge Keeper into your class and asking them to tell their life story or share sacred knowledge. Authentic indigenization is about community and relationships. Members of Indigenous communities need to be contributing to the process and content at every step. Indigenous peoples are the ones that will know and recognize what is appropriate to share and what is to be left in the community.

An Elder of my community once said to me, “They have taken everything else from us, they can’t have our medicines.” When a peoples have been stripped of everything they were and everything they had, there is a lot of mistrust when yet another non-Indigenous person comes and asks for knowledge. As human beings, rejection is a difficult emotion to process, however, the relationship building between non-Indigenous and Indigenous must begin if our actions today are to create a better world for the next 7 generations.

Last Update: May 2018

OER Degree Program Promotes Success for All Students Even During Extreme Weather

By Tonja Conerly, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, San Jacinto College

Tonja ConerlyLast 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.

Student Success

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”.

Last Update:  April 2018

Teaching is not Neutral

By Lauri Aesoph, Manager, Open Education, BCcampus

Lauri Aesoph, BCcampus Open Education ManagerIt’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.”

Last Update:   March 2018

Minimizing Barriers Through Open Practices

By Kaela Parks, Director, Disability Services, Portland Community College

Kayla ParksI 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 a 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.

Last Update:  January 2018

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 identify 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:

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!

Last Update: December 2017

3 thoughts on "Equity & Openness : Perspectives from North American colleges and universities"

  1. Avatar Donna Reed says:

    Thank you for posting this and for the webinar. City College of San Francisco is in the early stages of creating a supported OER initiative and EDI is at the heart of everything we do. This content will be useful for the newly created Academic Senate Committee – OER Taskforce as it begins the work of bring OER to CCSF. It dovetails with the work we are doing in the Distance Ed arena.

  2. Avatar Samm Erickson says:

    A more person-centered practice. Yes, yes, and YES!

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