Open Textbooks in Africa :async:

Glenda Cox (University of Cape Town), Maha Bali (American University in Cairo), Judith Pete (Tangaza University College), Bianca Masuku (UCT), Michelle Willmers (University of Cape Town)

This interactive activity addresses Action Area 5 of the UNESCO OER Recommendation, “Promoting and reinforcing international cooperation”, specifically as relates to open textbook publishing in Africa.

Open textbooks are an important phenomenon in the global higher education landscape with compelling affordances around cost savings and content development approaches that address localisation and decolonisation of the curriculum.

Hosted by the Digital Open Textbooks for Development (DOT4D) project in collaboration with experienced open education practitioners at two African universities, the purpose of this activity is to begin a conversation between key stakeholders who are involved in or have a potential interest in open textbook production in Africa.

This 90-minute interactive session will feature inputs from DOT4D, hosting partners and international collaborators from the DOT4D global network in order to stimulate the conversation with lessons learned and expertise gained to date. The session will also engage participants in a discussion on a range of topics related to open textbook development in the African context, including authorship, publishing and quality assurance models; dynamics related to translation and reuse of open textbooks; capacity development; and continental collaboration.

The “Open Textbooks in Africa” session is aimed at anyone interested in the role of open textbooks for promoting social justice, OER and open textbook advocates working in African higher education institutions, and potential funders of work in this area.

Extended abstract: OE_Global_2021_paper_137.pdf 📄

Activity Details

UNESCO OER Action Area: Facilitating international cooperation
Format: Asynchronous Interactive Activity
Language: English


This activity can be completed at any time during (or after) the conference.

Instructions and materials for the activity will be added below by the authors. They will provide specific details on how to participate and what to share back as a response to the activity.

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Read more about the Digital Open Textbooks for Development (DOT4D) project at the University of Cape Town

Welcome to this interactive area. We welcome all delegates interested in open textbooks. We would love to connect with other African colleagues who would like to explore open textbooks in Africa. We would like to begin conversations on how we can build such a network. Please add your comments here.
How can we build an Open Textbooks in Africa network?


Are you interested in open textbooks in Africa? We’d love to hear your perspective, either in comments here or on our working Google Doc: OE Global 2021 - Open Textbooks in Africa - Google Docs

Are you ready for open textbooks and is your institution ready?
What kind of help do you need?
What kind of help can you provide?
What steps can be taken for sustainability and funding?

In July 2021, the DOT4D project issued a ‘Call to Action’ highlighting the urgent need in South Africa for access to locally appropriate teaching materials that can be freely/legally shared online in order to address:
● Higher education curriculum transformation imperatives.
● The undergraduate performance gap.
● COVID-19 learning losses.
The project also called for maximising efficiencies as a higher education sector and leveraging 10 years of open educational resources and open textbook development at UCT.
Read the Action Brief here.

Glenda / Michelle, thanks for sharing this great open textbooks work in the Africa context. Congrats on this progress. I know how hard it is to insource development and production of books rather than simply outsource to a publisher. But it seems to me open textbooks provide a large array of benefits from academic freedom, to adaptation/localization/translation, to lower cost and more.

I’m particularly interested in the phenomenon of open textbooks and have lots of questions. Here are a few questions from me as I think about the path forward and wonder what you are thinking about too.

I wonder how you see your collection of open textbooks fitting in with the many other collections that have emerged. LibreTexts has their collection, Pressbooks has there collection, the Open Education Network has their collection, BCcampus has it’s own collection. Is there overlap? Are the open textbooks in these other collections relevant and useful for you in your South Africa context? Is there a need for some kind of all inclusive open textbook library? Or is it preferable that it be distributed and decentralized? Are you aiming to create an open textbooks library for Africa? It seems to me that there is potential for a consortia of open textbook initiatives to come together and collaborate.

I read your DOT4D Open Textbook Landscape Survey Report: University of Cape Town. It is interesting to see the insights.

How the definition of an ‘open textbook’ is malleable and varied including variations in use, granularity, format, quality, mode, tools and community.

The use of Creative Commons for open licensing, but also the range of Creative Commons licenses used.

The clear evidence of quality assurance.

That open textbooks flourish when there are corresponding institutional efforts to promote and support them.

I wonder what level of support and interest there is for this effort within your institution? Has your work rekindled interest and support such as was in place in 2010? Is there some kind of broader inter-institutional potential across Africa? I do hope your work continues to be supported with funding and resources - it’s really important stuff!

Welcome your thoughts and wishing you continued success with this work.


Dear Paul

Thank you for all these great questions. We have several goals for the next few months ( our funding ends in January). We will be writing a paper on models for open textbook development and also a 'Guidelines for open textbooks development" brief/document. The guidelines will include links to the list of open textbook libraries you have included. The guidelines will include a focus on creating open textbooks in constrained environments (infrastructure and resources).
Besides that we have had two national meetings with participants from a range of SA unis, government and independent organisations. The aim is to build a community or network and to not only support each other in terms of workshops and expertise but also to collaboratively approach funders both national and international.

This session is a start of an extended conversation ( hopefully) with not only African delegates but also other partners and colleagues interested in the idea of Open textbooks in Africa. A library or collection would be very useful. Our challenges related to open textbooks in Africa are specifically around curriculum transformation, decolonisation, localisation, translation,enabling local authorship and including students in co-creation, design and feedback.
Open education work occurs in pockets in Africa ( eg. amazing work done at NOUN). We would like to share and collaborate with those colleagues. But we are also aware that there are many institutions who are at the beginning of this journey and an open textbook in Africa community could support them ( again- funding is needed).

Thank you for starting this conversation.


Hi Paul

Thanks for interest and comments! I am very interested in the point you make about collections and see this as part of the work we need to do in consolidating resources and initiatives across South African institutions in order to gain greater efficiency and impact in addressing cost, accessibility and multilingual/localisation issues. I think the same could be said for the broader African context.

We need to do a lot more to encourage reuse, not just creation. In order for that to happen resources need to be more findable … better indexed and integrated into library systems. We also have more work to do in engaging with the local library community. UCT Libraries is being very supportive in this regard and has open textbooks firmly on their radar as part of their work in providing a Continental Platform for open access publishing on the African continent. We do also have great institutional support from our Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, who has introduced an Open Textbook Award. There is a mutual sense that there is a critical need for this work in our context. Funding is however required.

Hi @Glencox , kudos to this great initiative and good luck in the next few months (and beyond)! . Please do post (a link to) the paper in this area when it is available, @Loes, @Michieljong and I would be interested to read it :slight_smile:

Following this. Very pointed questions. Looking forward to initiatives in India or a collaboration towards open text books.