Peter Bateman, Andy Lane & Bob Moon, The Open University, UK
Conference Theme: Impact
Abstract: The investigation of OER initiatives requires rigorous appraisal based on theory as well as descriptions based on practice if we are to understand them and how they might be sustained. A robust typology or flexible classification scheme will enable better comparison of common elements over widely different OER initiatives and help inform and improve praxis at all levels and across all socio-economic and cultural systems. This in turn will help the variety of stakeholders to better understand what is happening and why. This paper describes how a typology was used between 2008 and 2010 to investigate three different OER initiatives in Sub Saharan Africa. The typology was first developed by careful scrutiny of the many OER and OER-related initiatives both globally and in Sub Saharan African. The typology was then both tested and further developed and refined by applying it to the TESSA, Thutong Portal and Rip, Mix, Learn initiatives. The typology uses four main categories – creation, organisation, dissemination and utilisation – and 18 sub categories to examine and analyse each initiative, with each sub category having a number of properties and possible dimensions. The data that informed this process included interviews with key personnel and the coding of a large body of white and grey literature and documentation produced by the initiatives themselves. This typology can thus be used to distinguish one type of OER initiative from another while grounding each in a wider context. For example, initially TESSA concentrated almost entirely on the ‘creation of OER’ while the Thutong Portal concentrated on the ‘Organisation of OER’ in that it spent a great deal of time and energy on the portal storage mechanisms. In other words the elements included in the Typology can be used to describe or ‘profile’ initiatives regardless of their particular emphasis or approach. None of the initiatives need possess all of the elements contained in the typology as long as they have all been considered. As there are different levels of categorisation the typology is simple at the highest level, with just four elements, for use by practitioners; but is detailed enough at other levels to enable researchers to generate research questions. Furthermore the typology is flexible enough to evolve over time as it is applied to more and more OER initiatives both within and outside Africa and also as existing initiatives change and develop over time and while new initiatives emerge. Indeed the relative immaturity of the case study initiatives used to test and refine the typology was a concern for both practitioners and researchers and it is no surprise that the studies main findings were that (a) greater investment was needed in capacity building, (b) more attention given to appropriate use of technology and pedagogy in higher educational systems and (c) more contextual research applicable to sub Saharan Africa to inform those decisions.