Research on OER adoption activity was conducted at three South African universities. The University of Fort Hare (UFH) is a small, rural, contact institution with a bureaucratic institutional culture characterised by a top-down (management and administrators) power structure reducing the autonomy of individual academics.
The University of South Africa (UNISA) is a large distance institution with a managerial institutional culture characterised by a top-down power structure in which a strong managerial class exercises power through tightly-defined policies and strategies that structure academics’ agency.
The University of Cape Town (UCT) is a medium-sized, urban, contact university with a collegial institutional culture (Czerniewicz & Brown, 2009) characterised by a decentralised power structure and allows for high levels of individual autonomy for academics.
Interviews with lecturers at these universities revealed that institutional culture affects OER policy considerations in three ways. First, it showed that policy should not be conceived of, ipso facto, as a motivating factor for OER activity because each university’s institutional culture mediates the role that policy plays in academics’ decision making.
Second, a strategy or policy envisioned to promote OER should try to accord with the characteristics of the institutional culture so that it can be sustainable. Thus, interventions at a managerial institution should recognise, for instance, the crucial role that explicit policy elaboration plays in staff activity.
Third, in a legal context where employers possess copyright over their employees’ work product, a university’s institutional culture may influence whether the institution decides to grant academics copyright over their teaching materials (UCT) or to keep it in the administration’s hands (UFH and UNISA). This determines whether academics can share their teaching materials as OER, or whether the institutional management is the agent of potential OER-sharing activity.
Bergquist, W.H. & Pawlak, K. 2008. Engaging the six cultures of the academy: Revised and expanded edition of the four cultures of the academy. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
Czerniewicz, L. & Brown, C. 2009. A study of the relationship between institutional policy, organisational culture and e-learning use in four South African universities. Computers and Education. 53: 121-131.
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