Addressing the Local in Localization: A Case Study of Open Textbook Adoption By Three South African Teachers

The Sloan Consortium Volume 17, Issue 2 - July 2013
July 1st, 2013
Publication Author: 
Cynthia Jimes, Ph.D.
Resource Type: 
Journal Publications

This article presents a case study of the adoption and use of open textbooks by three high school teachers in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. The textbooks, collaboratively authored and distributed through the South African initiative, Siyavula, are available online and are openly licensed, allowing teachers to freely use, modify, print, and share them with peers. Building on prior research conducted on the Siyavula project, the study consisted of interviews with teachers in South Africa to assess their reasons for adopting open textbooks, and their experiences using Siyavula’s open textbooks in the classroom.

The study revealed that beyond the cost-savings and flexible printing possibilities afforded by using open textbooks, the teachers’ adoption and use of the open textbooks were tied to the local nature of the textbooks, as well as the localization opportunities made possible through open licensing. Specifically, the study revealed the importance of content rooted in the cultural and geographic contexts in which teachers teach—for example, through authentic scenarios and accessible texts for students and teachers to work with. Moreover, because the Siyavula textbooks were collaboratively written by local field experts and scholars, the content was viewed by the teachers as higher in quality than proprietary textbooks, which often have few authors and are disseminated by large publishing companies. Furthermore, the study found that localization of the textbooks involved not only to the ability to modify and annotate the content to meet classroom needs, but also the ability to meet local socioeconomic constraints, including technological and budgetary limitations. The findings also indicated that the textbooks’ collaborative authorship and possibilities for user modifications facilitated communication about enhancements to the textbook between the textbook authors and the teacher users.

On the whole, the findings support nascent, prior research revealing that when open educational resources (OER) are created, developed, and evaluated through processes drawing upon individuals who live and work within the context in which the OER are being created for, the end result is more useable. The results of the study support the need for further research in other settings globally, centering on, for example, the role of collaborative authorship in relation to perceived quality of content.

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