This blog post is based on an event chaired by Dr Mais Fatayer with guest speakers Associate Professor Glenda Cox and Yasser Tamer during UTS Open Education Week. For more detail, view a full recording of the event (01:01:00).

To begin UTS Open Education Week (OEW) and set the tone for five days of rich discussion, we invited Associate Professor Glenda Cox, UNESCO Chair on Open Education and Social Justice, University of Cape Town (South Africa), and Yasser Tamer, the American University in Cairo (Egypt) to discuss how they cultivate inclusivity in Open Education. They advocate for Open Educational Practices as a means to address social injustice.

Social justice and curriculum

The guests in the UTS OEW opening session became involved in Open Education via very different routes. Glenda came to Open Educational Resources (OER) through teaching course and curriculum design. She researched OER projects in the Global South and became the Principal Investigator in the Digital Open Textbooks for Development (DOT4D) project. This was at a time when University of Cape Town students were protesting about decolonising their curriculum. This confluence of events emphasised to Glenda the connection between Open Education and social justice.

Yasser ties his involvement in Open Education and social justice to his identity as an Egyptian Muslim Arab and his experience of accessibility in education. Yasser shared how he has been blind from birth and his education has included both accessible and inaccessible experiences. He explained his interest in notions of disability and social justice, and the education and accessibility differences between the Global South and the Global West.

“Parity of participation”

To explore the importance of Open Education to social justice, Glenda drew on theories conceptualised by political philosopher Nancy Fraser. Glenda explained that social injustice can have economic, cultural and political dimensions, and this framing is useful to make a clear argument for how OER can cultivate “parity of participation” in education.

Students can experience injustice due to inequitable distribution of resources, and their cultural identities, voices and agency might be misrepresented or missing in educational materials. Open textbooks written by local authors become free, locally-produced materials that represent local cultures and student voices.

Yasser’s work has focused on supporting increased parity through greater awareness of accessibility and reducing disability stigmas. He shared his experience as a student who is blind, navigating higher education but not always having accessible and relatable learning experiences for someone with a disability.

“How can we make something open and grassroots that helps students with disabilities to maximise their potential?”

Yasser Tamer

Strategies for intentional inclusivity and accessibility

Glenda and Yasser shared several recommendations for making higher education more equitable.

Mindset of openness

An open mindset, or more appropriately, a mindset of openness, is key to nurturing an inclusive learning environment. According to Yasser, when supporting learners, this means providing them with safety, love, and a reciprocal caring relationship. Key strategies could include checking in with students, maintaining confidentiality, and giving them opportunities to communicate their specific needs.

Teachers should also be encouraging and self-reflexive; instead of shaming colleagues, aim to share approaches and resources and be accepting of feedback. To underscore this strategy, Yasser paraphrases writer Adrienne Maree Brown: “I am open to critique if it is offered in the spirit of collective liberation”.


Both guests encouraged the audience to collaborate and share passion for raising unknown and unheard voices through openness. Glenda explained that Open Education can be leveraged to enhance collaboration and continuous improvement in learning and teaching communities. The real power of Open Education is in the process and not the product.

In the University of Cape Town DOT4D project, teachers worked with students as partners to create the materials. Lecturers embraced the opportunity to use students in their work, and students gained feeling of agency. They were part of creating knowledge and felt a sense of belonging.


The guests finished by discussing the necessity of proper resourcing for ensuring inclusivity via Open Education. Glenda suggested that academics seek grant money to support the extra capacity needed to invest in OER. She also emphasised how important it is for existing writers to begin making their work openly available.

Yasser highlighted the importance of digital literacy and citizenship to participation in social justice, and how key this is for his own access to Open Education. He cited the textbook Digital Citizenship Toolkit as an example of an OER that can support university staff members to develop their knowledge.

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