OER Africa Advisory Committee


The OER Africa Advisory Planning Meeting

OER Africa is an initative of SAIDE which aims to play a leading role in driving the development and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) on the African continent. The OER Africa Advisory Committee meeting was held in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2009. These meetings provide strategic guidance and support to the OER Africa management team that is driving the OER Africa project. Apart from reviewing progress made so far during the planning phase of OER Africa, the meeting discussed how best the project can move forward in the next phase of the initiative, the implementation phase. Ephraim Mhlanga, the meeting rapporteur provides an abridged version of his final report.

Project achievements
The deliberations of the Nairobi meeting centred on the achievements of the OER Africa initiative to date and how it should proceed as it moves into the implementation phase. In addition to the comprehensive documentation that was provided by the OER Africa management team, eloquent presentations were also made by Catherine Ngugi and Neil Butcher on how the project had fared so far, and the challenges that had been encountered. In the planning phase of the project, extensive work had reportedly been done in the following six areas of the project:

  • Planning the project and setting up appropriate systems and structures.
  • Conducting research to facilitate thorough understanding of the needs, problems, challenges and opportunities of African universities.
  • Conducting research to understand OER within the African context, and their potential for addressing some of the problems faced by universities on the continent.
  • Forging strategic partnerships with different organisations.
  • Building communities of practice.
  • Developing an OER Africa website.

These areas formed the basis for the discussions on the first day of the meeting. The meeting commended the OER Africa team for the progress made in all the six areas itemised above.

  • In particular the members were happy to note that the research dimension of the project had meaningfully informed the planning processes of the project.
  • The challenges facing the African university were clearly articulated in the documentation provided.
  • Strides had been made in forging relationships with umbrella bodies like African Council for Distance Education (ACDE) and individual institutions such as the Open University of Tanzania, National Open University of Nigeria and University of Michigan.
  • The OER Africa website had been set up and already, it hosted four communities of practice - Skills for a Changing World, ACE Maths, Health OER, and the Food Security Facilitator’s Programme.

Meeting discussions on the second day focused primarily on how the project should proceed, and members gave suggestions and recommendations on the subject. To view a summary of the recommendations click here.

There are inevitable challenges that OER Africa stands to face as it moves towards the implementation phase. One of these challenges is to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of OER in order to maximize institutional buy-in. One way of doing this is by developing models of sustainability in so far as the collaborative creation and use of OER is concerned. It will be important to convince institutions that OER Africa can enable institutions to alleviate some of the pressing problems they face in achieving their academic mission, and might in fact not achieve the same objectives without resorting to OER.

An important aspect of the project to consider is its long-term sustainability. OER Africa needs to have several income streams. As was suggested at the first Advisory Committee meeting, amongst other options, a paid consultancy model may have to be considered.

OER Africa has so far provided important lessons to those who have been actively involved in its planning, from an administrative as well as from an implementation point of view. It has also provided an opportunity to appreciate some of the possible hurdles that have to be overcome if institutions are to fully embrace OER. Working at a distance from each other, OER Africa project staff have nonetheless managed to nurture and build real partnerships, conduct and discuss tangible research outputs, build and populate a website and form themselves into a cohesive team. Certainly this is a good start for the project and the challenge is to build on this foundation and demonstrate that the merits of creating, adapting, and using OER in collaborative ways are obvious.

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SAIDE 2009