Strategies to increase the uptake of OERs in Sub-Saharan Africa
Institutions of higher learning in Africa have been spending considerable amounts of resources to procure, install and maintain various information and communication technology (ICT) equipment and systems to complement face-to-face delivery. Despite these massive investments to procure and manage various educational technologies, little attention has been paid to development of course content for students. The majority of existing content is text based course hand-outs which lack multimedia to make them more interactive. As a result, many higher education institutions have continued to rely on printed resources which are expensive and difficult to share with a wider group of learners. As the cost of text books and other educational resources from commercial companies continue to rise, institutions normally tend to use outdated books, old course content or poorly designed learning resources. The use of such resources has implications on the quality of graduates. The recent emergence of Open Educational Resources (OERs) is described as one of the main solutions to this problem.
OERs are freely and openly available digitized learning resources that can be adapted, modified and re-used for teaching, learning and research. They can help higher education institutions acquire quality learning resources at minimal cost. Today, the African Virtual University (AVU) is a major player in the development of OERs in Africa. The AVU has an eLearning network of about 53 partner institutions in 30 countries and helps institutions in member counties adopt open, distance and eLearning (ODeL). Established in 1997 with funding from the World Bank (and currently supported by the African Development Bank), the AVU aims to increase access to quality higher education and training through the use of ICT with minimal cost, particularly within African countries. Under the AVU-OER, there are modules developed for science subjects, ICT basic skills, ICT integration, mathematics and education professional courses.
Those modules can be accessed in printed booklets for face to face sessions, Cd/DVDs for offline learning, in learning management systems (LMS) for online learning and in OERs. Further, the AVU is a content advisor for several institutions; it serves as a catalyst for ICT investments by assisting these institutions to upgrade to high speed internet connection, deliver distance education programs and develop web-based African education communication for sharing information.
However, empirical evidence available suggests that despite the free availability of thousands of OERs such the AVU OERs, their uptake and reuse in many higher education institutions in sub-Saharan countries remains very low. Focusing on higher education in Tanzania, Joel Mtebe and Roope Raisamo sought to investigate the reasons behind this low uptake and reuse of OERs in Africa in a study whose findings they presented at the 2013 1st International Conference of the African Virtual University.