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Ten Year's since the Cape Town Declaration, Melissa Hagemann of the Open Society Foundation reflects on OER developments.

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In August, OER Africa introduced the Open COVID Pledge for Education, which was launched at the OER20 Conference earlier that month. OER Africa is proud to be a founding signatory of this Pledge, which encourages individuals and organisations to make their intellectual property available through open licensing arrangements to support educators, learners and decision-makers and assist educational organisations.

What is the Open COVID Pledge for Education?

In August, OER Africa introduced the Open COVID Pledge for Education, which was launched at the OER20 Conference earlier that month. OER Africa is proud to be a founding signatory of this Pledge, which encourages individuals and organisations to make their intellectual property available through open licensing arrangements to support educators, learners and decision-makers and assist educational organisations.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, millions of learners and educational institutions globally have had to place greater reliance on digital communication and media in teaching and learning. The long-term effects of such shifts have yet to be seen, but there is no doubt that those most negatively affected will be learners in under-resourced environments, where access to high-quality educational resources, ICT, and learner support is often limited.

Developed by the Open COVID Coalition and hosted by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), the Open COVID Pledge for Education responds to this context by drawing from principles highlighted in the UNESCO Recommendation on OER (2019) and building on the Open Education values outlined in the Cape Town Declaration. It has been signed by representatives of many global Open Education Open Education bodies and professional organisations, universities, and individual researchers.

The Pledge asks that signatories commit to sharing Open Educational Resources (OER) for educators to support teaching and learning over the course of the pandemic. It also asks that signatories share practice and policy lessons, such as how individuals or organisations are responding to COVID-19 and what they are learning. In addition, the Pledge encourages signatories to share the following:

  • Open data, e.g. from surveys;
  • Open access research;
  • Unpublished research, organisational research, action research; and
  • Open source applications to support open education.

What has happened since the Pledge was launched?

Since its launch, two planning meetings were held online in September and October. These meetings produced an email discussion list, the Twitter account and hashtag, and an informative slide deck and logo. The team also conducted an open webinar in collaboration with the Open Education Special Interest Group to promote the Pledge.

UK-based members of the Open COVID Pledge for Education are currently developing two organisational case studies – one on University College London and the other on the University of Edinburgh – to showcase how they have released OER for educators as well as policy and research purposes under the Pledge. A keynote panel will be held on 15 December 2020 as part of the ALT winter conference, where the two case studies will be launched.

To date, there are 60 organisational signatories and 121 individual signatories and the project team welcomes new signatories.

How can I get involved?

The Open COVID Pledge ultimately aims to build a fairer and more resilient education system. It has been promoted using the @Covid_education Twitter account and #OpenCovid4Ed hashtag; through blog posts on the ALT blog; and on a public email list. You can become involved in the Pledge in various ways:


For more articles by OER Africa, click on the links below.

The Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER) (40 C/32) was adopted at the 40th UNESCO General Conference in Paris on 25th November 2019 as the culmination of a long process of UNESCO engagement with the concept of OER. Now that it is adopted and a UNESCO Dynamic Coalition has been discussing the next steps (download workshop report here), this raises the practical question of what steps government and educational institutions at all levels can do to help to operationalize the OER Recommendation.

Image courtesy of opensource.com, Flickr

The Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER) (40 C/32) was adopted at the 40th UNESCO General Conference in Paris on 25th November, 2019 as the culmination of a long process of UNESCO engagement with the concept of OER. Now that it is adopted and a UNESCO Dynamic Coalition has been discussing the next steps (download workshop report here), this raises the practical question of what steps government and educational institutions at all levels can do to operationalize the OER Recommendation.

To help to unpack the possibilities, OER Africa has been facilitating a process to support UNESCO and its stakeholders to consider what actions they might take in each of the four key areas of the Recommendation:

  1. Building capacity of stakeholders to create, access, re-use, adapt and redistribute OER;
  2. Developing supportive policy;
  3. Encouraging inclusive and equitable quality OER; and
  4. Nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER.
 
This work is being done with support and input from a Network of Open Organizations established by Open Education Global. Discussions are in very early phases but has so far led to development of a very detailed Matrix of possible actions to operationalize the OER Recommendation. The draft Matrix considers in detail all the Actions identified for each Area of Action in the OER Recommendation and lists possible initiatives that governments and institutions might take (analysed separately for each stakeholder group). It is a work in progress. A Working Draft of the OER Recommendation Actions Matrix can be downloaded as a PDF file here.
 
As OER Africa is committed to ensuring that the impact of the OER Recommendation is maximized for African governments, networks, institutions, and other stakeholders, we encourage you to review the draft Matrix and add your ideas and comments (editable version can be found here).
 
Additional suggestions of how African governments and institutions can be supported in adopting the Recommendations are most welcome. Please add these to the editable version.
 
Your feedback and suggestions will make the draft Matrix much stronger and useful to others. We anticipate that it might be used, amongst other purposes, to:
  1. Develop a catalogue of freely available online resources for each Area of Action that governments, networks, institutions, and other stakeholders can draw on for support.
  2. Create communications and advocacy resources, drilling into detail on specific aspects of the OER Recommendation to provide ideas on possible activities.
  3. Repackage content for governments and other audiences to explore possible actions and policy reforms that governments might consider when implementing the OER Recommendation.
 
We hope the draft Matrix is already a useful contribution to implementing the OER Recommendation. We will keep the document open for editing until 30th November, 2020.

For more articles in this series, click on the links below.

A few years ago, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were touted as “the next big thing”. They have developed since then and are part of the current education landscape. Who are they aimed at? Can university faculty members take an existing MOOC and use it in their own courses? How open are MOOCs? Where can you find them?

Image courtesy of Mathieu Plourde, Wikimedia Commons

What are MOOCs?

A few years ago, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were touted as “the next big thing”. They have developed since then and are part of the current education landscape. Who are they aimed at? Can university faculty members take an existing MOOC and use it in their own courses? How open are MOOCs? Where can you find them?

A MOOC is a course (teaching a specific subject or topic) available online via the Internet, aimed at unlimited participation (hence massive) and open in so far as anyone can enrol (no formal admission process and normally no charge). They are produced by universities, companies (Microsoft, Linux, Canvas, Blackboard) and non-profit initiatives (edX), and are aimed at anyone who wishes to learn about the subjects covered. Most MOOCs are distributed via course providers such as Coursera and Udacity. The extent to which they are considered ‘open’ has changed over time, but also depends on how they are presented online. When they first emerged, MOOCs were typically open in two ways: in enrolment and the fact that their constituent materials were openly licensed. By about 2012, many MOOCs no longer had openly licensed materials available, so their open-ness had diminished (Vollmer, 2012). As most MOOCs available now are not openly licensed, you cannot simply take one (or part of it) and use it in your own course. We suggest other ways in which you might use MOOCs below.

In a previous post, we discussed OpenCourseWare (OCW) as a ‘subset’ of Open Educational Resources (OER). We contrasted OCW with MOOCs, and here we provide a table showing the differences between these two educational tools:

 

Adapted from Martinez, 2014

A common criticism of MOOCs is their very low completion rate: often as low as 5 to 15%. Critics suggest that such a low rate indicates that learning from MOOCs is usually minimal. However, some specialists are beginning to refer to MOOCs as one of many forms of digital content, proposing that they should be compared with podcasts or educational news sites on the Internet instead of facilitated educational experiences similar to university courses (Ahearn, 2018). Other educationists note that MOOCs could help to widen global access to higher education, but they need careful research to assess the learning experiences that MOOCs can offer (Laurillard & Kennedy, 2017).

How can academic staff best use MOOCs?

Despite being not fully open, university academics can still make use of MOOCs as part of an interactive mix of educational experiences. They can be useful in various ways:

  • As professional development for you: you might find that enrolling on a MOOC provides you with recent developments in your own field, which you can later incorporate into your courses.
  • As a refresher for your own courses: High quality MOOCs often include recent research or cover topics in innovative ways. By enrolling on a MOOC, you can rethink your own courses, making them more relevant and enriching for your students.
  • As a supplement to student learning: You can review MOOCs in your subject areas, and encourage your students to enrol, even if it’s only for a section of the course. You can get them to engage fully and critique the MOOC as part of the learning experience.

The open access article Twelve tips for integrating massive open online course content into classroom teaching suggests various innovative ways in which you might incorporate MOOCs into your teaching.

Where can you find MOOCs?

MOOCs in English are produced mostly by universities in the US, Europe, and Australia. They can be found on some university websites, but the better place to search is through course providers, which collaborate with universities and other organisations. These providers are now marketing themselves as online learning platforms, and some of them charge for the courses – this is another way in which the open-ness of MOOCs has changed. Examples of such platforms are CourseraedX, and Udacity. If you want to find a MOOC relevant to one of your own courses, the best way is to use a browser and enter “MOOCs in <subject>”. You can then choose from your search results to examine them further.

Relatively few universities in Africa run MOOCs. Exceptions to this include the University of Cape TownUniversity of the Witwatersrand, and the African Leadership Institution. More institutions are likely to run courses as MOOCs or using online learning platforms in the future. The OER Africa website hosts some MOOC-related resources, such as:

In summary, MOOCs appear to have become less open since their original inception before 2012. They can be used by academics in higher education as a form of professional development, and as a supplement to the courses they offer. MOOCs can also assist students wishing to access courses within higher education that otherwise might not be available to them. 


References

Ahearn, A. (2018). Stop Asking About Completion Rates: Better Questions to Ask About MOOCs in 2019. Available online at https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-11-28-stop-asking-about-completion-rates-better-questions-to-ask-about-moocs-in-2019

de Jong, P., Pickering, J., Hendriks, R., Swinnerton, B., Goshtasbpour, F. & Reinders, M. (2020) Twelve tips for integrating massive open online course content into classroom teaching, Medical Teacher, 42:4, 393-397, DOI: 10.1080/0142159X.2019.1571569 (Open Access)

Laurillard, D., & Kennedy, E. (2017). The potential of MOOCs for learning at scale in the Global South. Centre for Global Higher Education, working paper series, Lancaster, UK, 42

Martinez, S. (2014). OCW (OpenCourseWare) and MOOC (Open Course Where?). In Proceedings of OpenCourseWare Consortium Global 2014: Open Education for a Multicultural World.

Vollmer, T. (2012). Keeping MOOCs Open. Available online at https://creativecommons.org/2012/11/01/keeping-moocs-open/


For more articles in this series, click on the links below.