Research into Open Educational Resources for Development
Higher education plays an important role in helping developing countries reach their development goals. Yet, higher education institutions in many developing countries face a number of challenges. Among them is the growing demand for postsecondary education when most universities lack sufficient funds, human resources, and up-to-date curricula. To put it into context, the number of undergraduate and graduate students in China has grown at approximately 30% per year since 1999, yet the supply of quality postsecondary educational opportunities has not kept pace. One potentially effective response to these challenges is open educational resources (OER). The Hewlett Foundation defines OERs as "teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others." OERs are gaining significant reach globally thanks in part to greater access to the Internet and new flexible intellectual property licenses. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created one of the world's first OERs (MIT OpenCourseWare) by putting course materials, syllabi, and lectures freely online. The site receives over one million visits per month, of which 27% originate from East and South Asia alone. While OERs are receiving considerable attention in universities, education ministries, and among donors, questions remain about the extent to which OERs help meet the demands for high quality tertiary education in developing countries. Research is needed to move beyond the rhetoric and to establish whether OERs bridge the educational gap, and if so, how. The Researching Open Educational Resources for Development (ROER4D) project is a global research network on OERs and development. The University of Cape Town in South Africa coordinates the network, which includes 12 sub-projects in South America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. ROER4D seeks to improve our understanding of the use and impacts of OERs in developing countries. More specifically, the project will: - build an empirical knowledge base on the use and impact of OERs for postsecondary education; - develop researchers' capacity to analyze open educational resources; - build a network of scholars focused on the contributions of OERs; and - communicate research results to inform educational policy and practice.