Open Educational Resources and ICT for Development – Tim Unwin, UNESCO – Beyond Borders 2010

Tim joins us via a recorded video due to the ash cloud restricting Tim’s travel back from Finland.

Tim is presenting on how he has been working on developing OERs for use across Africa.

The essential question is: Why are OERs not more widely used by people in Sub-Saharan Africa* when intuitively they should be so valuable? (*Excluding South Africa)

Looking beyond the definition for OER in a previous post.

  • Educational resources should go well beyond just content and licences.
  • How can we create open ‘integrated learning contexts’?
  • Content is one of the least important things about learning! – More important is process of evaluating content.
  • Focus today on OER and the African crafting of ‘knowledges’

Perceived benefits

  • Counter rising cost of educational programs.
  • Reduces cost of searching by using consistent licensing.
  • Content creators can be rewarded with increased visibility.

The reality of many OER Initiatives

  • They are usually led by those in North America and Europe.
  • Most active participation is from North America and Europe.
  • Much online discussion is by those who have little better to do, and is unproductive.

Today’s ethnic, gender and ‘ability’ balance can be an issue to developing OERs for Africa.

Question: Is OER therefore just another top-down imperialist conspiracy? Are we forcing Western ideas of education on other cultures?

The perceived needs of African users of OER

  • Absolute lack of content resources.
  • High cost of books and journals – despite other projects providing books?
  • Poor quality of existing teaching – Does that mean we should be bringing in other teachers? Affecting existing teachers’ confidence.
  • Inadequate infrastructures.
  • lack of understanding of benefits of technologies.

And so, to Africa…

The group working in Africa on OERs are “Largely white, and very male….” but trying to work in a collaborative way.

The main purpose was to build shared capacities in using ICTs in educational delivery.  Radio is also very important.

Exchange visits have been set up to collaborate on shared content, both people coming to Europe and people going to Africa.  There has also been some research on partnerships and learning management systems (LMS).

Quality of content? This has been disappointing, but as sparked the debate, what is ‘good content’?  Tagging the resources correctly has also proved to be an issue.

African story-telling – a way of sharing stories and knowledge delivered online.

“We really have tried to get things right….SO, why have we largely failed?”

  • Most usually blamed: lack of bandwidth (but improving), lack of electricity (but most Universities ok), lack of computers (not really any more), costs of software (but much is free!). Physical infrastructures often used as an excuse for other problems.

UNESCO Biggest Challenges.

  • Changes in personnel (good people leave jobs and move on).
  • Funding mechanism diversity.
  • Time commitments.
  • Failure to understand ‘meanings’ – “ICT4D” more than just computers in labs.

Practical realities….

  • The structure and financing of African universities – and agendas surrounding new private universities.
  • Traditional didactic model of teachings – counter to participatory models.
  • Role and ‘income’ of university teachers. This has often included selling notes, against the ethos of OERs.
  • Intellectual elitism – Are African universities really serving their peoples’ development needs?
  • Dependant mentalities – Next big grant (from EU/USA).
  • Limited human capacity – Raindrops of excellence
  • Dominance of individualism (US).

Ways forward?

  • Work with colleagues in a sustainable and long term way to develop content that benefits Africa

And the implications for us?

  • Fundamental challenge of education as a public or private good – Commodification of knowledge in the UK’s HE system.
  • How much do we really use OERs in our own work? – Real quality issues….
  • Can we afford the time to help African academics?

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