OER Africa, a Saide initiative, has worked with faculty in Africa’s English speaking universities since 2008 with funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and other donor partners. OER Africa has sought to respond to a growing urgency to meet the demands of students (and faculty) for improved pedagogical content and practice on the one hand, and the demands of African societies for competent higher education graduates on the other. Catherine Ngugi, OER Africa Project Director, shares a story from Jerome Dooga, from the University of Jos in Nigeria as to how one of our OERs helped him meet an urgent deadline.
Jerome Dooga, who teaches English at the University of Jos, Nigeria, has had first-hand experience of the changing demands on higher education institutions, including a societal expectation that publicly funded universities should afford continuous professional development (CPD) to those already in the workforce. Since he joined Unijos in 2004, Jerome’s interests have stretched beyond linguistics, to include research on Institutional Factors Affecting the Uptake of Educational Technology in African Higher Education.
In May 2011, Jerome, participated in an OER Africa convening of distinguished OER practitioners from Africa and the rest of the world. He shared with other participants, that he had not considered his work on linguistics or his research on educational technology to be particularly controversial. So when in 2010 he received an urgent call from his Vice Chancellor, he had therefore been quietly alarmed. Happily, Jerome soon learned that his Vice Chancellor needed his assistance.
It transpired that Nigeria was then suffering soaring petrol prices which in turn had prompted vociferous protests from trade unionists, culminating in a real threat of civil unrest. What had any of this to do with the University of Jos? Well, the management structure of every Nigerian university has at its apex, the Visitor. This is the Nigerian president, whoever might be incumbent. In this instance, the Visitor had sought his VC’s assistance in promoting civil dialogue between the government and the trade unions, through the provision of a short course for senior trade union leaders.
Knowing of Jerome’s ability to communicate well with others, the VC charged Jerome to quickly develop a resource that could be used to train the trade union leaders to communicate better with their peers, government and the general public. Jerome immediately embarked on what he described as a “wild Google search” for a suitable resource. As a participant in the Partnership for Higher Education (PHEA) Educational Technology Initiative (ETI), a multi-site case study across seven Higher Educational Institutions in Africa, led by Saide, Jerome was familiar with OER Africa and had some understanding of the OER concept. When his search led him to the Communication Skills Course jointly developed by the University of Malawi’s Bunda College of Agriculture and OER Africa he seized it with alacrity.
Jerome and his development team at Jos Selected Module 4 on listening skills and:
adapted the pedagogy to suit mature learners
- re-contextualised for use in a trade union environment
- incorporated some additional content (OER sourced from University of North Carolina).
For Jerome and his colleagues, this was their first opportunity to engage with OER. The Bunda College resource, with its open licence, lent itself to adaptation and meant that Jerome and his team did not have to start from scratch. Amongst the advantages cited by Jerome and his team was that they were able to commence a complex task using a single, high quality learning resource, rather than a whole course/ programme. Amongst the challenges they noted was that of finding appropriate resources for adaptation and gaining institutional buy-in for this new way of developing materials. Yet, as a result of their work, the Vice Chancellor was able to assuage the concerns of the Visitor – the Trade Unionists were able to learn new ways of communicating – and Jerome and his colleagues were able to share back to the global community a new and contextualised CPD course for Trade Unions. This story is an excellent example of how OER can assist African academics meet the diverse challenges presented to them. In support of academics like Jerome, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation have, since 2001, supported a movement towards more openly licensed materials, also known as Open Educational Resources (or simply “OER”).
After an initial five years of funding the Hewlett Foundation have awarded OER Africa a three year grant to continue playing a leading role in driving the development and use of OER in higher education systems in Africa. In this next phase OER Africa will take the innovative approach of integrating a Participatory Action Research agenda into each of our institutional engagements. We believe that more focused interactions will facilitate a collaborative agenda and will therefore support four carefully selected institutional partners to:
- build a deepened understanding of how OER practices can support transformation of teaching and learning
- ensure that such accumulating understanding is widely shared and incorporated into policy and advocacy.
OER Africa believes that a hands-on action-research process at institutional level will generate the kind of proof points required by both institutions of higher education and researchers like Jerome Dooga. It is this kind of work that over the next three years will enable a deeper understanding of how OER practices can support institutional transformation and generate institutional acceptance and support for new ways of designing and delivering courses.
Today, along with his other duties, Jerome trains faculty at the University of Jos to design and teach their courses online using Open Educational Resources.
Recognising that extensive change in institutional practice is required to transform higher education provision in ways that overcome the challenges alluded to above, OER Africa will, over the next three years, seek to promote a model for harnessing OER to improve both the content and the delivery of higher education.