From global to local: learning from TESS-India’s approach to OER localisation across seven Indian states

Perryman, Leigh-Anne; Buckler, Alison and Seal, Timothy (2014). From global to local: learning from TESS-India’s approach to OER localisation across seven Indian states. In: OER14 Building communities of open practice, 28-29 Apr 2014, Newcastle.



Arguably, the benefits of OER are greatest in low- and middle-income countries, where they have the potential to increase access to learning for those who may otherwise be excluded. However, for OER to be truly useful to educators and learners they need to be adapted to suit the contexts in which they are to be used.

Adapting OER for local contexts remains one of the greatest challenges for OER (Wolfenden and Buckler, 2012) yet little is written about how to support communities of users to adapt materials. This study explores what kind of support is necessary with the intention of creating a tool-kit for guided adaptation of OER across different cultural contexts.

The paper reports on the approach to OER adaptation adopted by the DFID-funded, Open University UK-led TESS-India (Teacher Education through School-based Support) project which is developing OER for use within India’s teacher education system. TESS-India aims to enhance the access of teacher educators, head-teachers and teachers to free, high-quality educational materials. The project spans seven Indian states and the resources, therefore, require localisation to meet diverse linguistic, cultural and pedagogic needs.

TESS-India has adopted a two-tier model of localisation. A CC-BY license for all resources allows for adaptation by end users. However, an initial stage of supported, state-level adaptation is embedded within the production process and is taking place via a series of workshops with local teacher educators.

This paper explores this first stage of TESS-India OER localisation as workshops take place across the states between November 2013 and February 2014. Participant observation intends to provide detailed examination of the ways in which those localising the resources work together to identify aspects of the adaptation. Additional data is being collected in the form of workshop reports, interviews with participants and analysis of the ‘change logs’.

Emerging findings suggest tensions between resistance to make significant changes to the content of the OER, in part related to a reluctance to disrupt hierarchical understandings around knowledge ownership, and dissatisfaction with phrasing: despite being co-written by Indian and UK academics, workshop participants felt that, in places, the text felt like ‘the UK was telling India what to do’.


The localisation workshops have highlighted possible barriers to full engagement with the TESS-India OER. Getting beyond a low-engagement, piecemeal use (Wild, 2012) is important to the potential of the OER being fully realised, and the two-tier TESS-India localisation process, with its quite directive initial phase of adaptation, intends to facilitate this. However, we situate our analysis of this process, as well as our development of the tool-kit, in a discourse that acknowledges criticisms of neo-colonialism (Miyagawa, 2005), and one-directional flows of knowledge and resources (Glennie et al, 2012). Through this study we aim to contribute to a better understanding of how TESS-India, and other cross-cultural OER projects, can embrace a knowledge partnership approach to communities of OER practice that allows for mutually beneficial sharing of expertise and contextual understanding within the international – but also very local - pursuit of quality education.

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