Scholarly Publishing and Open Access blog

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The state of open educational resources in Africa

Published by Alison Moore

This blog post was written by Oluwatomilola Ojo, SFU Library co-op student

The term "Open Educational Resources" (OER) was coined at the 2002 UNESCO meeting during the Forum on the "Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries". This meeting marked the beginning of the global OER movement, and since then, economies around the world have promoted the creation, use, reuse, and sharing of OER that are free and universally accessible for teaching and learning (D’Antoni, 2009). OER can be digital and non-digital such as modules, course materials, textbooks, software, any tools, and materials that support access to knowledge.

In Africa, the OER concept has been embraced by some educational institutions and organizations and yet the practices and adoption levels vary a lot. In 2014, Seychelles adopted Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education and training policy that recognized OER at the national level for the first time in any African country to improve access to quality learning materials. In 2017, prior to the second World OER Congress, Nigeria endorsed a national OER policy for higher education. According to the Open Educational Global organization, there are currently more than 200 higher education institutions in Africa that have adopted Open educational resources policies, e.g. National Open University of Nigeria, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Africa Nazarene University, Botswana Open University, the University of South Africa, and the University of Cape Town have OER policies that support the use, establishment, and sharing of learning and teaching materials with an open license (OER Policies in Africa | OER Africa, n.d.).

On some benefits of OER in Africa 

  • Enabling access for success. Since learners have free access to course materials without any hindrances, there is high probability of success since studying becomes flexible and learners can have access to quality educational materials from any location and at any time, thus accomodating their individual learning needs and preferences (Benefits and Challenges of OER | OER Africa, n.d.) .
  • Keeping ties with alumni. Through the resources online and their accessibility, alumni of certain institutions have the opportunities to access course materials in order to keep up with the state of knowledge from the disciplines they studied while in schools (Hilton, 2016).
  • Improvement in resources. OER provide students and teachers with the opportunity to improve through feedback and recommendations instructors get from readers (Hilton, 2016).
  • Enhancement of talent and innovations. Due to the free accessibility of research works and materials, a variety of audience gets to know about the research interest of certain faculties and schools. This thereby motivates potential donors who have interest in the research and expertise of researchers or instructors to donate to the course and it may also enhance faculty recruitment since these course materials will show the brilliancy of faculties (Hilton, 2016).
  • Augmentation of class materials. Materials provided online through any means e.g. pdf, doc, audio and video will complement the textbooks and lectures  (Hilton, 2016).

Some of the challenges of OER in Africa

  • Lack of access to ICT. A lot of students in African countries do not have access to internet accessible gadgets and those that have do not have access to quality internet connection while many cannot even afford to subscribe in order to use the internet for academic purposes.
  • Lack of incentives. Many schools in Africa are not given incentives by the governments to motivate them. This contributes to their lack of interest and motivation in preparing materials. They will rather use their time off work to teach in other universities to get money to augment their income to feed their family members.
  • Issue of plagiarism. Many teachers feel reluctant to release their materials to the public because they feel it is wrong to use other people’s works. Due to that, they decide to protect rather than share their own resources and works (Benefits and Challenges of OER | OER Africa, n.d.).
  • Lack of understanding and adoption of OER. There is a lack of understanding and adoption of OER among instructors who may not have necessary skills to use ICT to adapt and re-purpose materials. Instructors in Africa need to be equipped with necessary skills to create and modify digital content, as well as to effectively use online platforms to share and distribute content by doing so they can leverage the power of OER to enhance the quality of education and increase access to learning materials for students. 

While Open Educational Resources have the potential to significantly improve access to quality education in Africa, there are still many challenges to be addressed, including awareness-raising, funding, and copyright issues. To fully realize the potential of OER in Africa, there is a need for greater investment in their development, more training and awareness-raising activities, and stronger legal framework to support open education.

Want to learn more about OER and OER at SFU?

SFU Library. (2016). Finding and evaluating OER. and Open Educational Resources: Understanding OER.

Pressbooks. (n.d.) Faculty OER Toolkit.

Radical Access: The SFU Scholarly Publishing Blog. (2022). SFU's new commitment to open education


Benefits and Challenges of OER | OER Africa. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2023, from

D’Antoni, S. (2009). Open Educational Resources: Reviewing initiatives and issues. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 24(1), 3–10.

Hilton, J. (2016). Open educational resources and college textbook choices: A review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(4), 573–590.

OER Policies in Africa | OER Africa. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2023, from