Welcoming Contribution: Opportunities for involvement in OER development as reflection of Knowledge Commons community values

Developing the Knowledge Commons should be, at its heart, an act of community building. Yet the creation of knowledge in educational contexts has traditionally been under the authority of the socioeconomically, geographically, and contextually privileged. Maintaining current power structures in knowledge production, transformation, and transfer hinders community and network development across the education and public sectors, impeding human progress. There are several barriers that contribute to maintaining the exclusionary realm of knowledge production, which we identify as stemming predominantly from elitist institutional cultures.

In this session, we would like to explore the topology of the open education communities, including content creators/contributors, publishers, funders, instructors, and students. Our intent is to establish an ethnographic investigation into the downstream impact of open network connectivity on content creation, relevance, and use. Our primary inquiries of focus are:

  1. What are the values of the open community, and how are these values expressed in behaviors related to expanding these networks and welcoming contributions from out-of-network members to establish cross-boundary communities?

  2. What networks and ontologies exist, and how are they connected?

  3. How do we discover and make sense of these networks and ontologies in open education, and work to counter recreating exclusionary groups?

Participants will engage in the co-discovery and unpacking of barriers, bias and shifting toward enabling participation; the presenters will facilitate the conversation not only in this session, but also continue to support and grow an inclusive international community of OER advocates, developers, and stakeholders interested in understanding and mitigating exclusionary network effects.

Over the course of the session, we plan to gather information through posing a series of questions to attendees regarding their participation in open content creation, distribution, and use, as well as recommendations on who else should be involved in the conversation and how to include them.

When we talk about open knowledge communities in the context of open education, the communities are predominantly developed around the specialized content knowledge of instructors. Access and acceptance into educational communities are often based on socioeconomic connection, privilege, and confidence. This leads to valuable expertise potentially being lost through exclusionary credentialing and access to open knowledge production working groups. Perceived expertise of contributors can be misrepresented by credentials that are not recognized by a particular network. Without the shared context of networks or credentialing, increased scrutiny of content contributions can be a result, as the trust accompanying the social capital earned within a network may not have been established.

Value judgment in peer-to-peer commons-based knowledge production is necessary to ensure the relevance, applicability, and sustainability of open content creation and projects. When making this value judgment, project maintainers and content editors alike must strike a balance between ensuring the usefulness of content contributions on the one hand, while not creating artificially high systemic barriers for entry into the project’s community of contributors on the other. A project maintainer’s institutional culture, standards by which they judge contributions, and understanding of ‘necessary’ credentialing can establish biases. This systemic bias excludes contributions from underrepresented groups who have been systemically prevented from gaining the credentials necessary to participate and feel welcomed in academic, as well as peer-to-peer production spaces. This exclusion from knowledge production additionally limits the choice of the learners in accessing content other than that which the current networks are allowing to be produced.

We have been facilitating an ongoing global dialogue about how we can dismantle barriers that can prevent collaborative international contributions to OERs, and/or how to overcome those barriers when dismantling them is not an option. The ability to overcome barriers and navigate complex social systems heavily impacts the production of open educational content, as well as the governing structures that oversee knowledge creation, curation, and dissemination. Framing the discussion of these impacts with this Rich Club coefficient and subsequent phenomenon has brought focus onto patterns that have gone predominantly unnoticed in the creation of open educational content. Seeking to establish a “long conversation” on this important topic, we have brought together groups for discussion at the Creative Commons Global, International Association of the Commons Knowledge Commons, and OEGlobal 2021 conferences.

We’re interested in exploring different governance models for OER and other open projects, and have started collecting the outcomes, information, and research from the aforementioned sessions into an open, collaborative publication:


We are seeing emergent themes from these conversations contribute to an ongoing, multi-conference, multi-event series of sessions, each building on the output of the previous ones.


:eye_in_speech_bubble: Presented by:: Max Mahmoud Wardeh, Sarah Hutton
:sun: Conference Track: Sponsor session
:spiral_calendar: Track Date/Time: 2022-05-25T12:00:00Z (your local time)
:speech_balloon: Language: n/a
:calling: Pretalx link: Welcoming Contribution: Opportunities for involvement in OER development as reflection of Knowledge Commons community values :: Open Education Global 2022 :: pretalx


Authors are asked to reply below with links to presentation materials, videos, and other relevant resources, as well as posting prompts for discussion.

Conference participants can reply below with questions, comments for the presenters or to share related resources. And please add anything relevant from this session as an annotation to a specific part of the UNESCO OER Recommendation.