Boosting OER Discoverability: The UCT Open Content Finder

19 May 2020
19 May 2020

The newly launched University of Cape Town (UCT) Open Content Finder aims to assist lecturers and students in finding affordable, appropriate teaching and learning resources that can be used during remote teaching. Curated by the DOT4D project in the Centre of the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) in collaboration with UCT Libraries and the Department of Health Sciences Education, the directory aims to become a community-developed list of textbooks and other forms of open educational resources (OER) which may be of interest or are currently in use at UCT. 

One of the ‘pain points’ currently being experienced in remote teaching is a lack of access to appropriate, affordable textbooks and other teaching materials that can be legally shared on the internet. The issue of the exorbitant cost of imported textbooks aside, lecturers and tutors often need to be able to adapt content for their specific teaching context, or to modify it for diverse modes of content delivery (including through social networking and messaging platforms). The conventional copyright restrictions placed on commercially published resources make this a technical and legal minefield to navigate.

Open textbooks and other forms of OER published under Creative Commons licences allow academics and students to legally reuse and work with content in new ways without copyright limitations, provided that the author of the original work is attributed and a range of basic licensing conditions are adhered to.

As argued in a recent article on ‘Pivoting to Open Educational Resources’ as part of the response to the COVID-19 crisis in South Africa, OER have an important role to play in addressing resource gaps, promoting more inclusive perspectives on knowledge and alleviating financial burden. This makes the value proposition of OER particularly acute in South Africa, as well as other countries in the Global South. Locating these resources can, however, be a time-consuming process for the already over-burdened lecturer and student.

The Open Content Finder aims to support this content location process. It includes a broad array of materials in range of resource types, including open textbooks, teacher guides, websites and slide presentations, all of which are categorised by faculty and discipline. The use of the UCT logo and a star icon allow users to easily identify which resources have been authored by UCT staff, or which are currently being used in UCT courses.

While the directory is UCT-focused in its focus and presentation, it is hoped that the list can be of use at other universities. It is also hoped that lecturers and students, from UCT and elsewhere, will get involved in building and refining the list, which itself is published under a Creative Commons licence. Collaborators are invited to contribute suggested resources by commenting directly on the Google Doc.

Work on the Open Content Finder forms part of DOT4D’s advocacy and community-building efforts around open textbooks and OER, and links strongly to the role CILT, UCT Libraries and the Department of Health Sciences Education are playing in supporting lecturers and students in the transition to remote teaching and learning at UCT.