Including All Students

For OER to be truly open, it needs to be far reaching in terms of the people it serves. That means “open” must be synonymous with accessibility, inclusion, and diversity. There should be no barriers to the benefits OER provides. That means certain conditions must exist in order for people to have equitable interaction with OER content.

This short video from the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at the University of British Columbia highlights perspectives on accessibility and inclusivity related to OER.


Access in this context refers to the ability for students, instructors, and others to obtain access to education. Releasing textbooks and other educational resources with open-copyright licences is a big step toward removing barriers, as it makes these materials free of cost and free to use, distribute, and change. But there is more that goes into accessing a resource than it just being free and online.

For an OER to be truly accessible, people of all abilities need to be able to access the content. This means designing an OER that accommodates people with diverse learning styles and ensuring the content can be accessed by all, regardless of disability. It also means creating materials that include diverse viewpoints and voices. As you plan your OER, contemplate how to design them so they are accessible, diverse, and inclusive.

The BC Campus Self Publishing Guide provides excellent guidance on some of the barriers students face during their education, as well as some solutions and examples.

Reducing Barriers to Access

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity means including a wide range of perspectives in your OER content to ensure that more readers identify with and relate to the material. Critical here is ensuring that how other cultures are presented in these materials is not according to perceptions based in the standards and customs of one’s own culture.

In the context of writing an open textbook, diversity means including a wide range of perspectives in your textbook. This can help ensure that more readers identify with and relate to the material. Some benefits are:

  • Engaging more students because they recognize themselves or their life experiences in the material
  • Appealing to instructors in a variety of educational settings
  • Creating a more interesting reading and learning experience


Whether intentional or not, ethnocentrism — “a tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one’s own” — can creep into the content and presentation of a textbook, and it is something all authors should be aware of. This doesn’t mean you must write a book that fits every culture and perspective, only that you are respectful.

Once your book is published, if instructors from another country and culture want to use your work, they may customize it for their classroom needs. The changes made might include:

  • Translating the book into a different language
  • Adjusting the content to meet the local cultural, regional, and geographical needs
  • Revising the material for a different learning environment

The OER Accessibility Toolkit

The OER Accessibility Toolkit is a resource from the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver Campus. The goal of the toolkit is to provide the needed resources needed to each content creator, instructor, instructional designer, educational technologist, librarian, administrator, and teaching assistant to create a truly open and accessible educational resource — one that is accessible for all students.

Take time to explore the content of the OER Accessibility Toolkit. You will find that the suggestions provided are intended for the non-technical user. If you are looking for more technical descriptions of how to make your work accessible, you can review the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).


More to Explore

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in OER
In this 55 minute webinar recording, speakers Maha Bali (The American University in Cairo), Alan Harnum (OCAD), and Susan Doner (Camosun College) discuss diversity, equity and inclusion in OER.

Office Hours Recap and Video: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Open Textbooks
In this conversation about diversity, equity, and inclusion in open textbooks, guest speakers and participants identified several aspects of OER that deserve attention and improvement.

Equity and Openness
This series of blog posts from members of the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) shares conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion in OER.

This content is adapted from the following works:

“Self Publishing Guide” by BC Campus Open Textbooks, licensed under CC BY 4.0

“OER Accessibility Toolkit” by Open UBC, Univeristy of British Columbia, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Creative Commons CC BY License ImageUnless otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.