About ROER4D

Group photo at Lake Louise


The Research on Open Educational Resources for Development (ROER4D) project aims to provide evidence-based research from a number of countries in South America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South / South East Asia. The primary objective of the programme is to improve educational policy, practice, and research in developing countries by better understanding the use and impact of OER. In order to address this objective, the specific objectives of the programme are to:

  1. Build an empirical knowledge base on the use and impact of OER focusing on post-secondary education
  2. Develop the capacity of OER researchers
  3. Build a network of OER scholars
  4. Curate research outputs as open content and, where feasible, share data collected as open data
  5. Communicate research to inform education policy and practice.

As a number of philanthropic foundations and a few governments have already committed substantial funding to OER initiatives, it is necessary to search for evidence of how OER creation and use are influencing educational practices and policy in the Global South. This will help to ensure that education policy development initiatives and further expenditure by philanthropic foundations and governments are indeed achieving the outcomes of resourcing easily accessible, socially acceptable, high quality and affordable education in the Global South.

Research questions

The primary research question of the project asks:

In what ways, and under what circumstances can the adoption of OER address the increasing demand for accessible, relevant, high-quality and affordable post-secondary education in the Global South?

Subsidiary questions include:

  • How aware of OER are students and lecturers and what factors enable or constrain OER awareness?
  • What OER do they access and why, and what factors enable or constrain OER access, discoverability and frequency of use?
  • What OER are lecturers and/or students creating and why, and what factors enable or constrain OER creation, licensing, curation and distribution?
  • Why are students and lecturers using or not using OER?
  • How and why are students and lecturers reusing, revising, remixing, redistributing OER and what factors enable or constrain OER reuse, curation of derivative works and redistribution?
  • What are students and lecturers’ perception of the value of OER in addressing key educational challenges?
  • What is the impact of changes in practices and/or education policy following the adoption of OER?

The project is subdivided into 18 sub-projects, each headed by a research lead within the country or region to which the sub-project refers. These sub-projects will address specific objectives of the overall project, using methodologies appropriate to the subsidiary questions they will be interrogating.

Research theoretical perspectives

As a number of the sub-projects have adopted Activity Theory (Engestrom 2001), the project as a whole will adopt this methodological framework to describe the various activity systems. However, Activity Theory possesses some weaknesses in terms of explanatory power (Wheelahan 2007), thus Archer’s (2003) social realist theory will be used to explore the casual mechanisms underlying the various OER practices so that future OER interventions can take cognisance of why certain practices are taking place or not and why certain factors are either inhibiting or facilitating optimal uptake of OER. In particular the study will endeavour to understand the interplay between culture, structure and agency and how this influences OER adoption in the Global South. Depending on the findings from the sub-projects, it will be useful to explore, amongst other issues, the influence of the emerging “open culture” on student and lecturers’ decisions to create and/or use OER; the influence of international, national or institutional structures (e.g. alternative copyright mechanisms, funding opportunities, incentives) on lecturers’ willingness to share OER; and the influence of “personal reflexivity” (Archer 2003: 9) in relation to OER adoption.

Research methodologies

Each sub-project is tailored towards a specific research question, and thus a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches or a “mixed-method” approach (Tashakkori & Teddlie 2010) will be used, as appropriate, to discern OER adoption and impact in the Global South. The range of research methodologies include desktop analyses, focus groups, interviews and workshops as appropriate. For more information on the specific methodologies used in each sub-project, see the Sub-Projects page.


Archer, M.S. (2003). Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualisation. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 133-156.

Tashakkori, A. & Teddlie, C. (2010). Handbook of mixed methods in social and behavioural research (2nd Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Wheelahan, L. (2007). Blending activity theory and critical realism to theorise the relationship between the individual and
society and the implications for pedagogy. Studies in the Education of Adults, 39(2), 183-196.