Study explores barriers to open educational resource use

Efforts by Kenyan universities to adopt open educational resources are being limited by a range of challenges, including inadequate information and communications technology infrastructure and intellectual property constraints, according to a recent report.

The study, published by UNESCO’s Institute for Information Technologies in Education, aimed to investigate the status of the creation, use and management of open educational resources in Kenyan universities. It also explored Kenya’s national policies and strategies for information and communications technology or ICT in education.

Open educational resources comprise digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators and students to use for teaching, learning and research, and are viewed as a potential means to improve access to and quality of higher education in the country.

Six universities

Open education initiatives in six universities were explored in the study, including the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Egerton University, Africa Nazarene University, United States International University Africa and Borderless Higher Education for Refugees, a consortium of Kenyan and Canadian universities.

Kenyatta University was sampled owing to its open educational resources initiative with the South African Institute for Distance Education in its Educational Technology Initiative. This initiative has supported the university through the development of research methods course materials for chemistry and communication skills e-learning modules.

According to the study, most universities in Kenya are actively involved in innovative learning programmes that seek to take advantage of advancements in ICT. A significant number of universities now have some form of open, distance and e-learning and have begun to incorporate or experiment with the use or creation of open educational resources.

Similarly, the report found that nearly all major universities in Kenya have online repositories of their research and instructional materials – but with varying degrees of protection of intellectual property rights, with some resources being open access.

Intellectual property

In fact, one of the largest challenges associated with open educational resources integration in Kenya is intellectual property rights and copyright regulations, which require that the permission of intellectual property owners be sought for their materials to be freely available.

For example, the study found that Kenya’s second largest university, Moi University, does not provide its students and faculty with passwords to its online databases for use outside the institution because of the high premium put on academic publications.

The report argues that for successful adoption and implementation of open educational resources, users and developers need to be motivated through the formulation of favourable policies and strategies and that potential resource users such as university staff and students should be equipped with basic ICT skills for the use and development of open courses.

ICT maturity

“From this study, we can conclude that the open educational resources movement is still an emerging and evolving concept in Kenya with varying levels of awareness and adoption among the different stakeholders in higher education,” said Atieno Adala, manager for research and development at the African Virtual University and lead researcher of the UNESCO study.

In an exclusive interview with University World News, she noted that a level of maturity with regard to ICT infrastructure and its integration in education was vital for the open educational resources movement to take root.

“A number of these initiatives can be more impactful if the open educational resources movement goes beyond issues of access and availability of open educational resources and more attention is paid to open education practices in teaching and learning for Kenyan universities.”

She added that an increasingly robust ICT infrastructure and the embrace of open, distance and e-learning provided an important foundation for the open educational resource and open education practices movement to grow in Kenya.