The 4th Distance Education and Teacher's Training in Africa(DETA) conference was recently held in Maputo, Mozambique. Saide's OER Africa Teacher Education Network and the UK Open University's TESSA project jointly facilitated a pre-conference workshop on OER, led by Tessa Welch and Freda Wolfenden respectively. Tony Mays reports on the workshop.
Tessa opened the workshop by using a ‘Wordle' engagement with various OER definitions and this was followed by presentations of examples of a number of OER projects in Kenya (Wamutitu et al.), South Africa (Ingrid Sapire), Mauritius (Pritee Auckloo) and Ghana (Sally Essuman). This was followed by parallel workshops on Finding and evaluating OER' and Adapting and integrating OER to complete the first day's activities.
The second day started with the formal presentation of the new COL publication A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER) and presentations on how different institutions are moving towards the integration of OER into their mainstream activities – with examples from the National Teacher's Institute in Nigeria and the University of Pretoria (which recently decided to embark on a process of sharing all its distance education courses as OER).
Some of the recurring key lessons from the presentations and workshop activities appear to be:
- The need to move beyond Open Educational Resources to Open Educational Practices. Ehlers definition of Open Educational Practices is: "practices which support the (re)use and production of OER through institutional policies, promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their liflong learning path." (Ehlers, Ulf-Daniel. 2011. From Open Educational Resources to Open Educational Practices. e-Learning Papers 23 March 2011.)
- OER do not necessarily equate with elearning although elearning resources could be released as OER. Although there is a narrowing, the digital divide is still significant and there is still a need for print-based resources. It is possible to develop resources in ways that allow for print-based, CD Rom and online use of the same core materials.
- Access involves more than creating easier entry to programmes of study; there needs to be supporting mechanisms that will help to turn access into a reasonable chance of success.
- In many institutions, engagement with the adaption and creation of OER learning resources goes hand-in-hand with a transformation of pedagogy; helping discipline experts make a shift from content delivery to more interactive activity-based teaching strategies.
- In traditional contact-based institutions, the creation of learning resources and the need to open teaching practices to public scrutiny can lead to some uncomfortable learning curves; there is need to create a supportive environment, to incentivise and recognise achievement and to create opportunities for engagement in multi-skilled development teams.
- In distance education institutions, development of learning resources is already an expected key competence. However, the advent of OER should help to reduce the time needed for the development and updating of learning programmes. This is a potential that needs to be researched.
- An important characteristic of OER released under the least restrictive creative commons licences is that the resources can then be re-used, re-mixed or re-worked: most institutions have found the need for some adaptation to better suit their particular contextual needs. This is often very difficult or even impossible when resources are released under all rights reserved copyright licences.
- It is important to secure buy-in from key decision-makers: it is necessary to provide evidence that a move towards more resource-based forms of learning can help institutions to cope with increasing class sizes and the need for more contemporary learning resources of high quality. A commitment to sharing back helps to increase the pool of what is available. However, there is nearly always need for adaptation and time and resources need to be made available for this purpose.