:sync: When Openness Excludes: Strategies for Equitable Open Pedagogies in Diverse Contexts

Author: Leigh-Anne Perryman
Institution: The Open University
Country: United Kingdom

Topic: Applications of Open Education Practices/Open Pedagogy/Open Education Research
Sector: Higher Education
UNESCO Area of Focus: Inclusive OER
Session Format: Presentation


Open pedagogies and practices are often promoted as increasing equitable participation in education, 'encouraging effective, inclusive and equitable access to quality OER' (UNESCO, 2019) by giving learners autonomy regarding what and how they learn. In addition, open pedagogies and practices can achieve a multiplier effect, giving fee-paying students the opportunity to share knowledge, skills and openly-licensed resources with peers unable to afford registration on those programmes. Similarly, open pedagogies supporting communities of open practice spanning formal and informal learning can extend the benefits of formal education to those unable to access it.

However, numerous barriers to realising the benefits of open pedagogies exist, especially for learners in the global South, for example dated ICT equipment and software, the cost and reliability of internet connectivity, the dominance of the English language, a lack of digital skills, and educational resources that are culturally inappropriate, irrelevant or inaccessible. Sometimes multiple indices of exclusion are in play. For example, the replication and extension online of offline violence and discrimination against women can deter women from participating in open online communities. The pervasiveness of online hatred and abuse, not only of women but also of members of the LGBTIA community, threatens to increase inequity amongst learners where pedagogies involve participation in open online spaces, especially where learners are required to reveal their true identities, for example to meet the requirements of assessment.

Addressing sava saheli singh’s (2015) notion of ‘the privilege of open’ this presentation explores whether and how open pedagogies can be made safer, more culturally responsive, and more equitable and argues that truly equitable education requires that learners have the freedom to be safe and make informed decisions about when and how to be open. The session draws on research conducted with learners studying The Open University’s Masters in Online and Distance Education (MAODE) programme, which models open educational practices and adopts open pedagogies within the constraints of a paid-for formal curriculum. The session outlines the varieties of openness featured in the MAODE and the apparent benefits for learners and explores the barriers that can prevent students from fully engaging with open pedagogies and practices. The presentation outlines some of the ways in which barriers to full engagement in open pedagogies might be removed, including decentralising platforms and tools used within formal learning-based open pedagogies in order to increase learners’ control over their personal data, shared content and online identity. The presentation also questions whether in some situations open pedagogies and practices may be inappropriate due to their power to increase inequity in diverse learner cohorts, and whether flexible pedagogical strategies could help reconcile diverse contextual inhibitors to realising the affordances of openness.

singh, s. (2015) ‘The Fallacy of “Open”’, savasavasava, 27 June [Blog]. Retrieved from
UNESCO (2019). Draft Recommendation on Open Educational Resources. Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000370936.


Open educational practices, Open pedagogy, Educational inclusion, Critical pedagogy, Educational equity, Global South

Great session!!! Loved the connections between open pedagogy and focus on mental health, care, social justice, autonomy and how it ties into UDL, but also how trauma/anxiety and other inequalities can be exacerbated by giving students choice without support/scaffolding!

Video of the session:

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Thanks Maha. I’m very influenced by your work on pedagogy of care and we feature the open Google doc in a couple of our courses, including the mental health microcredential.

I really don’t think we talk enough about mental health, but it’s so critical and with just a little work it’s possible to make a big difference. Opening up conversations about mental health is vital too, of course.

Here are the slides from my session: OE Global Presentation 1 Compressed.pdf (4.3 MB)

Here are the slides with notes: OE Global Presentation 1 Compressed Notes.pdf (6.6 MB)

Here’s where to find the 'Embedding mental health in the curriculum’ microcredential.

Thank you so much for this interesting and important session. It explains so much of what I’m seeing in my own classroom. I really appreciate your approach of not just identifying challenges, but also providing potential solutions.