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Image courtesy of qthomasbower, CC-BY-SA 2.0

 

As readers will know, OER Africa is a strong proponent of open educational resources (OER) and open licensing. Creative Commons licences are the ones most frequently used when OER content is produced. There are six of them, which range from very permissive, allowing copying and modification (CC BY), to those that are more restrictive, permitting distribution of a work in its original form, but no modification (CC BY-ND). Users need not request permission to use resources with a CC licence, but the terms of each licence must be met. For more information on CC licensing, go to the OER Africa tutorial on Finding Open Content.

Creative Commons and other organisations discuss OER in the context of five key points called the five Rs – reuse, retain, revise, remix, and redistribute.[1] Retain, reuse, and redistribute mean that users have the right to download, distribute, and keep the content without requesting permission from the resource creator. Revise and remix mean that the user may change the content in some way without asking permission. As an example, the stories on African Storybook and Storyweaver can be reused, retained, revised, remixed, and redistributed. At the tertiary level, all OER Africa content carries a CC BY licence. Go to the OER Africa tutorial on Adapting Open Content for more information on the five Rs.

Although many OER proponents argue that all five Rs are required in an open licence for a resource to be considered truly open, some organisations have opted for more restrictive licences. Two African award-winning early literacy NGOs – Ubongo, headquartered in Dar es Salaam, and the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy (MILL), based in Johannesburg – have each decided to permit three Rs, but not to allow remixing or revision. MILL limits its resources to a non-commercial and non-derivative (CC BY-NC-ND) licence so that the methodology of its Vula Bula literacy materials can be retained. Ubongo uses the same licences for much the same reason; it does not wish its strict quality assurance methods to be compromised in any way through someone else’s adaptation. 

The experience of Ubongo and other organisations with different kinds of CC licences is discussed in Closed or open? Ubongo’s switch from copyright protected to Creative Commons licensing.

In many countries, the high cost of textbooks and financial burdens placed on students have led initiatives to write and publish openly licensed textbooks. Siyavula, a South African NGO, produces open textbooks in mathematics and science in English and Afrikaans that are aligned to the South African curriculum as set by the Department of Basic Education (DBE). It licenses some versions of its textbooks only as CC BY-ND, while others carry a CC BY licence. Textbooks that feature a DBE logo are branded with a CC NY-ND licence to prevent any changes without permission, while the logo does not appear in the CC BY version. The ones in the latter category are downloadable in ePUB format to allow for easy adaptation.

Figure 1 Siyavula textbooks are available in PDF or ePUB formats depending on the licensing conditions.

Licence type is an important consideration, but file format is equally significant. By way of example, text document formats such as Word or ePUB files are relatively easy to edit if you have the required software, but their PDF equivalents are not. In addition, video can be particularly challenging to adapt, even if it is legally permissible. Khan Academy (KA) videos are a case in point. KA offers most of its videos with a CC BY-NC-SA licence, which allows for changes in content or language. But adaptation requires software and skills that many educators do not possess.

Thus, OER content creators should consider both the most appropriate licence to apply to their work and the format in which it will be released. In 2015, the University of Cape Town published a three-step guide for academics on open licensing, which includes a discussion of content creator intentions, institutional policy frameworks, and selecting and application of licences.

Figure 2 All resources must be atttributed to the content creator.

Finally, OER content creators must correctly attribute every resource they use while producing their OER. The figure above shows the attribution page of OER Africa’s learning pathway on finding open content. Note that each resource includes information on the licence used.

In conclusion, while the meaning of openness can relatively easily be defined, working out aspects of openness that are most suitable to implement for different kinds of resources is a process that will be strongly influenced by the wider context in which these decisions are being taken. Some organisations want to maximise distribution but are reluctant to permit adaptation of their resources because of potential problems this might create. Others have no objection to their resources being adapted, but those resources are in a format that cannot be easily revised. Still other organisations are unwilling for their content to be reproduced and monetised by commercial publishers, either for ethical reasons or because it might jeopardise their own financial sustainability. This suggests that we need flexible, less prescriptive definitions of OER that will remain relevant for different contexts and needs and that allow people and organisations to move towards greater degrees of openness in ways that work best for them.


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


[1] Open Educational Resources (OER): 5 Rs of OER. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2020, from https://nsufl.libguides.com/oer/5rs

 

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.


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 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.


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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.