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During the week of 20th July, 2020, OER Africa was privileged to be able to participate in, and provide administrative support to, the work of UNESCO’s Dynamic Coalition as its Working Groups convened in virtual consultations to begin preparing plans to support governments around the world in operationalizing the OER Recommendation. This article provides an update on the latest activities of the Dynamic Coalition and offers links to the various resources that are being shared.

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. Following adoption of the OER Recommendation, UNESCO launched the OER Dynamic Coalition on 2 March 2020 to support its widespread adoption. OER Africa has been actively involved in all the processes that led to adoption of the OER Recommendation and continues to support UNESCO in this important work through its engagement in the activities of the Dynamic Coalition. This includes, amongst other activities, chairing the Working Group on Communications as the Dynamic Coalition consults stakeholders to prepare implementation plans.

The multi-stakeholder Coalition aims to expand and consolidate commitments to actions and strategies, as well as reinforce international cooperation among all stakeholders in the four areas of the Recommendation:

  • Building capacity of stakeholders to create, access, re-use, adapt and redistribute OER;

  • Developing supportive policy;

  • Encouraging inclusive and equitable quality OER; and

  • Nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER.

The Coalition’s webpage is accessible here and the final report is available here.

UNESCO hosted a set of worldwide public consultations from 22-24 July 2020, the aim being to expand and consolidate commitments to actions and strategies as well as reinforce international cooperation among all stakeholders in these four areas. Stakeholders come from all regions of the world and include representatives from government, inter-governmental organizations, NGOs, educational institutions, associations and networks, and research agencies, amongst others. Central to the organization of the event were efforts for geographic balance, gender balance and a multisectoral approach, contributing to a diverse set of inputs and conversations. The consultations aimed to follow-up on an online survey (distributed by UNESCO to participants in the OER Recommendation activities and administered from 10 to 20 July) that collected information on priority areas of action. As such, the objectives were to:

  • Further clarify the priority areas of action per Working Group; and

  • Identify activities and issues related to the establishment of an electronic tool for information sharing and collaboration on the activities of participating organizations.

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, all consultations took place online. While this introduced certain challenges, it also allowed more widespread participation from a very diverse group of stakeholders, including many people who likely would not have been able to engage had the sessions been face to face at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The online meeting formats, allowing simultaneous audio and text-based contributions generated very rich feedback. OER Africa, which is leading the Working Group on Communications for the OER Dynamic Coalition and part of the Advisory Group for the OER Coalition, served as the Rapporteur for Online Consultation.  Furthermore, OER Africa has made recordings of all the consultative sessions, as well as the presentations made throughout, accessible on our website here.

The report from these consultations is expected to be completed during August as part of the following programme of activities:

In follow-up articles, we will present the final report when it becomes publicly available and provide further updates on the work of the Dynamic Coalition. We will also explore in more detail some of the suggested actions and associated challenges that may be experienced as UNESCO and its partners (including OER Africa) seek to give practical expression to the goals of the OER Recommendation and thereby ensure that OER practices are adopted on scale in ways that truly help to improving the educational experience for students at all levels around the world.

 

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

What's New

What have been the experiences of African Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives focussed on higher education? What can we learn from these experiences? Although the concept of OER initially gained publicity in the Global North, OER are gaining traction in Africa. OER Africa researched several African OER initiatives to assess their long-term contribution to establishing sustainable OER practices in African higher education.

What have been the experiences of African Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives focussed on higher education? What can we learn from these experiences? Although the concept of OER initially gained publicity in the Global North, OER are gaining traction in Africa, with an increasing number of OER initiatives focusing on areas such as OER advocacy, practice, and research. Today, the concept has been mainstreamed around the world, as exemplified through the unanimous adoption of the UNESCO Recommendation on OER in 2019.

OER Africa researched several African OER initiatives to assess their long-term contribution to establishing sustainable OER practices in African higher education. This work explored their effectiveness and identified lessons to enable better development and support of OER practices. It also helped to deepen OER Africa’s understanding of professional development needs amongst African academics to enable more effective OER practices.

To do this, we developed case studies on eleven African OER initiatives in higher education to gain an understanding of the effectiveness of each initiative, followed by an analytical summary report. The report collates the findings from the OER initiatives , highlighting the implications of the findings for better development and support for effective OER practices.

Access the case studies and report here.


Related articles:

 Access the OER Africa communications archive here

Museums tell ancient and recent histories as they collect, safeguard, and make accessible artefacts and specimens that they hold in trust to inspire and enable people to explore, learn, and enjoy. They continue to evolve in their roles and contribution to education as they embrace open access and Open Educational Resource (OER) principles.

Image courtesy of Abdullah Elhariry, Unsplash (Unsplash licence)

Museums continue to evolve in their roles and contribution to education as they embrace open access and Open Educational Resource (OER) principles. Museums are joining the open access movement by, for example, providing high-resolution downloadable images free of charge to maximise the ability of people to interact with, share, and reuse their collections.  

Museums tell ancient and recent histories as they collect, safeguard, and make accessible artefacts and specimens that they hold in trust to inspire and enable people to explore, learn, and enjoy. All museums support education as they provide unique prospects and platforms to engage students in their spaces and through their exhibitions, presentations, lectures, and discussion sessions on history, science, mathematics, technology, medicine, arts, politics, religion, humanities and social sciences, among others.

The Shenzhen Declaration on Museums and Collections of the UNESCO High-Level Forum on Museums from 2016 promoted the educational role of museums and the adaptation of museums' contents to provide a variety of formal, non-formal, and lifelong open learning experiences through universal accessibility for various audiences and removal of barriers to disadvantaged groups and persons with specific needs and capacities.

Learning about history and culture includes learning about all the aspects of the human ‘being’ and their day-to-day life. For example, if a student visits a museum and explores an exhibition dealing with historical figures or events involving aviation, the student is likely to be intrigued to want to learn more about flying which may not have been introduced as a vocation in the classroom. In such a case, the museum experience could well be an initial influence on future life choices of the students.

Museums are adopting open access to increase public engagement with their collections, introduce news areas of operation, and collaborate with creators and other institutions of learning, including universities, colleges, and schools.

The challenges of COVID-19 lockdowns in the past two years left museums without visitors, prompting them to accelerate digitization of their collections and adopt open licences for learners and academics to access their holdings as part of their learning or academic research. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 1,000 cultural heritage institutions around the world have adopted open licences to provide virtual access to their collections and resources.

Open access for museums refers to efforts made by museums to digitise their collections allowing for the creation of virtual exhibitions and databases or libraries, which are accessible online, containing high-resolution downloadable collections of digitised images of artefacts and information resources, including text, photos, movies, audio files, maps, graphs, and links to other sites.

Some of the digitised museum collections for Africa and African resources include the following:

African Online Digital Library (AODL) – AODL is an open access digital library of African cultural heritage materials created by Michigan State University in collaboration with museums, archives, scholars, and communities globally.

Smithsonian Open Access National Museum of African American History & Culture – The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 21 museums and the National Zoo—shaping the future by preserving heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing resources with the world. The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is exclusively devoted to the documentation of the African American life, history, and culture. The museum has collected more than 40,000 artefacts. The images and data are in the public domain under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licence, allowing use, transformation, and sharing of the open access assets without asking permission from the Smithsonian.

COM Library - African Art – This hub of open access resources for African art features Google Arts and Culture content from over 1,000 leading museum and archives that have partnered with Google Cultural Institute to bring the world’s treasures online. 

Adoption of open access and OER principles by museums increases the diffusion of knowledge for both education and information. It helps students, researchers, and education providers access unique material locked up in museums all over the world. Open access can also help provide the education sector in Africa access to some of Africa’s artefacts in many museums in the global north collected during colonialism.


Related articles:

OER Africa coordinated a project with members of the Network of Open Orgs, a coalition of organizations that meets regularly on implementing and supporting the UNESCO OER Recommendation. The project involved a collaborative effort among several members of the Network to develop a set of seven research summaries that explore the success of OER.

Advocates of Open Educational Resources (OER) often promote their perceived benefits, such as increasing access to educational materials; improving scalability and circulation of resources; and providing opportunities to adapt resources to suit learners’ needs and contexts. However, the past five years alone have seen significant shifts in education systems. Transformative forces such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, leaps in technology development, and global economic reconfiguration mean that now more than ever, education systems need to remain dynamic and responsive.

Key to this responsiveness is ensuring that there is ongoing research on the actual benefits of using OER, so that we can gain a comprehensive, measured understanding of its implementation, benefits, challenges, and lessons. Such research can provide insight on how to most effectively implement the goals of the UNESCO OER Recommendation.

Within this context, OER Africa coordinated a project with members of the Network of Open Orgs, a coalition of organizations that meets regularly on implementing and supporting the UNESCO OER Recommendation. The project involved a collaborative effort among several members of the Network to develop a set of seven research summaries that explore the success of OER. The summaries were then analysed to extract key findings, which were presented in a short report.

The Network aims to make such analyses an ongoing activity to remain abreast of OER implementation around the world. Ultimately, this will assist in realising the goals of the OER Recommendation.

Access the case studies and summary report here.