7. Impact Study of OER in Parwan province, Afghanistan
1. To what extent were teachers aware of
and accepting of OER (and openness)?
2. Did OER in the DDL enhance teachers’
subject area or content knowledge?
3. Did access to DDL resources enhance
teacher instructional practices?
• Site: Parwan province
• 48 secondary teachers (22 females)
• Digital device ownership widespread but
• Varied level of
Awareness of OER:
“OER means having the internet where we can
find any information about anything”
“OER refers to TV, media, radio, Facebook,
Twitter, digital library”
“OER are books from outside of the school like
magazines, newspapers and material from the
Impact of OER:
• OER extended knowledge of the topic taught
• Using OER improved teachers’ lesson plans
• OER gave teachers more current subject info
• OER helped initiate collaboration among
students (to a lesser extent among teachers)
• OER impacted teachers’ instructional
techniques, pedagogy, content knowledge
• OER can fill the gap in a lack of knowledge
resources available to Afghan teachers;
• OER diversifies and improves pedagogy
• Localisation increases relevance and usability
• OERs’ potential for strengthening education
quality depends on teachers’ access to
technological setups that make OER accessible to
• Concept of intellectual property in general is
poorly understood, and thus so is concept of
Rogers’ (2003) Stages of the
Diffusion of Innovation:
De Hart, Chetty & Arthur
(2015) OER uptake phases:
• OER disrupts the traditional practice of
relying exclusively on textbooks as sources
for preparing and planning lessons
• Adoption of OER
in such contexts can
• Localisation is a
• The potential is great!
I would like to start by introducing our digital library, Darakht-e Danesh, which means ‘knowledge tree’ in Farsi or Dari, one of Afghanistan’s two official languages.
A user of the library can access learning materials selected or developed for Afghanistan in 3 languages used in the Afghan public school system: Dari, Pashto and English.
The user selects their language and uses the system in that language. They can then browse the library, or search it by:
Type of resource
Language of resource
Level (primary; secondary; or both)
The library has some 2000 resources in all languages at present.
If you’d like to have a look during my presentation, you can open an account and then view the library at: www.ddl.af
In the DD Library, you will find:
- Full texts, such as children’s story books, textbooks, manuals or handbooks
Basic information on a topic
Visual display materials
Professional development resources for teachers
Handbooks, professional development materials
We are now working to add audio-visual content – short lessons in Dari and Pashto – and more multimedia;
and soon, full open courses
Before I explain the findings of our recent impact study, let me explain the thinking behind the creation of this library:
There are around 200,000 teachers in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
It’s estimated that less than half of these teachers are qualified to teach (meaning they don’t mean the minimum criteria of having two years of teachers college education)
There are extreme textbook shortages, especially at the secondary level where there are also no teachers’ guides.
Most schools don’t have libraries, and access to any kind of educational material – for teachers or students – is very limited, especially in rural areas.
Teachers are isolated from the Ministry of Education in Kabul, and thus from resources to support their practice, and their professional development, as teachers.
So our thinking in developing the DD Library was to give teachers a shortcut to educational resources:
direct access to a source of relevant, high quality material they can use.
So actually, in our context we are not trying to cause a shift from ER to OER, we are bringing OER where there is really very little at all in ER.
The teacher’s access to learning materials – in his or her own language and which are free and open source – will in turn impact the quality of teaching,
and yield better learning outcomes for students.
This is our operating theory of change at the Darakht-e Danesh Library, a digital repository of OER created initially for Afghan teachers, but now serving anyone with a curious mind, trying to learn more about a topic or to teach a topic.
In addition, we have sought to make the library a place where teachers can also share their own resources, and make them accessible to other teachers.
While we initially populated the library with resources we had created or which we had translated or localized, now the library accepts submissions from users, which we are hoping will further grow the local language collections.
In allowing teachers to share their resources, we pool learning materials, and make more out of less.
Using the OER approach encourages repurposing and adapting of materials for local contexts, and we believe this is especially valuable in resource scarce contexts like Afghanistan’s public education system.
- The DD Library was among several partners experimenting with the use of OER to strengthen the quality of teaching and learning, that together formed part of the Research on OER for Development (ROER4D) programme.
- These impact studies, coordinated by Wawasan Open University in Penang, as well as a series of OER adoption studies coordinated by the University of Cape Town, constitute the ROER4D programme, which aims to provide evidence-based research to help understand with what impact and under what circumstances the use of OER can best address the demand for accessible, relevant, high-quality and affordable education in the Global South.
The study allowed for measuring the impact of the OER in the DD Library and to understand how exposure to the materials changes teachers’ knowledge and pedagogical skill.
We also inquired into what ways the participating teachers used the DD Library for their professional development, and their understanding of the openness principle
The data collected in the course of this study highlighted three areas of impact: knowledge; access; and openness.
The methodology used in the OER impact study on the DD Library followed a group of 50 secondary school teachers, including nearly half female teachers, in a rural province who were regularly accessing the library.
We interviewed each teacher, administered a pre-test to each, and collected samples of their lessons plans prior to their exposure to the library.
The teachers then participated in a workshop on how to use the library, before being given access to the Library through several means, including three physical sites: computer labs in the local teachers’ college computer lab and in two public schools, where we installed the Library through an offline local network in each lab.
Teachers could also access the library from their mobiles and from tablets, which were placed in the two schools’ libraries.
We then observed teachers in the classroom after several weeks of using the DD Library noting observations in a rubric, and we interviewed their students to determine whether and how the exposure to OERs impacted the teachers’ practice in the classroom, from the students’ perspectives. So we gave them guided access to OER as part of our study.
After two months of accessing the DD Library, we once again collected lesson plans from each teacher, administered a post-test, and interviewed the teachers, comparing the data to the pre-treatment interviews, tests and lesson plan assessments.
Overall, data was collected in three stages: before teachers use the library, while they are using the library, and after they have been using the library regularly for two months.
We collected data from Parwan, which is a rural province neighbouring Kabul province. It is comparatively secure and close to the capital so that we could easily access it, but still rural enough that it is more representative of the reality of most Afghan teachers than a big city like Kabul would be.
The participants had a wide range of levels of qualification and of experience as teachers: some were university graduates, some had the 2-year teacher college credential, while others were high school graduates or lower. They had been teaching for anywhere from 2 to more than 20 years.
Almost all of the teachers in the study owned at least one digital device: nine owned a desktop computer, 18 owned laptops, none had tablets, and 45 had a mobile. However, of those who did own a digital device, less than half of them had internet access on their device and those who did said their internet was slow. Of the 48 respondents, only four had email addresses.
- The study looks into whether the OERs accessed via the DDL would enable teachers’ use of educational content in their teaching practice; and,
whether this content would positively impact the educators’ subject knowledge and pedagogical practice.
While the study only engaged a small number of respondents, several datasets were generated to provide numerous angles from which to assess the teachers’ experiences interacting with OER, their responses to OER and ultimately, the extent to which they used OER in their teaching and how this affected their practice as teachers.
First, we sought to determine what level of awareness the teachers had about OER before their guided access to the library.
22 of the 48 participants had some awareness of OER, but when probed further, there was a great deal of confusion about what OER was, as per the quotes you see here.
Teachers had some idea that OER had to do with information that was online and many guessed that OER had to do with the internet, libraries, books, or information. In only one case did a teacher refer to a characteristic of OER that relates to its licensing: “OER means to access the topics that are not restricted and are free.”
So, OER was largely unfamiliar for the participants
Referring to materials outside the school specifically relates to Afghanistan’s context where schools typically have minimal learning resources besides official textbooks;, some other kind of learning materials would therefore necessarily have to come from outside of the school.
In these findings, we are referring to OER in the DDL specifically, and not OER at large. In terms of the impact on teachers, we found that:
- Most teachers (70%) found the OER relevant, yet 20 out of 50 still relied solely on the textbook to prepare their lesson plans, suggesting this is an entrenched habit of Afghan teachers who have long contended with textbooks being the sole source of information they have by which to prepare lessons.
- The teachers downloaded an average of 12 resources each during the four weeks of accessing the DDL, though this varied from 52 resources downloaded by one teacher, to one downloaded by another. There was variation at the three sites as well: at one high school (girls), almost half the teachers only logged in once, while at the other high school (boys), only one participant didn’t download anything, and at the teachers’ college all participants downloaded. We do not know what led to these differences but could speculate that female teachers had a more challenging time reaching the lab.
- 85% of the respondents said that the OER consulted adequately covered teaching and learning needs in terms of building their knowledge, concept understanding and skills on a topic
- 88% of teachers said OER extended knowledge of the topic taught
- The teachers’ pre- and post-lesson plans clearly showed improvement in instructional design post exposure to the DDL
- One area that saw no improvement before and after exposure to the DDL was assessment. The data suggests the respondents struggled to describe means of measuring learning in their students when planning a lesson, and that this is a competency area teachers need support with, that the OER they consulted did not seem to contribute towards.
Teachers also seemed to continue to struggle with using a variety of teaching materials like slides, pictures and handouts to explain topic, based on observations of their lessons developed after exposure to OER. Therefore, the OER primarily had an impact in expanding the teachers’ knowledge of the topic he/she would teach, and giving them ideas about ways to teach the topic, but not on using different materials in the class with students.
- Overall, the data tell us that the OER in DDL are sufficiently localized as to be relevant and useful to these Afghan teachers, extending their knowledge and being applicable to their classrooms.
Knowledge: The adaptation and increased localisation of content –into mother tongues, for cultural or geographical relevance and technical access, and to reflect 21st century knowledge and skills – will grow the amount of useful educational material in the library for teaching and learning.
Access: To realise the potential of OER to transform educational practice, educators must have consistent and appropriate access to OER in the format best suited for their locale and to what technologies can be drawn upon or innovated under the circumstances. Internet connectivity and limited bandwidth are acute challenges outside of Kabul and nearby Parwan province where this study was conducted. Installing an offline version of the DDL onto decentralised lab computers worked well, but required staff to periodically connect their personal devices to acquire new acquisitions and updates to the library made since installation. With the exception of occasional power outages that blocked usage of the labs where the DDL was installed, the system worked well, but required repeated visits and improvisation by DDL technical team members to develop a functioning system.
Openness: The concept of openness was largely misunderstood by teachers prior to the intervention, with “open” most often meaning content not provided by the government or resources that were freely available on the internet. Additional work with teachers to ground their understanding of the value of OER for accessing relevant content created by other educators and for understanding the value of their own collaborative development of localised content to share with other educators is clearly demonstrated by the results of the study. At the same time, introducing the concept of OER to rural Afghan teachers is challenging in that framing a description of OER in terms of comparison with non-open resources cannot be done as easily as this might be done in other contexts, as intellectual property in general is poorly understood. In the Afghan context, OER are not replacing traditionally copyrighted materials; rather, they are supplementing the textbook as the sole learning material teachers typically utilise. Explaining how OER are different than other educational resources is challenging when teachers have little access to either.
Using Roger’s (2003) theory of diffusion of innovation that proposes four main elements that influence the spread of a new idea – the innovation itself (in this case the OER and their host, the DDL), communication channels, time, and a social system – is useful in enhancing our understanding of the sample of Parwani teachers’ uptake of OER.
De Hart, Chetty & Arthur have taken Rogers’ five stages of the diffusion of an innovation and applied it to the uptake of OER by institutions and individuals in those institutions (like teachers). Using this framework for our study, we find the following:
Based upon teacher self-evaluation questionnaires following the study, and the level of use of OER in lesson plans and observed teaching sessions within a relatively short period of time, over 50% of the teachers in the study clearly moved from “Awareness” to “Interest” to “Evaluation” in this opportunity to engage with OER.
Another 25% moved a step further to “Implementation”
with the remaining 25% demonstrating minimal interest (based on their remaining in the beginner category when their lesson plans were assessed post-intervention, and the fact that they made no use of OER in their lesson). This seeming lack of interest could be the result of inexperience or discomfort with technology, the inability to discover OER that supported their teaching, a lack of accessibility to the DDL when visiting the lab, or a combination of factors not yet known or yet to be understood.
Yet, the portion of teachers willing to “implement” OER so soon after their first exposure conveys a positive message in terms of OER uptake, and, given the relative newness of using technology-enabled content for learning and teaching, suggests that increased future uptake is likely and may yield positive results in improved teaching.
In Parwan, teachers rely predominantly on the textbook as their source of information on a topic. Thus access to OER is a disruptive innovation in this regard; giving them another source of information to supplement and enhance their information, expanding what they can do in their teaching of a topic.
We found a very quick rate of adoption among most (but not all) the teachers in the sample. This suggests minimal resistance to this change.
The potential is great given the impacts we observed that resulted from a small collection of materials in a limited number of subjects.
Promotion & Outreach Activities: