Who Gets to Wield Academic Mjolnir?: On Worthiness, Knowledge Curation, and Using the Power of the People to Diversify OER

Journal of Interactive Media in Education / May 2020

three students studying in libary

In many academic fields Western/white/male/cishetero/abled perspectives are often centered, while other perspectives are presented as “other.” Implicitly, this sends messages to students that success looks like one type of person, knowledge is generated in one kind of way, and their background is not worth being centered. While open educational resources (OER) are often marketed as a tool for social justice, due to their ability to neutralize class-based differences (e.g., Okamoto 2013), there is no evidence that OER are any better than commercial texts at addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (see Mishra 2017 for a discussion of context). However, OER do present a good opportunity for diversification, due to the relatively simple nature of updating the content. This project takes a crowdsourcing approach to diversify OpenStax Psychology (OpenStax College 2014), an OER for Introductory Psychology courses. Contributors were asked to read areas of the textbook they were comfortable with and make suggestions to diversify the content. The author then used some of the suggestions to create modified chapters and conducted a study investigating the impact of the revisions. Participants read either the original chapter or the diversified chapter and completed a questionnaire assessing their sense of belongingness in the classroom/on campus. Overall, first-generation students had a reduced sense of belonging related to their financial circumstances. However, this effect was ameliorated for first-generation students who read the diversified chapter, compared to those who read the original chapter.