The OE Global annual conference took place in Krakow, Poland in April, 2016. The purpose of the conference was to provide a platform for those involved with, or seeking to engage with open education, both broadly and deeply. Brenda Mallinson represented Saide’s OER Africa Initiative at the conference
The local host this year was the AGH University of Science and Technology in collaboration with the Open Education Consortium (OEC). AGH UST is situated in the beautiful city of Krakow which provided an interesting historical setting for this gathering.
The theme of the conference was ‘Convergence through Collaboration’ with session tracks including: Integration of Open Practices, Collaboration, Open Education as Strategy, Research to Advance Open Education, and Open Education Initiatives in Europe. The keynotes moved from panel discussions ‘Opening up Poland’ through to ‘Opening up Europe’ and concluding with a thought-provoking talk by Jarosław Lipszyc, President of the Modern Poland Foundation and co-founder of the Coalition for Open Education.
The 150 participants from 34 countries included African delegates from OER Africa, the African Virtual University, University of Cape Town, and National Open University of Nigeria. The latter two institutions won awards for Open Research (ROER4D project) and a Special Organisational Leadership Award (Noun OER Portal) respectively. (Full Awards Infographic)
Brenda Mallinson co-author, together with Doreen Mushi of the Open University of Tanzania, presented Early Experiences of the Course Conversion to OER Process at the Open University of Tanzania. This work is one aspect of the OER Africa / OUT collaboration within the current Participatory Action Research grant to OER Africa from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Interesting work of immediate practical value was reported on, including a poster presenting ‘The OER Adoption Pyramid’ (Trotter and Cox), a research paper on ‘Identifying Categories of OER Users’ (Weller, de Los Arcos, Pitt and Farrow), ‘Creating a Toolbox of OERs to Facilitate Flexible Learner Transition into Higher Education’ (Brunton, Brown, Costello, Delaney and Fox), and ‘The Essence of Pedagogical Design in OER – Teachers’ framing in an OE Practice’ (Vigmo and Bradley). In addition, there were reflections on larger projects spanning several years such as: ‘Dimensions of Open Research: Reflections on ‘critical openness’ in the ROER4D project’ (Hodgkinson-Williams, King, Willmers and Walji) and ‘Ten Years of Open Practice: A Reflection on the impact of OpenLearn’ (Law and Jelfs). An interesting systems approach was described in ‘Designing Sustainable Governance for Open Education in Healthcare: An ecosystems perspective and complexity theory view’ (van der Woert).
With the earlier Open Textbook projects nearing completion, general discussions and awareness are moving towards the creation and use of OERs and highlighting the importance of building communities of practice. Open Data is also increasingly mentioned in different contexts, including a presentation: ‘An approach of OER re-use based on linked OER data’ (Piedra, Chicaiza, Lopez-Vargas and Tovar) as well as the more conventional notion of Open Data mentioned in more than one panel discussion. At the 2016 event there was an emphasis on Action Labs / Workshops that were interspersed in the regular programme as well as being the main focus of the last day. These activity-based workshops had something for everyone and included the Open Research Agenda, Open Course Design, Open Badges, Strategy to Implementation, and Re-establishing Openness as a Default.
A satellite event on the final day of the conference was the OER Policy Forum. Importantly, this gathering included not only open education activists, but also government representatives who shared their country’s development in this area. As reported by Igor Lesko (OEC), the participants developed a set of recommendations around six key areas of policy development: open licensing requirements, teacher training, repositories, copyright reform, coalition building and international cooperation. Based on the ‘Foundations of OER Strategy Development’ policy document, the recommendations will become available in July / August 2016.
The good news for those in sub-Saharan Africa who are interested in developing their understanding of Open Education, networking, and reporting on activity in this area, is that the 2017 edition of the OE Global Conference is to be held in Cape Town, 8-10 March 2017. This timing and location commemorates the 10th Anniversary of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.
Overall, the conference was a very worthwhile experience, and a wonderful opportunity to meet many emerging and well-known researchers, practitioners, and strategists in the open education sphere.