Exploring open educational practices of first year students at a South African university

Tabisa Mayisela

University of Cape Town

Discussions about open educational practices (OEP), an emerging phenomenon, have been ongoing since 2010 when Conole (2010) defined these practices as a set of activities and support around the creation, use and repurposing of open educational resources (OER). To contribute to the limited research in higher education about students as creators or users of OER, this presentation will report on preliminary findings of PhD research conducted with first year students at a South African higher education institution.
Using an activity theory lens, this research explored OEP (as a component of digital literacy practices) of a purposive sample of students from two extended degree programmes. Drawing from the premise that digital literacy practices in general, are socio-cultural practices (Lankshear & Knobel, 2008) and OEP, in particular, are social practices (Conole, 2010), an understanding of the nature of the discipline or degree programme is crucial for the findings of this research. One hundred and three (103) students completed the questionnaire, six focus groups and two individual interviews were held. The findings from these three methods reveals that participants located online learning resources (OER and non-OER) for learning, created individually or collaboratively own copies, shared own copies, revised and redistributed others’ copies of learning resources. Also, a few participants used open technologies for their learning activities. However, the findings highlight that despite a very small group of participants (from both programmes) engaging in conscious use and reuse of OER or using mediating artefacts such as open technologies to repurpose learning resources, the majority of them were still unaware what OER are. This implies that awareness could be a barrier to student OEP. These findings suggest a need for collaboration between lecturers and information literacy library personnel in an attempt to create student awareness and OEP guides for students.