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The Commonwealth of Learning (COL), an inter-governmental organisation headquartered in Burnaby, Canada, is committed to promoting learning for sustainable development. It does this through the use of distance learning and online learning technologies. For more than 30 years, COL has used innovative approaches to open the doors of learning not just for formal education but non-formal and informal learning that is accessible, affordable and available to the last person in the queue.

With an increasing number of states, provinces and even whole countries closing institutions of learning as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 363 million learners worldwide are being impacted (UNESCO, 2020). How can we ensure that valuable time is not lost and our learners at all levels continue to learn wherever they are?

Many countries are planning to offer online learning as an alternative. COL’s experience shows that open, distance and online learning, if done well, can have the same outcomes as campus education without requiring teachers and learners to be in the same place at the same time. However, we recognise that not all schools, colleges and universities are currently well-prepared to fully utilise these approaches, and COL stands ready to share its expertise and resources to enable stakeholders to keep the doors of learning open for all.

In this time of crisis, a suitable response requires a renewed commitment to sharing and re-using open educational resources (OER); exploring novel ways to enable interaction between learners and other learners, learners and teachers, learners and content using online platforms; and to use appropriate technologies so that no one is left behind.

Some guidelines to consider include:

  1. Institutions should take emergency policy decisions to adopt alternative ways of teaching, including online learning.
  2. Ensure that learning is delivered using ICT tools such as radio, TV, mobile devices so that no learner is disadvantaged.
  3. Identify and use existing OER to provide quality learning.
  4. Develop and implement strategies for synchronous/asynchronous approaches.
  5. Encourage teachers to use free resources such as MoodleCloud to conduct online classes.

COL has compiled a selection of resources and tools as a first response to this crisis. The resources can be accessed below.

What's New

Open licensing is used for many different kinds of resources – open educational resources (OER), open access research publishing, open data, and more broadly open science. This post discusses developments in access to African research information through repositories that use open licensing.

Open licensing is used for many different kinds of resources – open educational resources (OER), open access research publishing, open data, and more broadly open science. This post discusses developments in access to African research information through repositories that use open licensing. All of the resources are freely available and usually carry a Creative Commons or equivalent license.

OER Africa’s open knowledge primer provides a background on basic concepts and their pertinence to African researchers. OER Africa has also created a Learning Pathway on publishing using open access, which defines terms and will help you acquire the skills necessary to publish or advise on publishing research using Open Access (OA).

Like their global counterparts, many African research institutions and universities are increasingly using open licensing to make their research available and visible globally. The number of open access repositories is growing so quickly that it is difficult to keep track of them. The UK International African Institute (IAI) maintains a list that is frequently updated. IAI, in collaboration with AfricarXiv, has created an interactive map of African digital research literature repositories. You can also search on Google or the search engine of your choice by entering the name of an institution or country and repository (though this would require you to know better what you are looking for).

University open access repositories collect student theses and dissertations, case studies, conference papers, and sometimes journal articles. There are also continent-wide repositories. Three are discussed below. One focuses on university research output; one is a pre-print service; and one is discipline specific.

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Database of African Theses and Dissertations

The Association of African Universities maintains the Database of African Theses and Dissertations, including Research (DATAD-R). At this writing, universities in six countries contribute to DATAD-R. There are over 29,000 theses and dissertations and 4,700 research articles.

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AfricArXiv African Preprint Service

The AfricArXiv African Preprint Service is a part of the worldwide ArXiv movement in the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering and systems science, and economics. ArXiv has become an important vehicle to speedily pre-publish scientific research and data on the coronavirus. The platform is maintained by Cornell University. Although contributions are not peer reviewed, ArXiv relies on a strong team of scientists as moderators and advisors.

Launched in 2018, AfricArXiv is an initiative of the Project for Open Science. This service allows African scientists to mount preprints of their research for review and discussion by peers in the international scholarly community before publication in a scholarly journal. AfricArXiv, which does not peer review submissions, sees itself as a way for African scientists to circulate their research quickly and freely in order to communicate with others in their field. It does not replace publication in a peer-reviewed journal. AfricArXiv is collaborating with Science Open to collect COVID-19 research in and about Africa.

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Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM)

RUFORUM, is a continent-wide consortium in 126 African universities and 38 countries. It operates an open access knowledge repository in the broad-based agricultural sciences, with copies of theses and dissertations, journal articles, case studies, briefing papers, policy briefs, posters, presentations, and conference papers from RUFORUM member universities and RUFORUM staff.

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Click on the links below to access other articles in this series.

As the spread of COVID-19 continues around the world, face-to-face lectures have ceased in many countries and academics are trying to find practical ways of delivering curricula remotely. In response to this, the Association of African Universities (AAU) and OER Africa presented a series of four webinars on Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) strategies.

As the spread of COVID-19 continues around the world, face-to-face lectures have ceased in many countries and academics are trying to find practical ways of delivering curricula remotely. In response to this, the Association of African Universities (AAU) and OER Africa presented a series of four webinars on Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) strategies. In contrast to online learning, which is an experience that is planned from the beginning to be delivered online, ERT refers to ‘a temporary shift of instructional delivery to an alternate delivery mode due to crisis circumstances.’[1]

The webinars were intended to assist academics to implement ERT effectively. They covered a broad range of topics, including how to teach remotely; what content to cover; how to ensure that students are learning effectively; and how to communicate with students. We targeted academics with limited knowledge of online learning, aiming to provide a simple and practical guide to help them implement effective ERT for their students.

Recordings of all four webinars, along with their downloadable resources, are accessible here. To access information for individual webinars, click on the links below.

Webinar 1: Teaching effectively during the campus closure – Tips and tricks
Webinar 2: What to teach during campus closure
Webinar 3: How to know if learning is happening during campus closure
Webinar 4: Communicate effectively during campus closure

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To further support educators and students, OER Africa is also publishing regular communications on Open Educational Resources (OER) and their relevance within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Click on the links below to access articles in this series.
OER Africa COVID-19 Statement (3 April, 2020)
Understanding OER in a Context that Necessitates Remote Learning (9 April 2020)
Showcasing OER Platforms: OER Africa (15 April, 2020)
Online (and offline) reading resources for children (23 April, 2020)
How to Find Open Content (30 April, 2020)
OER Repositories in Africa (8 May, 2020)

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[1] Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T. and Bond, A. (2020). The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning. Educause Review. Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning