Wednesday, 17 April 2013

H817 Activity 7 : Key Issues in OER - Developing Countries perspective

I am currently participating in Open Education MOOC run by the Open University UK. We were asked to " write a blog post of around 500 words, setting out what you perceive as the three key issues in OER, and how these are being addressed". So here is my blog post for this activity. However, I really think that this activity should have allowed participants to use more than 500 words - it is so difficult to discuss 3 issues in just 500 words.

Context Sensitivity
The majority of OERs appear to be created by scholars in the English speaking western world. This could create a potential threat of western views being imposed on learners, through the use of OERs, suppressing other world views and the imagination of people around the globe (Nguyen-Phuong-Mai, Terlouw, & Pilot 2012). It is more of a concern as perceived ‘high quality’ OERs provided by Big OERs seem to be passively accepted by the audience (McAndrew, et al., 2009). Thus creating an even greater threat of ‘cultural imperialism’ in using OERs for subjects such as history, where the presenter’s viewpoint can shape the perspective of the learner and where there is limited scope for independent verification of the frame (Liyanagunawardena et al. Working paper). It can cause confusion for learners who are not sufficiently mature to appreciate the different perspectives. One alternative could be localisation of OERs. Here localisation is not the mere linguistic translation of OERs, but the adaptation of it to a given culture. For example, linguistic nuances and examples used may have to be adapted to suit the learner’s background. Unless this is achieved these resources may not be meaningful to the learner. Whether these cultural aspects are seen or understood by OER users or whether they have any concern for them in finding and evaluating OERs is yet to be understood (Adams, et al. 2013).

Appropriate Technology and Literacy
Let me discuss this section in blogging language as opposed to academic writing style I have used in the previous which I thought would be boring for the reader.
While some view the lack of access to broadband as a technical barrier for the production and/or use of OERs, the large majority of people in the developing countries would consider themselves lucky to even have narrow band Internet access (or even computers). Despite the hype that the OERs will revolutionize the   education in developing countries by providing access to the poor who can not access education, in reality they are better serving the already privileged who have access. By 'access' I mean motivational, physical, skills as well as usage access (van Dijk, 2005). So in order for OERs as to be useful in the developing world producers should think about appropriate technologies for presentation.

The download speeds of Internet connections in many of the developing countries are not sufficient to download large files let alone viewing streaming videos. Liyanagunawardena (2012) discusses issues faced by Sri Lankan students, in downloading video lectures, who access the Internet from Internet cafes. While OER producers take lot of effort to produce high definition videos to satisfy participants with high expectations, these videos add to the challenges faced by developing countries’ users as the videos take either a long time or fail to download (Liyanagunawardena, Adams, & Williams, 2013). So it may be useful to have two versions of the materials catering for both groups of learners.

Many projects funded by aid agencies (mostly as loans) provide valuable services to learners. However, when the funding finishes (or the project comes to a closure) there is no way to maintain the equipment or the services. A good example is the Distance Education Modernization Project (Sri Lanka) which was funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The final report of the project admitted that the project had been ‘less effective’, ‘less efficient’ and ‘less likely sustainable’. So when implementing OERs the funding bodies should consider how it can be made sustainable. For example, voluntary (student and or teachers) projects or competitions can be a way of generating high quality content economically.

I would have liked to discuss this more but I have already exceeded my word limit.
(No of Words 565 excluding references)


Adams, A. A., Liyanagunawardena, T.R., Rassool, N., & Williams, S.A. (2013). Use of open educational resources in higher education, British Journal of Educational Technology (in press).

Asian Development Bank. (2011). Completion Report - Sri Lanka: Distance Education Modernization Project. Asian Development Bank. Retrieved April 04, 2013, from

Liyanagunawardena, T. R. (2012). Information Communication Technologies and Distance Education in Sri Lanka: A case study of two universities. School of Systems Engineering. PhD Thesis, University of Reading, Reading.

Liyanagunawardena, T.R., Adams, A.A., & Williams, S.A. (2013).The Impact and Reach of MOOCs: Developing countries perspective, eLearning Papers, 33,

McAndrew, P., Santos, A., Lane, A., Godwin, S., Okada, A., Wilson, T., et al. (2009). OpenLearn: Research Report 2006-2008: The Open University.

Nguyen-Phuong-Mai, M., Terlouw, C., & Pilot, A. (2012). Cooperative Learning in Vietnam and the West–East educational transfer. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 32(2), 137-152.

Van Dijk, J. (2005). The Deepening Divide: Inequalities in the Information Society. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

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