Changing our (Dis)Course: A Distinctive Social Justice Aligned Definition of Open Education

Sarah Roslyn Lambert


This paper investigates the degree to which recent digital Open Education literature is aligned to social justice principles, starting with the first UNESCO definition of Open Educational Resources (OER). A critical analysis of 19 texts was undertaken to track dominant and alternative ideas shaping the development of Open Education since 2002 as it broadened and developed from OER to Open Educational Practices (OEP). The paper begins by outlining the method of texts selection, including defining the three principles of social justice (redistributive, recognitive and representational justice) used as an analytical lens. Next the paper sets out findings which show where and how the principles of social justice became lost within the details of texts, or in other digital agendas and technological determinist debates. Finally, a new social justice aligned definition for Open Education is offered. The aim of the new definition is to provide new language and a strong theoretical framework for equitable education, as well as to clearly distinguish the field of Open Education from mainstream constructivist eLearning.


social justice, Open Education, Open Educational Resources, Open Educational Practices, OEP, critical theory, definition

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