Barriers to adopting OER by Colleges in Developing Countries

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By Navin Pathak, Vice President and Priyanka Raja, Director - OER Development

It is often claimed that Open Educational Resources are the quintessential examples of best of knowledge but point to ponder is “Are the Best reaching the Rest”? Are we able to really make OER available to all?

To understand this, we exchanged thoughts with educators, policy makersand experts through meetings and discussions on social media sites about "Barriers to adopting OER by Colleges in Developing Nations". Here I am summarizing the key concerns shared with us.

1. Awareness and Mindset: The top most barrier is the lack of awareness about OER among the college administrators. Leave alone the understanding of the ways to adopt OER, many educators have no clue as to what OER is and what the OER movement is about.

With awareness comes another challenge of “Mindset”. The parochial approach of educators of not letting go of their content raises concern on adopting OER. For those who are aware of OER, giving the content away for free is very intimidating. It is not trivial to understand that how does giving content away for free bring value to the college and its faculty? In developing nation like India, faculties in almost every college are so over worked within the existing traditional system of education that the willingness to change poses as a deterrent in adopting OER.

2. Resources and Commitment: Adopting OER requires substantial amount of resources and commitment. From creating guidelines on how faculties will use OER with their students to faculty motivation, buying tools, faculty training, putting up central resources for teachers, etc. the college would require to invest substantial amount of resources and commit for adopting OER.

3. Quality Control: The demand for education in developing nations like India is rising high and, so is the competition to attract students. For a college to maintain its brand and reputation to attract students, quality of content being used in a class is one of the main concerns. For this, faculties would need to be effectively trained in the discovery of the OER material from the perspective of its quality, relevance and its presentation so that the learners effectively understand it.

4. Localization: For developing nations, the real essence of OER lies in how the content is tailored according to the needs and level of their learners. Consider that a college from a tier 2 city in India would like to adopt Computer Science course from MIT’s OCW. The college would have to customize the content from various perspectives like level of the content, language, accent (for Videos), etc.

5. Standards and Compatibility: There are no agreed upon standards for mixing and matching OER material from different sources and working with different devices. In fact, most used formats for documents are not open (for instance, Microsoft Word/PowerPoint and Adobe's Acrobat) and require proprietary programs for creating and editing documents.

Becoming aware and understanding these barriers no doubt gives us a deeper insight of the challenges in adopting OER facing educational institutes in developing countries. Hopefully creative solutions and effective strategies can be designed to overcome the barriers.

Keeping this in mind, our this week's discussion on OER will focus on “The ways in which colleges can adopt OER effectively”

Hoping to see your contribution to this Global initiative !


This work is licensed under CC-BY, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

a way to avoid those challenges you mention ...

Dear Navin, Hi, we met earlier by email and I hope you remember me. I'm really impressed with your OER work in India. About your current posting and discussion, I wonder if I could add some other perspective. It is true that there are millions of Western-made OER that have all the challenges you mention for reuse in India - including especially localisation. However I am adopting almost the opposite approach which I designed to eliminate all those barriers. A few local teachers I know make a short video of their best teaching practice - only ten or twenty minutes duration, and they can view other examples to get ideas if they want before they make their own. The only requirements are that they try their best and that an open CC-BY-SA licence is attached to the product. They enjoy the opportunities to view those by other local teachers and to remake to improve their own. Together everyone is building up a library of OER videos of local teaching practices to share with others. The teachers are intrinsically motivated, but the school leaders are a bit reluctant in case negative reviews of the teaching are circulated about their school. However in the face of parents wanting school quality improvements, as well as students, the leaders can now disarm complainants by saying the school teachers are doing continuous professional development through video-OER to encourage grassroots improvements. We have a board of volunteer teachers to offer comments too and a prize for best teaching practice video in various categories - with a certificate to the school leader and a winners-cup for display at the school library or entrance hallway to show parents and others. It is good for the school to display a participants certificate and of course great if they also have a winners certificate. As you can see, the challenges you mentioned such as Mindset and other difficulties are all resolved : the school and teachers are not giving away resources - they are creating them, and self-improving in the process, AND they are seen to be trying to improve as well. The quality is gradually improving, and we can showcase the method to new schools step-by-step. Our whole project is a bottom-up approach, rather than a top-down affair. As you know I wrote the TIPS Guidelines for quality assurance of OER for school teachers to create their own resources. This is the basis of our advice to the teachers on points they could consider to make a good OER-video. . We all share video cameras and the digiital copies, and have (soon) a newsletter in print for the teachers commonroom office area to stimulate awareness, and conversation, notes and links to examples etc, and so inspire their imagination ! Please contact me if you'd like more information. Later on we can send you our newsletters. All best wishes paul

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