As an #OER23 committee member, I volunteered to write a blog post ahead of the conference, but there I was with no clue on what theme to write about.
It has been a bit chilly for me here, so why not wear two hats, #OER23 committee member, and Chair of ALT Antiracism & Learning Technology (ARLT) SIG, and address the use of OER towards equity.
Open educational resources (OER) are to a large extent and relatively less discriminatory compared to books and journals which are not freely available, non-public libraries, and paid subscription resources such as newsletters, members-only resources, and so on. Although one can still argue that access to a digital device is still required. Nonetheless, when digital access is not an issue, anything that must be paid for is discriminatory to a certain extent, especially in this day and age.
Can education exist solely on OER?
The current state of academia (formal education) in the UK and its business model do not provide adequate opportunities to advance open education practices to the extent that they should be in the 21st century. High tuition costs (in universities) are often justified by access to learning materials (libraries, virtual learning environments) and access to knowledge experts (4* and 5* academics), which ethically is indirect discrimination toward many.
Then how about non-formal ways of educating against discrimation? Staff training, reading groups, conference materials, recordings, and the likes can still provide a huge wealth of OER learning materials in the fight against discrimination.
Why is OER important in fighting against discrimination?
Last year, the ARLT SIG committee decided to encourage OER materials in the Reading Group activities and to support online or hybrid events only, as in-person events discriminate against marginalised groups who may not have access to funds to travel to events (or even be accommodated). Anyhow, post-pandemic, it makes sense for us to continue to advocate for online and hybrid events for many other reasons as well (sustainable events, climate change crisis, inclusivity, and all fancy new and remodeled terms that organisations fecklessly get hyped on).
It is important here to specify that OER learning materials are not beneficial only for marginalised ethnic groups, that is, not only against racism. For instance, people with disabilities often find themselves short of money as government aid is inadequate for their day-to-day living expenses. In their dream for education, access to learning materials should not be a barrier. So, in effect, OER practices can be beneficial to a wider group.
Nonetheless, it is not only why OER is important in fighting discrimination but also how can it be sustained.
How to use OER against discrimination?
Advancing and sustaining open education practices compels for a change in the way staff (educators and non-educators) involved in education see and perceive OER, it involves a greater focus on open education research and of course the hard decision to change educational policies. It involves actioning at every step and resisting the intransigent and non-complying human blocks in order for impact to be felt and seen.
However, while fighting discrimination, OER practices are not solely beneficial to the marginalised group. In fact, anti-discriminatory learning materials should be freely available to everyone, in particular to the perpetrators of discrimination. I recall when the CBC’s documentary “Deconstructing Karen” came out, I was wondering why it was not freely available.
Ahead of OER2023, here are few things to consider: What existing anti-discrimination materials (in your organisation) would you like to be available as OER? How can you change practices in your local Reading Groups, events, training, and conferences? And most importantly how can you engage people in using openly available learning materials against discrimination?