This is the penultimate post of our four-part series of co-authored posts by Beck Pitt (OER Research Hub researcher) and Megan Beckett (Siyavula) on the Siyavula educator survey findings. Previous posts focused on the Siyavula educator sample and educational contexts in South Africa. The final post will focus on educators’ attitudes and use of Siyavula. Today we’re looking at some of the findings related to OER behaviours and attitudes, the impact of OER on educators and open licensing.

As a recap, the following research findings relate to 89 educators who have used or currently use Siyavula open textbooks. You can read more about the sample group and background to the study here.

OER Behaviours and Attitudes

84.1% of survey respondents told us they had used open educational resources (OER) (n=58) with just over half of all respondents telling us that they had adapted OER to fit their needs (55.1%, n=38). Nearly 30% of educators who have used or currently use Siyavula textbooks have created OER for study or teaching (29.0%, n=20). 13.0% of respondents had created resources themselves and published them on an open license (n=9). Two respondents who had created OER and published their resources on an open license had created resources unrelated to study or teaching.

Just under 50% of respondents have downloaded a resource from a repository (47.8%, n=33) whilst just under 20% of respondents have contributed a resource to a repository (18.8%, n=13).

20.3% of respondents told us that they create OER in the subject area of Physical Sciences (n=14). Similarly reflective of the subject areas that Siyavula textbooks cover, the second and third most popular responses to the subject area respondents create OER in were Natural Sciences (11.6%, n=8) and Mathematics (10.1%, n=7). The top three subject areas that respondents use OER for were Physical Sciences (69.6%, n=48), Mathematics (53.6%, n=37) and Natural Sciences (33.3%, n=23). This is an expected result as the Siyavula textbooks are Maths and Science focused.

It is of note that although survey respondents all have used or use Siyavula open textbooks, only 84.1% of respondents told us they used OER. Whilst this could be for a number of reasons, it is of related interest that 5.8% of respondents explicitly told us they have not used or created OER (n=4). Similarly, when asked which types of OER respondents used for teaching/training, only 81.9% of respondents told us that they have used open textbooks (n=59).

Possible explanations for this are that many people are not aware of open licenses and open education in South Africa. Even though educators and learners may be using the Siyavula textbooks, they might not be aware that they are OER. This is probably even more so the case with educators at government schools who had the textbooks delivered to them. Siyavula’s impression is that most educators and schools view the textbooks as free, supplementary resources. Although Siyavula has aimed to explain the open licenses in the textbooks, especially in the front of the Teacher’s Guides, this speaks to the global need of creating awareness of OER and the benefits of open licenses. You can read more about how Siyavula has been promoting the idea of openness within an open title here.

Videos were the top response to the question on which types of OER are most used with 83.3% (n=60) of respondents using them. The third most popular response was images, with just under three quarters of respondents telling us they had used this type of OER within an educational context (73.6%, n=53). This is possibly because Siyavula also includes many links to videos and simulations within the content making it easier for teachers to integrate technology into the classroom and a less daunting task of sifting through all the available videos to find the most relevant one. This perhaps encourages teachers to also look for their own videos and images. Siyavula has also uploaded all of the images that were created for their textbooks so that teachers can easily access them to re-use for their own notes and tests. The photostream on Flickr is available here and an example image is shown below.

"Frog Life Cycle" for Natural Sciences... Gr 4-6  (Resource Credit: Siyavula Education, CC-BY 2.0

“Frog Life Cycle” for Natural Sciences… Gr 4-6 (Resource Credit: Siyavula Education, CC-BY 2.0

The top three answers when we asked respondents to tell us what would make them more likely to select a particular resource when searching for OER:

  • The resource being easy to download (78.3%, n=54)
  • The resource being relevant to my particular interests/needs (75.4%, n=52)
  • Having previously used this resource successfully (71.0%, n=49)

In relation to the top response, it is worth noting that 52.2% of educators told us that overcoming technology problems when downloading OER is an often encountered challenge of using OER (n=35). The fact that the number one response was the resource being easy to download speaks directly to one of the major challenges in South Africa and especially in schools, which is internet access. Even top end, private schools often have issues with bandwidth capacity.

The top three challenges respondents have most often faced when using OER:

  • Not having enough time to look for suitable resources (70.1%, n=47)
  • Finding resources of sufficiently high quality (58.2%, n=39)
  • Knowing where to find resources (55.2%, n=35)

Of note is that a much lower percentage of educators told us that not knowing how to use the resources in the classroom was a frequent challenge to using OER (10.4%, n=7) with just under a quarter of educators telling us that not knowing whether they have permission to use, change or modify resources was a regularly encountered challenge for them when using OER (23.9%, n=16). It would be interesting to ask respondents further questions on the challenges they face using OER. Is the reasons that respondents don’t feel they have enough time to use OER because they don’t know where to find OER and/or it is time consuming to find what they want? Or is there another reason? Further probing and matching up of results might provide more detail.

I [Megan] think this finding is really enlightening if it is compared to the top response from the OpenStax College research which was “Finding resources of sufficiently high quality”. In the United States, teachers have an overwhelming amount of resources that are suitable to their needs, in terms of being developed in the States and therefore locally relevant and perhaps more aligned to curriculum needs. whereas, in South Africa, when searching for content online, the majority of the results are from the global North. This content however is not usually suitable to our context in South Africa. For example, even most of the videos that teachers use in the classroom have American accents, terminology, images and place references. Teachers are very busy and in order for them to be able to efficiently use OER, it needs to be curriculum aligned and locally adapted, especially in K-12. We need to be developing OER (whether from scratch or repurposing) to suit South Africa as this makes a much better starting point for a teacher to work from and use.

Impact of OER on Educators

Almost 90% of respondents use OER within the context of teaching/training to get new ideas and inspiration (88.7%, n=63). 8.3% told us that they use OER to prepare for their teaching/training (n=62) whilst 78.9% use OER to supplement their existing lessons or coursework (n=56). These results are reflected by over 85% of respondents also telling us they “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with the statement that they had broadened their coverage of the curriculum by using OER (51.5%, n=34 and 36.4%, n=24 respectively). Similarly over 90% of respondents told us that they “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they use a broader range of teaching and learning methods as a result of using OER (43.8%, n=28 and 48.4%, n=31). Although further analysis is needed, these results are in spite of over 50% of respondents telling us elsewhere that it was often a challenge to find resources that are relevant to their local context (52.2%, n=35) and 53.7% of educators finding it a challenge to find suitable resources in their subject area (n=36), which was discussed earlier.

Of particular note is that over 55% of respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they use OER study to develop their teaching (24.5%, n=13 and 32.1%, n=17) whilst nearly 80% of respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that they reflected more on the way they taught as a result of using OER (32.8%, n=21 and 45.3%, n=29).

These responses are really encouraging as it shows that educators are no longer just engaging with a single resource, which was often in the past a single, proprietary textbook. Even if they may still use their usual, closed, traditional textbook, they now have choices. The Siyavula textbooks are also collaboratively developed and have contributions from a wide range of volunteers from diverse backgrounds and educational contexts. This helps to invigorate the content and introduce new ideas, which many educators have responded extremely well to. Access to a diverse range of resources is crucial to developing and reflecting on your teaching practice. I [Megan] think OER will play a fundamental role in enabling this.

Creative Commons Licensing

We asked respondents a series of questions regarding Creative Commons licensing. Showing respondents a picture of a CC license with a short definition of an open license, we then asked respondents whether they had seen the logo. Almost 45% of respondents told us that they had seen it and knew what it meant (44.3%, n=31). Nearly 40% of respondents told us that they had never seen it before (38.6%, n=27) whilst 17.1% told us they had seen the CC license before but didn’t know what it meant (n=12).

This result is interesting, and is actually a higher percentage than Siyavula expected. Siyavula includes the Creative Commons logo as well as the license logo in the front of all the books with explanations, but we are unsure as to whether people see this or know what it means. Educator perceptions of the Siyavula textbooks being openly licensed are discussed in the next blog post.

Over 70% of respondents told us that they think that open licensing is “very important” or “important” when using resources in their teaching (50.0%, n=34 and 22.1%, n=15 respectively). 16.2% of respondents told us they thought openly licensed resources for their teaching was “moderately important” (n=11) with the remainder of respondents either telling us use of openly licensed materials were of “of little importance” or “unimportant” to their teaching practice (7.4%, n=5 and 4.4%, n=3 respectively).

Although further research is needed to unpack results a brief look reveals that of those respondents who told us that they did not recognise the Creative Commons logo, it is of note that almost 60% of this subgroup told us that open licensing was “very important” or “important” when using resources in their teaching (59.3%, n=16). This once again highlights the need for creating awareness around open education and open licenses, both in South Africa and globally.