Open Education Week 2021: Social Justice Considerations

Open Education Week 2021 (March 1-5) marks the 10-year anniversary of the annual celebration of the Open Education Movement. Over the last decade, the movement has made considerable progress as demonstrated by the increased creation and adoption of open educational resources (OER) across the globe. Much of this progress was driven by initiatives to reduce the high cost of textbooks. But as the movement has matured, advocates and practitioners have broadened the focus of their work to address how open education can improve social justice and equity. Highlighting this deeper focus are two long-term champions of open education.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

The Hewlett Foundation was an early supporter of open educational resources beginning with financial support for grants in 2002. Angela DeBarger, a Program Officer, describes the Foundation’s renewed focus on racial equity and systemic racism in Our Approach to Systemic Racism in Open Education published on November 10, 2020.

Dave Ernst, the Executive Director of the Open Education Network

Dave Ernst has been a leader in the movement since 2012 when he founded the Open Textbook Library based out of the University of Minnesota–two years later he created the Open Textbook Network (OTN). Rebranded in 2020 as the Open Education Network (OEN) to reflect the broader scope, Ernst kicked off the OEN’s Annual Summit held virtually in June 2020. In his opening remarks he reflected on George Floyd’s murder which had just occurred in his city, institutional racism, how higher education may be excluding others, and the intersection of this exclusion with open education. He believes that “open educational practices are activities that invite other voices to academia” (20:34). Further, he stated that “open educational practices are primarily about surfacing other voices” (21:25).
Open Education Network. (2020, June 15). Kickoff: OTN vision with Dave. [Video]. YouTube.

To celebrate Open Education Week this year, I invite you to consider adopting OER in one of your courses for summer or fall quarter. The library has a new database called Faculty Select which was profiled in a library blog post on February 12. Alternatively, reach out to your Library Liaison to assist you in your exploration or search one of the other repositories listed on the Open Educational Resources Guide.

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