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This chapter provides a meta-synthesis of the findings from the Research on Open Educational Resources for Development (ROER4D) empirical studies based on the 13 sub-project chapters in this volume as well as other sub-project research reports. It does so by analysing how three phases of Open Educational Resources (OER) adoption – OER creation, use and adaptation – are observed in the studies as forms of Open Educational Practices (OEP), identifying where there are most likely to be disjunctures that inhibit optimal OER adoption processes and their longer-term sustainability. It compares the open practices reported in the ROER4D sub-project studies to an idealised or maximal set of open processes, modelled as the Open Education cycle framework. It draws upon social realist theory to uncover agential decision-making about OER creation, use and adaptation in relation to structural and cultural environments, and seeks to answer the ROER4D project’s overarching research question: Whether, how, for whom and under what circumstances can engagement with OEP and OER provide equitable access to relevant, high-quality, affordable and sustainable education in the Global South?
This chapter interrogates findings from the ROER4D empirical studies using a metasynthesis approach. Following a review of sub-project research reports (including, in some cases, primary micro data), the authors used a literature-informed set of themes to create the meta-level conceptual framework for claims about OER and OEP in relation to access, quality and affordability; the Open Education cycle; and structural, cultural and agential influences on the potential impact on access, quality and affordability.
Nvivo software was used to help reveal literature-informed and emergent themes in the studies, identifying the most frequently occurring themes to provide a more comprehensive and classified interpretation of the findings across the empirical studies. Insights and recommendations were then distilled according to Archer’s (2003; 2014) social realist theoretical framework which assesses social change – and its counterpart, stasis – according to dynamically interactive and structural, cultural and agential factors. The authors used these three factors to guide their analysis of the ROER4D findings, as understood in relation to the three broad phases of OER adoption (creation, use and adaptation) proposed in the Open Education cycle.
Findings show that in the Global South contexts studied, the ideal or maximal Open Education cycle is incomplete in terms of optimising the benefits of OER adoption. There are five key points of disjuncture: (1) the dependence on copying of existing OER and the corollary failure to localise; (2) the adaptation of OER, but with inconsistent curation and rehosting of derivative works on publicly available platforms or in repositories, limiting access to the derivative OER; (3) limited circulation of derivative OER due, in part, to the absence of a communication strategy; (4) inconsistent quality assurance processes; and (5) a weak feedback loop for continuous improvement of the original or derivative work.
The chapter concludes with a critical exploration of the range of influences of OER and associated practices on access to educational materials, the quality of educational resources, educators’ pedagogical perspectives and practices, and student performance as well as the overall affordability and sustainability of education in the Global South. It argues that full participation in the OER movement in the Global South requires that certain structural factors be put in place – including a minimum level of infrastructural support, legal permission to share materials and OER curation platforms – to curate curriculum-aligned OER in local languages. However, these structural adjustments alone are insufficient for the full value proposition of OER to be realised. While individual educators and some institutions are sharing OER, this willingness needs to be bolstered by a much stronger cultural change where communities of educators and students are given technical and pedagogical support to enable OER uptake – especially the creation and adaptation of OER produced in the Global South.