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The Global Pandemic and Utilities of OER in Addressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

by José Del Real Viramontes / Jul 7, 2021

COVID-19 forced higher education professionals like me to reimagine how we teach to ensure we meet the specific needs of our students as the diverse learners they are. One of the main challenges I confronted was ensuring that I provided them with the tools and resources they could use to learn, no matter where they were doing remote learning from. A practice that I continue to learn and adapt to my teaching is the use of open education resources (OER).

Creative Commons defines OER as teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in what’s termed by Creative Commons as the “5R” activities:

Retain – make, own, and control a copy of the resource 

Reuse – use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly 

Revise – edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource 

Remix – combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new 

Redistribute – share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others (Creative Commons, "Open Education," 2020, p. 1)  

What follows are ideas for higher-education professionals on using OER to reimagine a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world in higher education as we slowly transition into a post-COVID-19 era.

The Open for Antiracism Program

The Open for Antiracism (OFAR) program is a four-week course co-led and co-facilitated by the Community College Consortium for OER (CCCOER) and the College of the Canyons. OFAR was developed in response to the structural racism in the educational system and the recognition that adopting open educational resources and open pedagogy could transform institutions seeking to do better. OFAR provides participants with an opportunity to engage and understand anti-racist teaching and demonstrates how using open educational resources and open pedagogy can empower instructors to involve their students in the co-creation of an anti-racist classroom. Learn more.


EDUCAUSE provides key points from two frameworks—Inclusive Design and Design Justice—to support educators in creating more inclusive practices in higher education. The following are summaries of key points provided by EDUCAUSE from both frameworks.

Inclusive Design considers students’ full range of human diversity including but not limited to their age, abilities, culture, gender, and language. Inclusive design honors differences by focusing on designs that allow for diversity to thrive. It encourages higher-education professionals to ask the following questions: "Who has been served, supported, or allowed to thrive by our educational designs and who has not?" And "How might we design for inclusion of more students?" (Collier, 2020, p.14). An inclusive design framework counters the idea of “best practices” in education and instead asks, "For whom are those best practices good, and for whom are they not?" (Collier, 2020, p. 14).

Design Justice, on the other hand, is a framework that centers and prioritizes the people who have been marginalized by design. Advocates of design justice encourage us to acknowledge how designs exclude or even exploit some people and communities, and it challenges us to approach design with a focus on justice for those people and communities (Collier, 2020). Learn more.


Most reading materials that students have access to are via PDFs because these documents are easy to create, are reliable across platforms, and are widely used. But PDFs are one of the least accessible formats for students. To address this issue, Floe supports students by giving them the resources to personalize their learning styles and address any learning barriers they may have. Floe does this by providing students access to User Interface Options (UI Options), which allows them to personalize web content to meet their specific needs. Learn more.


OpenStax, a nonprofit technology initiative at Rice University, has hosted numerous webinars focused on diversity and inclusivity in textbooks, offering tips from some of their webinar participants on developing more diverse and inclusive textbooks via OER. A summary of their recommendations is below. Learn more.

  • Engage in self-reflection. Reflect on your identity, the privileges you hold, and the ways you are able to navigate through the world.
  • Utilize student voice by engaging them early on during the process of developing educational materials.
  • Intentionally include all stakeholders.
  • Remember we are teaching students, not teaching content (Cao, 2019).

Visit for more information.

As we prepare to go back to campus in the fall, this is a call to action to all of my colleagues across the country and in higher education sectors to use OER in their teaching practices. Whether you go back to teaching in-person classes or continue teaching remotely, I hope the ideas, resources, and tools I present here assist you in reimagining a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive space in higher education, as we transition into a post-COVID-19 world.



Cao, L. (2019, December, 10). Creating diverse and inclusive textbooks. OpenStax.

Collier, A. (2020, October, 26). Inclusive design and design justice: Strategies to shape our

classes and communities. EDUCAUSE.

Creative Commons. (2020). Open education

Daly, U., & Glapa-Grossklag, J. (nd.). Making classrooms antiracist with OER and open pedagogy. Commuity College Consortium for OER.

Floe. Flexible learning for open education.