Exploring the links and literature between openness and development : #OER20

Getting to grips with my role at the EdTech Hub, one of the things I have been thinking about recently is a question of where the links and overlaps lie between ‘EdTech for development’ (itself a broad term, with numerous synonyms and not-quite synonyms, such as ICT4D) and my more familiar ground of Open Education. This is something which is both of personal interest to me, and also the EdTech Hub, as being aware of the points of reference across different related communities within the field will potentially help to communicate its work and findings.

I am going to explore this through citation network analysis (no surprises there 😉 ) and will be presenting the findings at the OER20 conference in April (conference abstract below). I’ve got a plan about how to start the network (focusing on the most highly cited papers within the fields, in the past two years) but it remains to be seen how it will develop. I’ll share how it goes here in due course, but I also have two questions:

  • Can you recommend any recent key papers which I should ensure that I include in the sample?
  • I’m going to take open education, ICT4D and digital development as fields to focus on initially – are there any others that you would include?

(Image from the OER20 conference website, CC4.0 licensed – click image for link to source.)


The EdTech Hub is a recently-instituted programme, to assess the potential for educational technology to enhance achievement for school-aged learners in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and develop and evaluate new educational innovations within partner countries. The work of the Hub takes its lead from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4, which seeks to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ (UN, 2019). The aim of the research is to understand how educational technology can support education systems change, improving outcomes for all learners in a scalable and sustainable way. To achieve this, participatory approaches and iterative co-design will be used, embedding the research within local practice and aligning with the theme of care.

Open education plays two roles within the work of the Hub. First, OER sit within the scope of the research, as the potential for Open Educational Resources (OER) to play a beneficial role in addressing educational inequalities is frequently linked to the challenges in educational systems within LMICs. To-date, this has been the focus of several research programmes, and there is an established and growing body of research literature on the topic (Hodgkinson-Williams & Arinto, 2017).

Second, the programme itself is committed to open practices and production of global public goods (Haßler, 2018). The Hub strives to effect positive changes at all levels of educational systems, and to do so will need concerted efforts across related fields such as Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D), Digital Development and Open Development (Wagner, 2017). This raises a question of where the points of contact lie between these sectors, and open education. Where do the interests of the different communities overlap? Can areas with the potential for novel links be identified?

In this session, these issues will be examined through exploratory citation network analysis of a sample of literature across the sectors. By sampling recent literature on the topics, a network can be constructed using the relationships between papers and the literature they cite as a basis for connections. Salient features in the emergent network structure can reveal the influential highly cited nodes, and reveal sub-groups within a field through clusters, for example. As such, considering the literature cited can be an effective way to visualise different schools of thought within a research area (Weller, Jordan, DeVries & Rolfe, 2018).


Haßler, B. (2018) Global goods: Example document for licensing and publishing documents. Zenodo. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.1201612.

Hodgkinson-Williams, C. & Arinto, P.B. (2017) Adoption and impact of OER in the Global South. Cape Town & Ottawa: African Minds, International Development Research Centre & Research on Open Educational Resources. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.1005330

United Nations (2019) Sustainable Development Goal 4. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platform website. Retrieved from: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg4

Wagner, D. (2017) Technology for education in low-income countries: Supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. ICT-Supported Innovations in Small Countries and Developing Regions, Springer, pp. 51-74.

Weller, M., Jordan, K., DeVries, I. & Rolfe, V. (2018) Mapping the open education landscape: Citation network analysis of historical open and distance education research. Open Praxis, 10(2), 109-126.

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