Reflecting diversity in Open Education Resources (OER)

Related people and/or projects: MADE for U of T | Ep. 02 | Cheryl Lee

WHOA! Resources is an open access library of digital assets meant to support creation of Open Educational Resources, initiated by Cheryl Heeyeon Lee. While this project started as a resource to help staff and faculty at U of T to build their own Open Educational Resources, we’re licensing them under CC BY-NC 4.0, anyone can use these illustrations (as long as it’s not for commercial use). Let's learn more about the project!

At the ETO, we seem to take on projects that might be a bit outside of what we "have" to do at work and a bit more on the "want" to do at work side of things. For example, Anna leads a reading club, Inga initiated MADE for UofT, and I like to publish a monthly EdTech Tip Sheet. We all have our reasons for spending our time on these projects (future blog posts perhaps!), but most of them revolve about a genuine interest in learning, sharing what we've learned, and highlighting projects and work done by others. When Cheryl pitched a new idea - WHOA! (We Have Open Access! Resources)  - wherein she would create and openly share digital assets across UofT and beyond, it was met with a resounding, ummm yes! and how do we actually make this happen? Cheryl was kind enough to answer a few questions about how and why she built WHOA! as well as her motivation for doing so. Here we go!

Examples of illustrations in the WHOA! Open Access Digital Asset Repository:

Image Description: The image above depicts 18 digitally illustrated people, representing different ethnicities, genders, ages, and professions. By selecting on the image, you can visit the repository and download both the final and editable versions of each illustration. As long as you are not using these commerically, you can download and remix the graphics as you'd like!

Let's get to the Interview!

Allison Van Beek (AVB): Why did you start this project? 

Cheryl Heeyeon Lee (CHL): Since joining the ETO, I’ve become more and more passionate about open-sourcing and sharing. I’ve also realized how hard and time consuming it is for people to look up open sourced illustrations to use on their slides. I wanted to embark on an illustration challenge to share illustrations that you can use for free! This challenge has 2 big points for me: 1) to make my small contribution to the open source community and 2) unlearn my own cognitive bias in illustration & make authentic representations that reflect the diversity of the community at the U of T.  

AVB: Why is Open Access Important to you? 

CHL: It takes a lot of time to create quality illustrations (and educational resources that use them!), but time is something that we’re always chasing... To save time, we often turn to stock photos and open license resources. And as someone with her own share of copyright anxiety, I wanted to create a worry-free trusted resource for fellow educational resource creators at U of T! 

It makes me really happy that my illustrations have served their purpose in my own projects, and they can now be repurposed to be a time-saver for anyone working on their own educational projects.  

I am hoping this little library will inspire others to join in on the initiative and share illustrations and other digital assets that can be repurposed. Time savers for everyone! 

Another reason is authenticity. I’m embarking on this challenge is to try to unlearn my cognitive bias in illustration. Although I identify myself as a woman of colour, in my career as an illustrator, I don’t think I can confidently say that “Yes I’ve done everything I can in my power to truly capture diversity & inclusivity in my illustrations.” I definitely have my own share of bias and it really shows when I look at the illustrations I’ve done over time.  

There was a period in my illustration career where I was told to just avoid all skin colours, which I agreed to so, because I was also just too scared to offend anyone, so I either drew people in line-drawings or everyone had purple skin and teal hair. But this effort to not to exclude any certain population actually ends up being more exclusive, as it wasn’t representing anyone. And excluding everyone does not mean you’re including everyone. Even if I portray people with ‘non-distinguishable racial features’, it doesn’t change the fact that minority group of people still doesn’t get represented. Representation and diversity is not something that’s dismissibleespecially when we’re trying to create an inclusive learning environment. 

I want to capture the different people that I come across in my life and at work. I am really privileged and fortunate to be working along so many great colleagues who have all these unique and different backgrounds. What better source of inspiration than to look around me?  

It’s important to be able to use illustrations that feel authentic to you, and I want to make such resource available. But I mean, right now the library is quiet small, with just the faces… so at it’s current stage, it’s a ‘create your own avatar’ library? I am hoping to add to them as fast as I can though! 

AVB: How often do you hope to add assets?

CHL: I hope to add at least one small asset per week. Right now, as the library features the faces of people, that would be one new person per week. I hope to work on and release different postures & settings next. You may have noticed that we started using them in our Faculty Question of the Week!  

AVB: How can I download these resources

CHL: You can visit the WHOA! Open Library site and browse and right click to save the image you’d like to use or access the PNGs via Flickr.  

AVB: Who can can use these resources?

These started as a resource to help staff and faculty at U of T to build their own Open Educational Resources, but we’re licensing them under CC BY-NC 4.0, so anyone can use these illustrations, as long as it’s not for commercial use. You are free to transform, and build upon the material! Hopefully you’d share back and help our library grow, but it’s not required.  

AVB: Where can I use these resources?

CHL: Use them in your slides, class hand-outs, whenever you need them for building your educational resources. These resources are licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.  

A big thank you to Cheryl for sharing why she began this initiative and for being so open about her motivation. If you'd like to contribute to this project, please email fase.edtech@utoronto.ca for next steps.