ROER4D & GO-GN Research

Research into the social and cultural acceptability of OER in South Africa (ROER4D)

Glenda Cox

University of Cape Town

The potential benefits of open educational resources (OER) are advocated across many countries and institutions across the world (West & Victor 2011). These benefits include increasing access to higher education (HE), decreasing costs of HE and the improved quality materials that result from collaboration and peer scrutiny (Daniel et al. 2006).


However, there is a global concern that if academics do not contribute and continue to contribute resources as part of their academic practice OER initiatives will fail; “without academic buy in OER has no future” (Browne et al 2010:5). Rolfe concludes that “central to sustainability is the community and growth of a critical mass of interested individuals” (2012:7).


This research paper aims to describe and attempt to explain the barriers and enablers of OER contribution specifically at institutions in South Africa and India. The key objective of these research projects is to understand why people contribute or refuse to contribute OER. Surveys, focus groups and interviews with academics at 7 institutions (3 in South Africa and 4 in India) will aim to understand the conditions under which OER, contribution and use, would be considered socially and culturally acceptable.


The key research question is: Why do people contribute or refuse to contribute OER and what are the conditions under which OER, contribution and use, would be considered socially and culturally acceptable? We are also interested in academics attitude towards OER, what motivates people to contribute OER and how academics perceive the quality of OER.


Focusing on academics’ teaching practices at three South African universities – Fort Hare University (rural, contact), the University of Cape Town (UCT) (urban, contact)  and the University of South Africa (UNISA) (distance, online)  – our research uses Activity Theory (AT) as a lens to analyse data gathered through surveys, focus groups and interviews. The survey data provides quantitative analyses of each institution and comparative insights across them. The focus groups and interviews – conducted with a sample of academics with a wide range of experience – reveal complex, subjective perspectives that enrich the more general survey results. Over the next few months, the data will also be compared with that gathered by Sanjaya Mishra, a fellow ROER4D colleague, who is replicating a similar study in India.


In South Africa these workshops will take place in February and March 2015. In this presentation, we will share some preliminary findings concerning the social acceptability of OER in South African universities. We will discuss our research methods, the logistics and process of these workshops, the quality of the data obtained, and some initial insights provided by the surveys and interviews. The differences in organisational culture and the structures in place between the Universities of Fort Hare, UNISA and UCT are considerable and these will be outlined. Despite the differences between the institutions there are some similarities in the responses of academics to OER. Some of these early findings will be framed according to the AT Framework set out in the proposal.


Ready or Not? OER workshops at 3 South African Universities from Open Education Consortium