From the lens of a new Online Educational Resources (OER) Librarian embarking on an OER initiative at an R1 university I reflect on creating and implementing an English OER textbook and curriculum at a community college. To add my voice to the literature on OER creation, I use an autoethnographic method of writing and research. Autoethnography makes use of personal experience to describe, analyze, and interpret cultural works and experiences. I discuss how my personal and professional experience influences my approach to supporting OER creators, and I reflect on my experience as an OER creator from the intersection of being both Latinx and a working class woman working at a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) situated in a majority-minority state in the United States. This paper acknowledges the invisible labor embedded within OER creation and suggests ways to support historically marginalized creators. It also includes recommendations for program-level changes that can be made to support OER creators.
Keywords: open educational resources (OER), OER program, OER creation Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), invisible labor, Latinx, BIPOC, microaggressions
As a faculty librarian at an R1 university or an institution with very high research activity, my job focuses on growing the university’s Open Educational Resource (OER) initiative. My roots in academia began as an English adjunct faculty member at a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), a community college in New Mexico (NM), which is also a majority-minority state. At this college, I eventually obtained a full-time position and went on to create OER curriculum. Having the opportunity to create open materials for my English department enabled me to learn about writing, licensing, and researching OER. I also had the opportunity to help my department save students $200,000 in one year by co-developing OER curriculum that several instructors piloted in our courses. This paper is an autoethnographic exploration of my experience creating OER. Autoethnography is a method of research that Adams et al. (2015) describe as sometimes stemming from profound experiences: “Authoethnographic stories…are stories of/about the self told through the lens of culture” (p. 1).
This article addresses a significant gap in the literature about our understanding of OER creation and focuses on program-level changes that can be made to support OER creators. A great deal of research explores how OER impacts student outcomes and perceptions (Colvard, et al. 2018; Clinton and Khan, 2019; Feldstein, et al., 2012). The majority of this research focuses on how OER benefits students academically and financially when they have increased access to educational resources. Lambert (2018) calls this redistributive justice, a social justice principle that “reduces the costs and increases the chances of success for learners who ‘by circumstance have less’ [and] are marginalised in education, workplaces and more broadly in society” (pp. 227). While it is important to examine how access to resources impacts students in higher education, it is also imperative to analyze who is making OER. By entering the conversation from the social justice principle of representational justice, what Lambert describes as “giv[ing] voice to those who are often not heard” (pp. 227), this article examines the impact of OER development on creators from marginalized backgrounds, specifically from the perspective of a working-class woman of color, an often unexplored viewpoint in the literature. People who create OER are often those with the most privilege: at institutions with resources, where faculty have tenure and status. Examining OER creation from the perspective of someone without this privilege helps us understand how to make OER creation more accessible.
As a community college faculty member, I often felt I had more in common with my students than my colleagues. My college had an uneven faculty representation of marginalized groups. In the fall of 2020, out of the over 21,000 enrolled students, twenty-seven percent identified as white, while fifty-three percent identified as Hispanic; contrastingly, during that same semester, sixty-five percent of faculty identified as white, while twenty-three percent identified as Hispanic (CNM Factbook, 2021). This was not ideal for students as current research has shown that “[as] organisational-level compositional diversity increases, students, especially URM [under-represented minority] students, feel a better fit with their environments and therefore achieve at a higher level, leading to increased graduation rates” (Stout et al., 2018, p. 403). Similarly, as a marginalized faculty member, I feel more at ease and part of a community when my colleagues come from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
Brown self / White academic culture
I moved to New Mexico with my mom and brother in 1986. My Puerto Rican-born mother came to the U.S. as a child. As an adult, she sacrificed many of her own needs to support me and my brother, including going without food because her government assistance and JCPenney call center paychecks did not cover meals for both her and her children. The term marianismo comes to mind when describing my mother, an ideal embedded in Latinx culture and described by Castillo et. al (2010) as a value system where Latinas aspire to be self-sacrificing, humble, and spiritually superior to men. I acknowledge that this idea regarding Latinx women is a cultural construct viewed as a stereotype by Santiago-Rivera et al. and Gil and Vazquez (cited in Castillo, 2010), but this gender-role expectation shaped my perspective and maternal line. I often think about others first–my children, my students, my partners–when I make decisions. When I was a child, my mother gave me what she could, including the food off of her own plate. I absorbed her self-sacrificing nature when I became a mother and a teacher. As a new mother, I also gave my children everything I could; I spent nights co-sleeping and breastfeeding my children. As a new teacher, during the day, I packed my syllabi with readings and activities that required me to be active and engaged. I read multiple drafts of student papers and held one-on-one conferences with my students. Not giving to others felt like a mistake. At the time of this writing, I see the error in this way of thinking, and I have since learned to take better care of myself.
Part of the reason I could easily deprive myself stems from my formative experiences. Growing up, I was a food insecure child in New Mexico. The percentage of food insecure children in New Mexico usually hovers around twenty percent, but during the recent pandemic, twenty-six percent of all NM children experienced food insecurity (Lin, 2020). As one of the twenty percent, I received state-funded free lunch, wore church-donated clothes, and spent a large chunk of my childhood grieving the absence of my father who was incarcerated when I was eleven. This is an experience I shared with many children in NM; it is not an uncommon occurrence to have your life shaped by the prison system. The state’s prison population grew threefold between 1986 and 2015 (Linthicum, 2018). Additionally, in 2018, ten percent of children in the state had a parent who has served jail time (Linthicum, 2018).
These experiences shaped my perspective and the way I embraced academic life: education opened doors for me, and I wanted my students to experience the same, especially those students whose background mirrored mine. Gonzales (2013) writes:
It is highly likely that today’s Latina faculty member began her journey in an underfunded public school system that lacked adequate college preparation coursework, only to find her way into a community college or a less-selective institution, maybe even a Hispanic-Serving Institution. (p. 72)
Like many Latinx faculty, I see myself in Gonzales’ (2013) description. The feeling of being an outsider continued, in meetings and on campus, where I often felt out of place as a faculty member. More than once staff members assumed I was a student both when I was an adjunct and a senior full-time faculty member. I felt disheartened each time I had to say, “I’m not a student; I’m a teacher.” I made sure to dress professionally to prevent others from assuming I was a student, but my attempts at looking like a faculty member didn’t always work. While walking the halls, I was asked more than once if I were a secretary. These experiences are what Nadal (2011) describes as an “Ascription of Intelligence, [for example] when people of color are assumed to be less intellectual or uneducated” (p. 471). Moreover, the assumption that people who look like me are not college faculty is a common experience described by Cerecer et al. (2011): “[T]he predominantly white, upper-class spaces that Chicana/Latina faculty inhabit are sites where race and class may be misconstrued, for example, that they are domestic workers and servers in the service industry. Such experiences are often jarring and remind us that we work in spaces that were not created for us as women of color” (p. 82). These workplace experiences are microaggressions, a subtle form of discrimination perpetrated by people who unconsciously display negative feelings toward racial and ethnic minority groups (Nadal, 2011).
A few months into my first year as a full-time English instructor, when I was still in my probationary period, my chair asked me to serve on a hiring committee. He said they needed someone diverse, which I found disturbing. Had my chair told me I had valuable perspective as a writing instructor and a writer from New Mexico, I would not have felt blatantly tokenized. Gonzales (2013) describes this phenomenon: “The department as well as the college might saddle Latinas with extensive service and teaching loads, exploiting her as a token more than an equal colleague. In this way, at the department level, the Latina faculty member might be hypervisible and invisible at the same time” (p. 68).
I believe that hypervisibility is what propelled a white male colleague of mine to ask me to enroll his student in my class. He said I would be better able to work with her, he just knew it. I said okay, feeling flattered that an older colleague thought his student would respond better to my instruction. I told him I would enroll her. Upon trying to enroll in my class, this student sent me panicked emails with all caps and exclamation points saying she wasn’t sure if she had enrolled. I met her in my office and said everything would be okay, that she would get into my class even if her first attempt did not work. She seemed afraid of technology. Her first language was Arabic, and her spoken English was sometimes hard for me to understand; however, we worked together to communicate. I would later learn she was a refugee of the War on Terror in Iraq.
I met weekly with this student one-on-one in my office, sometimes for up to an hour, to go over the weekly work and help her with her English grammar, yet every time she turned in a paper to my online class, she would send me panicked emails, worried I had not received her work. I could see her anxiety interfered with her well-being. I saw myself in her, all the anxiety I too felt while suffering from Impostor Syndrome. That internal experience of intellectual phoniness, also known as Impostor Phenomenon, can be prevalent and intense among some high achieving women (Clance, 1978). Bernard (2018) found that Impostor Phenomenon (IP) is a possible consequence of racial discrimination. One day in my office I asked my student if she had anxiety. She didn’t know the word, so she typed it into her phone and translated the word into Arabic. When she realized what I was asking, her eyes grew big, she nodded slowly and said, “Yes.” I told her that she could talk to her doctor and get help. I said she did not need to have a panic attack every time she turned in her homework.
I was better equipped to respond to this student’s needs, and that is a problem. My white male senior colleague could not muster the empathy and patience to work with an English Language Learner, so he handed her off to a junior colleague. When Faculty of Color (FoC) are pressured to meet an institution’s need for diversity and are expected to advise and mentor more than their share of students of color, this is invisible labor and cultural taxation (June, 2015).
As a woman of color in academia, I faced microaggressions, assumptions about my intelligence and capacity, tokenization, and the offloading of time-consuming labor, particularly when it required mentoring students of color. While experiencing these challenges, I didn’t see myself reflected in the makeup of my peers and colleagues: nearly two-thirds of the faculty at my college were white, while less than one-third of the student population was white (CNM Factbook, 2021). In 2010, I was the second person of color hired to teach full-time in my department. I lacked a community where I could connect with others and articulate what I was feeling. This is the context that minority OER creators work within: navigating microaggressions, explaining why we are in a room, dedicating time to advocate for ourselves, and even redirecting and rewriting our own impostor-syndrome-related thoughts, which mirror society’s perception of our ability.
The additional labor of developing OER
While teaching English composition courses at my community college, I noticed my students were not always purchasing the required textbook and were instead piecing together the course readings from the Internet to reduce costs. My students were spending their precious study time finding course materials instead of focusing on the course content, and I understood why. As an undergraduate, I also could not afford to buy my own textbooks. At the time of writing, I am still paying for college textbooks through repayment of my student loans. I wanted to address my students’ reduced access to textbooks by creating an online composition course that did not require a traditional textbook. The course would exist on our Learning Management System (LMS), or online classroom, and it would be accessible to students once they logged in and authenticated using their username and password. The online English course I envisioned would help faculty and students: contingent faculty would have an online, accessible curriculum when assigned last-minute courses, and students would not need to buy an eighty-dollar composition textbook. I could not develop this course while teaching my full load: I taught five courses in the fall and five courses in the spring or a 5/5 load.
After proposing this idea to my dean and asking for a course release to give me more time, she suggested instead of creating a closed online course, I develop OER curriculum. It was 2015, and I had never heard of OER. My dean said Academic Affairs was beginning an OER initiative. The original goal for the initiative was to, “make… faculty aware of what is available for students for free or at a much lower cost without many copyrights” (Central New Mexico Community College, 2015). I said yes and soon learned that OER are free and accessible online teaching and learning materials that have a license which allows educators to use, re-use, and re-purpose the material for educational purposes (Bliss and Smith, 2017; Watling, 2017). The OER movement grew in part from the frustration educators felt over dealing with costly textbooks (Bliss & and Smith, 2017).
My first hard-learned OER lesson was that one course release was not enough time to develop OER curriculum. A colleague and I found there was no specific OER text that addressed our course outcomes, assignments, and student population. Gathering materials took several months, and then we had to organize, revise, edit, proofread, and peer review the materials. In one semester, we came close to compiling the textbook’s readings, but that was only step one. In the meantime, I learned from a conversation with another faculty member that I could request additional compensation through my dean who would propose this project to the Dean’s Council. This process was not transparent: at the time of writing, the guidelines for requesting project compensation are not on the college’s website. I did receive extra funding, but I was never certain how my proposal was evaluated.
Once the OER readings were compiled, I shared the book with our Distance Learning department who then transitioned the text into an immersive web document. The HTML book had to be proofread, edited, and checked for accessibility. At one point, the whole text changed platforms because the first platform’s cost unexpectedly increased by tens of thousands of dollars. Changing platforms created more proofreading and editing work. In the end, the web version of the book would take more than two semesters to create. The request for more funding, either a course release or project compensation was extra work, but receiving the funding held me accountable because the college invested time and resources in my work, and they expected me to finish the book. A colleague and I ended up requesting two course releases each and additional project compensation over the summer, yet our project was still not complete. Eventually, our financial support ran out. The Dean’s Council would no longer fund a project that went on to save students hundreds of thousands of dollars. It took almost two years to completely finish and pilot the OER. I worked more hours than I was compensated for, and I did this because I wanted to use my newly obtained privilege to give back and make a difference (Vallejo & Lee, 2009).
Moreover, what I did not realize while creating OER materials is that not all faculty creating OER were being treated equitably. I believe this mistreatment of faculty took place in part because the institution lacked a transparent process for doling out OER funds. Later, I would learn other college faculty were upset that my project had been funded while their OER project was not. Like me, other faculty requested additional money from the Deans’ Council; unlike me, their requests were rejected. They had a different dean to advocate on their behalf who was not as supportive. Their school also had a smaller pool of students. Eventually, my colleagues whose project was not funded filed a grievance citing that Academic Affairs had displayed favoritism.
Throughout this experience, I realized OER funding, which is intended to be a mechanism for supporting faculty, can actually create and stoke animosity among faculty. It was a hard lesson. I remember attending a conference with other OER creators from my college, and an older, white chairwoman from a department whose project compensation was denied stood in the back of the room. Toward the end of our conference session, the chairwoman, more than twenty years my senior, pointed at me and yelled, “Tell them! Tell them how you were paid for your work!” The way she yelled, you would think she was accusing me of something nefarious. I did get paid, I wanted to be paid, and I knew it was right to be paid for my labor. By being paid, I was justifying faculty compensation for OER work. In addition to teaching a 5/5 course load, no college faculty member should be expected to create their own textbook as part of their primary responsibilities.
Many times throughout my career, I have chosen to work long hours holding one-on-one conferences with students and giving them detailed feedback on their writing, but that was my choice. If Academic Affairs wanted to integrate more Open Educational Resources, I did not want it happening on the backs of faculty, and I did not want my overactive work ethic imposed on other faculty. It was always my choice to over-work. Through requesting additional project compensation and course releases, my intent was to avoid setting a precedent for free labor, yet I still ended up working for free. I wanted this expectation in the books: faculty should be paid fairly for developing OER. While developing OER curriculum, my most manageable semesters were always the semesters where I received course releases. When I only received project compensation to develop OER curriculum, and I had to teach my full load, my anxiety ramped up, and I felt constantly rushed. I felt a knot in my chest and throat. I did not have enough time to teach, grade, raise my kids, and sleep, so I often went without sleep.
When I was first creating an OER text, I was a full-time faculty member, and I had seniority. My needs while creating OER were different from other faculty members’ needs and specific to my life. What I needed most while creating OER was time to rest and recuperate from the demands of teaching. I would have been able to do this with a smaller teaching load rather than more monetary compensation. As a parent, I needed more work-life balance. To my own detriment, I often instinctively put other people’s needs first. This aspect of my personality is also rooted in my upbringing in Latinx culture and is part of my individual identity. I return to the term marianismo, which some describe as a stereotype of Latinx women (Castillo, et al. 2010), but aspects of this cultural phenomenon are embedded in my personality: my upbringing produced in me a strong desire to take care of others, which is not an inherently negative human quality until it activates my latent workaholic tendencies.
While course releases are expensive, they free up faculty members’ time to focus on writing, researching, and developing OER curriculum. Course releases also further work/life balance for faculty. If institutions are interested in supporting faculty creation of OER, they might also consider developing a process for creating OER that includes a clear funding policy. This way, faculty do not need to simultaneously learn how to apply Creative Commons licenses while learning to navigate the labyrinthine process of higher education funding. Had some of these institutional processes been in place ahead of time, creating OER might not have felt like such a struggle.
Throughout this article, I have focused on some unfavorable aspects of my experience at my former institution, but this college employs many excited and compassionate people who want the best for their students. The OER initiative, I am sure, was born from a commitment to the large population of under-served students at the school. Being committed to creating an equitable environment for students is incredibly important; however, as a faculty member creating OER at this same institution, it would have been invaluable to work under similarly equitable conditions.
Intersections of positionality and academic position
OER initiatives can be an opportunity for higher education institutions to support and encourage marginalized professionals to create OER. In “Supporting OER Course Conversion,” Valencia (2022) posits that OER initiatives are also an opportunity for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts:
[OER] Program managers are in a unique position to advocate for the increased representation of historically marginalized people as both authors and subjects in the identification of new course materials. By setting DEI as a key program goal, program managers can search for new materials that more meaningfully include the contributions of historically marginalized people.
Creating a mission or goal that includes historically marginalized people is an important stance. Academia should be more inclusive; however, from my experience, well-meaning efforts of diversifying curriculum and OER can place faculty of color at risk for burnout and exploitation. I was exhausted by the time our OER was piloted, and my anxiety reached an all-time high. Along the same lines, Biswas (2014) writes, “Efforts to diversify academic life have made disproportionate use of minorities…as tokens of multiculturalism to add gloss to an institution’s public face” (pp. 493-494). Take the work of being a marginalized academic, the newness of OER, and the lack of rules or best practices regarding OER development, place it upon the back of a marginalized creator, and the result is a staggering, invisible workload.
Putting into practice
As an OER librarian now, I approach the advocacy of OER development by using an intersectional approach, by acknowledging that OER creators need support in different ways depending on the intersections of their position, workloads, personal experience, and individual attributes. Acker (2006) writes, “[T]heory and research on inequality, dominance, and oppression must pay attention to the intersections of, at least, race/ethnicity, gender, and class” (442). Different parts of an individual’s identity may intersect with their duties as an OER creator. As an OER librarian, I will strive to be cognizant of the stressors and challenges individual faculty face. Through the OER Working Group at my university, we have the opportunity to recognize and address these challenges as we create our program’s processes. Faculty members must feel comfortable voicing their needs to ensure a project can be successfully completed. If that means more time, we should listen. Administrators must listen to faculty when they say they need more support to complete a project. As Jung et al. (2017) writes, “Effective and satisfied faculty participation will attract more university stakeholders and generate subsequent participation in OER efforts” (p. 82). Including faculty in the design of OER programs can help shape an OER program, but only if administrators are open and willing to hear the feedback and perspectives of their faculty.
In the beginning stages of an OER initiative, post-secondary institutions need to research the time and effort it takes to create Open Educational Resources before funding faculty to create, adapt, and adopt OER curriculum. Including faculty as stakeholders who collaborate with administration will facilitate the process. Watling (2012) describes implementing an OER program at the University of Hull and describes that the program at her institution focused on developing their OER initiative from the bottom up instead of the top down: “The impetus for change is improved through empowering teaching and learning staff to engage in their own research into new practices. A bottom-up approach supports the development of trust between colleagues and opportunities to deal with any fear of change or failure within supportive collegial environments” (p. 14). It is incredibly problematic when an institution builds their OER materials on the backs of over-worked faculty. Casey (2022) mentions in a chapter from The OER Starter Kit for Program Managers, “[Free] labor raises concerns about privilege, equity, and diversity. While it’s possible to run course material initiatives on a shoestring budget, that effectively limits the number of OER adoptions, adaptations, and creations.” Including faculty creators in the process of developing an OER initiative will help create faculty buy-in, and it will create more equitable OER programming. About OER, Crissinger (2015) encourages readers “to think seriously about how we can be actively dismantling power structures instead of perpetuating them, and to remind ourselves why we think open is worth fighting for in the first place.” Institutions that desire more OER adoptions will find that supporting, including, and listening to the needs of faculty will yield more positive and abundant results.
When advocating for OER adoption, administrators may need to consider whether the conditions under which their faculty currently work are already considered exploitative by disciplinary standards. This may sound polemical, but as an English teacher who evaluated hundreds of writing assignments a semester, I often felt exploited. My feelings can be validated, however, when considering the recommendations of The Conference of College Composition and Communication (CCCC), a professional association of college and university writing instructors in the United States. The CCCC (2015) writes, “Institutions can provide reasonable and equitable working conditions by establishing teaching loads and class sizes that are consistent with disciplinary norms.” Because the CCCC (2015) advocates for teachers to work with students more one-on-one, they recommend that writing faculty teach no more than 60 students a term. I taught double this number
When my English department colleagues learned I was developing a free textbook on top of my teaching duties, they voiced their concern to me, encouraging me not to overwork myself. Nusbaum (2020) writes: “[The OER] creation process can and often does continue to reinforce structural inequalities that exist in the wider educational world” (p. 2). Some of those inequalities include the allocation of resources to faculty, simple things like time and money. Veletsianos (2020) writes, “A critical and equity-seeking adoption and examination of OER materials is necessary in order for practitioners and researchers to further dismantle some of the structural inequities that OER may reproduce” (409). Creating OER on top of a large teaching load felt like an impossible task. Administrators may need to ask themselves if their faculty are already overworked before implementing an OER initiative. Knowing the baseline experience of faculty can adequately help administrators determine how much time or money an instructor needs to adopt, develop, and create OER curriculum. While Veletsianos (2020) asserts OER may reproduce structural inequalities, OER duties can also compound with the labor involved with other faculty responsibilities, and if the OER creator is also marginalized, those OER duties weigh down upon invisible workloads.
However, marginalized voices are necessary for creating inclusive curriculum. Lambert (2018) defines Open Education by aligning it with social justice to provide a theoretical framework for equitable education. Lambert re-defines OER as, “A process and also a goal to achieve a fairer society which involves actions guided by the principles of redistributive justice, recognitive justice or representational justice” (pp. 227). Lambert (2018) developed her stance based on the work of John Rawls (1971), Nancy Fraser (1995), Amanda Keddie (2012), and Iris Marian Young (1997). This three-pronged definition of social justice—redistributive, recognitive, and representational—can be used as a framework during the design, allocation, and creation of OER materials in the following ways: redistributive justice can be achieved by allocating resources toward those who have less; recognitive justice can be achieved through respect for cultural and gender differences within OER materials; and representational justice can be achieved through equitable representation of marginalized voices as creators (Lambert, 2018). We need all three prongs of social justice to make OER creation programs truly responsive and equitable.
As a marginalized creator given a role and a voice in OER text creation, I grappled with the circumstances surrounding academic labor. Philips (2018) writes about the problems inherent to creating free texts for students:
While much of the discussion focuses on learning outcomes and cost to students, the problem with OER is not necessarily the material itself, but how digital materials and the movement around them combines with the casualization of academic labor and the influence of outside, for-profit interests on the curriculum. These bigger realities threaten to turn [the benefits of OER] into a means of exacerbating the exploitative conditions of almost all academic labor.
To promote the adoption, adaptation, and creation of OER materials through the lens of social justice at my new institution, a four-year university that is also an HSI, I will need to be cognizant of the working conditions within my institution. For example, according to the Association of American University Professors (AAUP), contingent faculty, those without full-time or tenure track status, make up the majority of faculty at higher education institutions (2019). Statistics from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) further complicate the issue: “Underrepresented racial and ethnic groups are even more likely to be relegated to contingent positions; only 10.4 percent of all faculty positions are held by under-represented racial and ethnic groups, and of these, 7.6 percent — or 73 percent of the total minority faculty population — are contingent positions.” More FoC hold contingent positions, and contingent faculty do not have access to the same institutional resources as their full-time peers. This means in addition to navigating microaggressions and tokenization, marginalized creators push through more structural obstacles as they add their voices to OER. These obstacles may not be visible to those in charge of allocating funding and support.
One way to address the different needs of OER creators is to consider their specific needs and to learn why they categorize themselves as being on the margins. Lambert and Czerniewicz (2020) write about their efforts to publish the work of a diverse range of OER researchers from the global north and south in the introduction to the special issue of the Journal of Interactive Media in Education. They describe offering mentoring for authors who considered themselves peripheral, and in doing so, the editors say they reconsidered their definition of the word peripheral. The authors write:
[T]he reasons provided for requesting mentorship were multifaceted: part-time or precarious contract work; high teaching workload; no support or culture of research in their institution; no mentors or scholars of open education at their institution; new to the field; researching or doing a PhD in another discipline; having marginalised identity within their institution; being in a remote location and working in isolated working conditions. (Lambert & Czerniewicz, 2020, p. 3)
The editors’ openness to adjusting their perceptions led them to broaden their definition of peripheral or those on the margins. This openness enabled them to make an informed choice about determining which authors to mentor while developing OER research. It is important to listen to OER creators when they say they are on the margins. Every marginalized person is a unique individual, and a one-size-fits all format to diversifying curriculum and diversity efforts will always fall short of meeting individuals’ needs.
Institutions that seek to implement the principle of representational justice should consider the whole OER creator. Ask questions such as, what are the intersecting identities of a faculty member that come into play as they develop OER curriculum? Not all OER creators come into the world of open resources with a writing background; however, books like Authoring Open Textbooks offer tips for structuring the writing process. “Writing a book—any book—will take much longer than you expect. It will require more of your energy that you anticipate, and you will run into problems that you need to plan for” (Aesoph qtd. in Frederiksen, 2017). One lesson I personally learned while developing OER curriculum is that it can take far longer than I can even imagine. My list of tasks included learning about OER licensing, searching for materials, evaluating OER texts, developing OER curriculum, proof-reading content that changed platforms, and then implementing content into courses that were shared with my department. It was a long, slow process. Frederiksen (2017) calls this build-up of previously unrecognized tasks “scope creep” and recommends developing a realistic timeline:
If the scope of your open textbook is the amount of authoring required to successfully complete the project, then scope creep is the addition of content or features that were not in the original plan. Without a clear target or scope, projects can quickly become hard to manage.
I definitely experienced scope creep while developing OER for my English students and department. I began developing this specific OER in 2015, before books like Authoring Open Textbooks existed.
Other examples of faculty support include the Open Access Textbook Initiative at Oregon State University, which provides financial, technical, and editorial support. They noted,
Overall, we have learned that if we provide full-service support to our faculty, we get a great publication in return. When they have time to concentrate on their writing and envision what they would like to provide to their students, we can work together to see this to fruition. It allows us to provide a meaningful experience for everyone (Fisher, 2017).
To help faculty focus on creating content, the Open Access Textbook Initiative offers services similar to a traditional publisher, including editing, proofreading, and peer review help. The program also works with faculty to help illustrate written concepts in multiple modes to engage a wide variety of learners. At my previous community college, we did receive help developing the HTML text with graphics and videos, but the proofreading and editing took a lot of time to finish, and with multiple platform changes, the breadth of these tasks were not built into our original timeline.
In 2023, there are enough resources for institutions, librarians, and textbook authors to make more informed decisions about how to implement OER curriculum. For example, the Open Education Network (OEN), a membership organization that advocates for OER, suggests that institutions work with faculty to create timelines for textbook creation: “Often the best timelines are created together, between authors and project managers, working backwards from a deadline” (OEN, 2017). This sounds a lot like the bottom-up approach Watling (2017) describes to developing OER initiatives.
This article addresses a gap in the literature about OER creation, and it focuses on how to support OER creators. In my experience, developing OER can lead to inequitable circumstances for a wide range of college faculty, especially those from under-represented groups who experience invisible labor. Implementing a college-wide OER initiative without a clear road map from administration can lead to extra labor for faculty because faculty may need to advocate for fair working conditions while writing, researching, and learning about open licensing. Institutions should also take care to gauge the working conditions of their faculty before asking them to create OER. Knowing the baseline workload of faculty from a disciplinary perspective can help administrators understand how much time and resources their faculty need to succeed in developing OER curriculum.
Additionally, OER initiatives must consider how to equitably apply the value of representational justice. From my experience developing OER as an FoC, I recommend that marginalized faculty and faculty across the board consider the factors at play when they participate in service to an academic institution, so they can recognize when they are being exploited. For example, the politics of an institution, the class sizes and class loads, the clarity and fairness of funding policies, and the institutional support for faculty can all impact the experience of someone developing OER. Creating OER can worsen inequitable working conditions. FoC may also face additional invisible labors when adopting and creating OER, for example, the labor of legitimizing their presence in a room. My identity as a Latinx woman shaped my experience creating OER at an HSI. Other marginalized groups may encounter similar obstacles, though further research is needed to identify the obstacles that other groups of marginalized creators encounter. This paper is limited to my experience as a working class Latinx woman.
Although I think my first OER-creation process could have been less stressful with more support in place, I have no regrets about taking on this project. The experiences I shared demonstrate the need for additional support for marginalized creators. Both students and faculty need to be prioritized throughout the development of an OER initiative. For students and faculty alike, OER creation can be incredibly important, worthwhile, and life-changing.
I would like to thank David Hurley (University of New Mexico) for reading early, messy drafts of this article which started as a narrative, my mentor Teresa Neely (University of New Mexico) for reviewing and asking me hard questions, Sarah Hare and Kellee Ann Warren for their feedback, and Jaena Rae Cabrera for working so patiently with me on this project.
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