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Factors shaping lecturers’ adoption of OER at three South African universities

TitleFactors shaping lecturers’ adoption of OER at three South African universities
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsCox, G., & Trotter H.
PublisherTowards understanding the Adoption and Impact of Open Educational Resources in South America: 2013-2017
Date Published07/2017
Type of Workdraft
Keywordsglobal south, institutional policy, OER adoption, OER policy

Higher education around the world faces many challenges, including increasing demand for student access to higher education institutions (HEIs), increasing costs for higher education and textbooks, as well as increasing competition between HEIs for the best students. In this context, a number of HEIs are sharing teaching materials known as Open Educational Resources (OER) – free educational materials available online to self-learners, students, teachers, educational institutions, governments and civil society – which have the potential to help resolve, or at least ameliorate, these challenges.

Currently, most research on OER adoption – use and creation – focuses on HEIs in the Global North which are comparatively well resourced. The research presented here, however, is focused on understanding the obstacles, opportunities and practices associated with OER adoption in a country in the Global South where OER could be considered especially useful due to relative resource scarcity. Focused on three quite different universities in South Africa – the University of Cape Town, the University of Fort Hare, and the University of South Africa – in this research project we ask: Why do South African lecturers adopt – or not adopt – OER?

Additionally, we try to identify which factors shape lecturers’ OER adoption decisions, and how lecturers’ institutional cultures shape their OER adoption choices.

In answering these questions, we find that whether and how OER adoption takes place at an institution is influenced by a layered sequence of factors – infrastructural access, legal permission, conceptual awareness, technical capacity, material availability and individual or institutional volition – which are further influenced by prevailing cultural and social variables. By focusing on the institutional context in which lecturers work, we are able to best understand the structural, cultural and motivational factors shaping South African university lecturers’ adoption of OER. We believe this research will have value for OER researchers – and institutions interested in pursuing OER adoption – especially in the Global South.


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