Background and rationale

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An Open Educational Resources (OER) Collaboration
to Improve African Graduate Education in Agriculture
DRAFT/Working Document – Background & Rationale
Working Title: OER Collaboration in African Agricultural Education

Foundation Narrative - Outline
This wiki will be used to develop the Background and Rational Section of a proposal on the improvement of African Agricultural Education. We are building the rational for included OER as part of the proposed solution.

If you are interested in commenting on the content that follows, please use the Discussion Page to make comments and discuss recommendations, etc.

Please feel free to modify the document in an effort to develop it from multiple perspectives. If you are planning major edits (rewriting, major deletions, restructuring, etc.), please start by introducing your ideas on the Discussion Page. This will be very helpful to me and the whole group as we integrate this session into the larger proposal.

What first appears on the wiki will be incomplete. Our short-term goal is to develop this background document by March 11th so it can be used as a reference to support other initiatives that are part of the larger proposal. We thank you for your interest and contributions.


Introduce major themes and connections between Open Educational Resources content and process and the potential for leveraging and growing knowledge, the development of social capital, improvement of education, and the potential of connecting university education with practice in the African context.

Although not trivial, the potential benefits of Open Educational Resources (OER) go beyond the existence of freely available course materials and educational content. OER is a process in which new forms of global engagement are developed, based on the belief that together we can do what is not possible if we work alone. OER provides an opportunity not only to use content, but to build processes that generate capacity through creation. The act of building on each others work supports knowledge exchange and new knowledge development.

Background & Context of African Agricultural University Education

Graduates of African Masters of Science (MSc) programs in Agriculture are the change agents for African agriculture. They are the best and brightest future leaders in industry, government and academia to implement impactful change that will directly and positively affect small farmers and rural communities. Enabling them with the appropriate graduate education and training in Africa requires upgrading faculty, curriculum and research on multiple levels. OER can be instrumental in addressing these requirements through products and processes that support curriculum innovation.

For example, agricultural education in African universities is severely hampered by inadequate and out-of-date graduate teaching materials, coupled with lack of funding to purchase new textbooks and teaching aids. If planned and implemented properly, OER can help overcome these limitations because by their very nature OER are produced to be shared, modified, and made freely available through learning networks.

Agricultural universities and departments of agriculture embedded in universities, colleges, and faculties in Africa also face chronic shortage of qualified faculty members for teaching and research. Most of the universities have to settle for less qualified teaching and research staff or limit themselves to conducting fewer courses than they would otherwise require. Due to a shortage of qualified faculty, quite a number of African countries do not have universities that offer MSc and above degrees in agriculture. Less research is also coming out of the agriculture units in universities due in part to faculty members’ engagement in teaching beyond the normal load to fill in the gap in teaching staff. Some universities also frequently seek the assistance of expatriates to help them conduct courses. When OER are collaboratively developed and made accessible to all within a country and across a region, many universities will be able to conduct more courses with the number and quality of faculty already in place. In addition, collaboratively instituted OER will allow consistent and high-quality content across participating universities.

African agricultural education is also severely limited by the gaps between classroom teaching and impactful research that positively affects farming practice and rural wellbeing. OER can be instrumental in helping to bridge these gaps. OER is a strategy for the creation and co-creation of knowledge and a method by which African faculty, students and scientists can share their knowledge in the global knowledge pool and also in the classroom. OER as an artifact of impactful research can be openly shared and re-used as case studies and best practices in classroom teaching. Not only the content of OER can be useful, but the process of co-creation itself is valuable.

OER products and processes are an emerging way to recapitalize higher education in the agriculture sector in Africa: OER brings openness and transparency to the process of creating and sharing knowledge locally and globally; OER brings flexibility and adaptability to knowledge products; encouraging publishing using OER methods brings scalability and replicability to both product and process.

Background & Context of Open Educational Resources


The term, Open Educational Resources (OER) was coined in a 2002 UNESCO report titled “Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries.” [1] The term OER was recommended to replace the more limited application of Open Courseware. Key characteristics of OER, according to the UNESCO report, included open access to the resource, with provision for adaptations that are enabled by information and communication technologies, made accessible to a diverse community of users. The UNESCO recommended definition of Open Educational Resources was:

The open provision of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes. (page 24)

Since the release of the report in 2002, millions of dollars and person hours have been invested in the development of open content, infrastructure, and the refinement of our notions of OER. Because OER has been a relatively new phenomena, much of the investment has resulted in discovering different models for the creation and support of content through the application of a variety of processes ranging from the strong faculty centered publishing model of the MIT Open Courseware initiative [2] and the more distributed authorship model of Connexions [3] hosted at Rice University, to the intensively community-based approaches of WikiEducator [4] and OpenLearn [5] that supports collaborative authorship. Connexions and WikiEducator are also joined by initiatives such as EduCommons [6] as examples of infrastructure designed to support the authorship, management, and distribution of OER. In addition to content development and infrastructure projects OER advocacy, knowledge dissemination, and membership groups such as the Open CourseWare Consortium [7], OER Commons [8], and the Center for Open and Sustainable Learning [9] have developed and grown in importance as they have helped raise the profile of OER as a social phenomena. The OER movement is truly global with significant activity occurring on all continents including Africa with OER Africa [10], Merlot Africa Network [11], and others.

The OER movement has adopted and adapted much intellectual and cultural capital and practice from the Open Source Software (OSS) community. The dialog about openness and freedom has evolved significantly since 2003, with many examples of efforts that are extending open courseware and open educational resources to open learning design, curriculum, and open education. The advent of Web 2.0 technologies and its rapid integration into educational processes from design and authoring to delivery, has substantively blurred the distinctions between educational content and educational technology, allowing for the blending of OER and OSS.

Many of the benefits and challenges identified specifically with OSS and OER have similar roots and can be conceptually and logically linked. For example, the benefits of localization, community development, and cost reduction can be applied to OSS and OER. This is not entirely surprising because both of these phenomena have common roots based in the economic model of Commons-Based Peer Production. Both education and software development are subject to similar influences. Technology enables connections among people with common interests and learning needs, as does Open Education. The whole context that OSS and Open Education create is mutually reinforcing; together they contribute to an ecosystem that is positively reinforcing. Educators and learners enjoy the benefits of engagement and connectedness that OSS communities have enabled for over a decade, inspiring OER communities, which in turn has streamlined and promoted OSS adoption in the academy. Many OSS applications used in education have been pedagogically inspired, while others have been oriented toward educational administrative processes; in either case, they support a larger environment that is supportive of Open Education. At this point, OSS, appropriately licensed, managed, and distributed is frequently being thought of as a subset of OER, as are learning designs, curriculum descriptions, open access research journals, open technology standards, and design patterns.


Given the proliferation of dialogue and investment in OER, one can assume that its potential to meet some fundamental need and create opportunities that proprietary and closed resources do not is becoming more widely recognized. One of the most commonly cited potential benefits of OER has to do with the ability to localize content in ways that make it most relevant and useful without violating copyright law or going through the process of permissioning with the copyright holder, which is frequency a publishing company. The act of localizing requires the ability to first access content, create derivative works, and then reuse the derivative work. Having modified and reused the content, its value is further enhance by sharing the derivative work with the larger OER community, allowing for additional cycles of use, modification, reuse, and sharing. The establishment of such a cycle, supported by processes, practices, and infrastructure intended for discovery, modification, reuse, and sharing helps create the opportunity to address a number of potential benefits of OER. Catalyzed by open licensing, open file formats, open content packaging, and design for reuse, the cycle supports not only localization, but cost reduction, enhanced access, and improved quality.

Localization can take a number of forms, but some of the most common include language; application of appropriate case studies, illustrations, and examples; adaption to local practice, reformatting for appropriate capacity such as bandwidth, and access to technology; culturally coherent imagery; and other characteristics that impact effectiveness, quality, and accessibility. Cost reduction can be achieved through building on the work of others instead of reinventing content from the ground-up. For example, a typical online course can cost up to 50,000 USD to design, develop, edit, and produce and take months to become available for use, while adopting and adapting, when modifying content for local language for example, can leverage much of the original investment, while adding significant value in the local context at very low marginal cost. The freedom to modify and share OER has enormous impact on accessibility. In addition, to providing low barrier access to educational content and technology, OER also allows for quick accommodation for learners and faculty with various disabilities. OER can take a page from Raymond's seminal publication on OSS The Cathedral and the Bazaar [12], in which he stated that “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” The idea that hundreds or thousands of individual scholars, teachers, practitioners, and students can review and modify OER helps ensure that factual inaccuracies, incomplete information, and cultural biases are questioned, while newly discovered information and knowledge is included in OER in a continuous cycle of improvement promoting the easy development of OER that is fit for purpose.

It can be fairly and rationally argued that a major reason for pursuing OER is to reduce unnecessary barriers to the types of access that teachers, learners, and practitioners need to make high quality, relevant, and affordable educational resources available for localization and as widely distributed as possible. Being able to do so allows for the development and sharing of a common curriculum across universities and countries, while taking advantage of sharing and cost reduction and supporting localization on the course level. OER, under the right condition, is part of an ecosystem dictated by the logic and principles of abundance, rather than poverty, requiring processes that take advantage and fuel the potential of access and relevance.

From an organizational perspective OER provides a number of potential benefits that go beyond affordability, relevance, and risk management. In addition to the benefits of OER increasing accessibility to technology-enhanced educational programming and activities through lowering the barriers to participation, there is a residual benefit associated to what happens through the act of participation. The use of OSS has a potentially liberating effect on creativity and imaginative solution development within local contexts, impacting organizational culture.

Development of a larger sense of community is a cultural manifestation of involvement in an OER development community. There is a real organizational and personal opportunity and benefit from working with a global community on an Open project. Participants in developed and developing countries expressed that they have little interest in being tied to large commercial vendors and publishers who are guided by larger market forces that have little to do with local teaching, learning, and collaboration needs or the economic and capacity realities found locally. It is a belief that other individuals and institutions that gravitate to OER communities will share some common set of values and willingness to learn from and support each other without purely financial incentives.

Through participation in an OER community, individuals, organizations, and communities have the opportunity to not only express their individuality and local needs, but to actively do something about them. In many academic organizations there is a streak of independent self-concept at every level—as individuals, departments, schools, and divisions. It is part of the academic culture and has served the academy, its learners, and society well. The university sees independence as fundamental to innovation. Collaboration within an OER community will nurture a culture of sharing and highlight the benefits of interdependence that complement self-determination, bridging the impulse toward independence with the benefit of diversity, reducing institutional limitations and acting as a catalyst for creativity.

Active participation in OER community requires the development of certain technical skills and processes, in addition to developing capacity supporting a culture of collaboration and community leadership. It also forces an organization to evaluate its commitment and understanding to the nature of freedom, property, and local identity. The development of the capacity to collaborate and contribute, coupled with the self-determination associated with localizing OER are powerful arguments for why OER ought to serve as an important part of organizational development and inter university activity.

Current State of Open Educational Resources

Broad Overview of OER Related Projects

This section is intended to illustrate the growing activity in OER and opportunities for potential partnership, collaboration, and use within the OER model.

The core commitment of Open Educational Resources and the openness movement more generally, is that it is predicated on building on each other's work. Projects and activities are viewed as building blocks rather than competing entities. This of course makes investment in OER and open education quite appealing to philanthropic organizations, governments, many non-governmental organizations, community groups, and education providers. Practitioners, academics, and students, can take multiple roles, including users and contributors to the overall wealth of knowledge artifacts.

Anybody can access, use, modify, and share open content. The more open content that is available, the more opportunity that exists for growing the overall stock of OER, which provides the opportunity to develop new models and processes that take advantage of this very different approach to resource creation and distribution. During the past few years a number of important investments have been made in OER, which have spurred not only recognition of OER's existence among mainstream educators and the growth of openly licensed content, but has also sparked innovation in the processes used to create and use OER, infrastructure development, and new educational models based on the principles of openness. With a growing group of practitioners creating and using OER, the community's understanding of the phenomena is also maturing, resulting in a cycle of continuous improvement through discovery, learning, experimentation, and sharing and the factors that enable growth. This cycle is resulting in tangible impact on higher education and the launching of new organizations based on non-traditional assumptions about abundance, scarcity, collaboration, and production of knowledge artifacts, learning, and practice.

Given the nature of open networks and the ability to used what is in the community to benefit the XXXXX initiative, it is worthwhile providing examples of resources that exist, how they are being used, and what is being done to enable the potential benefits of OER. This will provide a sense not only of how our initiative will benefit from OER, but how we can participate in the larger community to support our goals of improved agricultural education in Africa.

Brief Descriptions of Major Projects/Activities

The OER landscape includes a wide variety of projects that are starting to address the needs of institutions, faculty, and students. Many of the projects are transitioning from their roots as grant funded projects into self-sustaining membership organizations such as the Open Courseware Consortium (OCWC), which represents over 250 institutions across the globe. The OCWC is joined by a number of other high profile organizations that are creating capacity and reducing barriers within the OER community. They provide community space and support, content authoring and digital asset management infrastructure, information dissemination, research, training and development, legal information, awareness rising, and advocacy. The OER organizations are located in universities, non-governmental organizations, and other non-profits serving higher, as well as primary and secondary education, international development efforts, as well as independent learning.

Example Projects and Activities support page

International growth in OER

Courses published by OpenCourseWare Consortium
International growth in the OER movement is evidenced by the growth in:
  • The number of OER assets;
  • The number of educators and communities participating in open education initiatives; and
  • Institutionalisation of OER through advocacy initiatives of international agencies.
WikiEducator's growth statistics
Although there is not a comprehensive global inventory of OER available, many of the major centralized projects maintain and publish information about the number and subject matter of courses and content made that are made available. The evidence indicates that not only is there substantive quantities of open materials being developed, but the rate of growth is increasing, which is evidenced by the Open Courseware Consortium (OCWC) graphic that illustrates the number of courses being published by consortium members.

This trend is also evident in projects such as Connexions, which now has published more than 8,300 reusable modules, OpenLearn, which has published over 300 learning units accounting for over 5,400 learning hours and over 1,100 learning units appearing in the OpenLearn remixing and sharing lab. Over a period of 2.5 years, the WikiEducator community of educators have developed over 9,000 content pages, using an open collaboration model.

Monitoring and evaluation data collected by the Commonwealth of Learning under the WikiEducator project reports positive growth in the number of registered users resulting in the project exceeding its planned growth targets by 220%. Survey data confirms that 72% of WikiEducators are lecturers, teachers or trainers working in the formal education sector, and on average, are older than 45 years. These figures attest that OER is fast becoming a mainstream feature in the formal education sector as opposed to being a peripheral interest. Moreover, Africa accounts for 19% of the registered users in WikiEducator, which is impressive when compared to the figures reported for other continental regions which have higher levels of access to the Internet (for example 24% of users are from North America and 25% from Asia). Respondents cite three main motivations for joining this OER project:

  • to learn wiki skills (70% of respondents)
  • to research innovative educational trends and ideas (68% of respondents)
  • to develop OER content (68% of respondents)

Finally, both international agencies with mandates for education are providing strategic emphasis on OER. For instance, the Commonwealth of Learning's strategic plan for 2009 - 2012 has committed the organisation to "the creation of high-quality learning materials made available as open educational resources" [13]. UNESCO have been promoting and supporting an international OER community to work together on questions, issues and documents through regular virtual forums hosted by the agency with particular emphasis on advocacy and needs of the developing world [14].

OER in Africa

We need to describe activities and uses of OER in Africa generally, and when possible, in agricultural education and practice. Formal projects as well as documented practice of OER use would be great. Short stories, case studies, etc. would work. Please feel free to include any of these directly in the wiki, or if you think it make more sense, post it to the Discussion page [1]. We will have to decide how we want to organize and integrate African experience with OER into the larger context of OER. Please feel free to include your recommendation on the Discussion page [2]. The description of each of the African OER projects below are taken direclty from their public web pages. It is principally source materials to be used to understand the contents and create an overview.


OER Africa [15] was established in the firm belief that OER has a powerful positive role to play in developing and capacitating higher education systems and institutions across Africa. This conviction is matched by concern that – if the concept and practice of OER evolves predominantly outside and for Africa – then African higher education will not be able to liberate its potential for itself. Thus, OER Africa has been set up to ensure that the power of OER is harnessed by Africans for Africans by building collaborative networks across the continent. The premise of OER Africa is that it will facilitate the aggregation of information and human expertise that produces knowledge – an activity which can either be individual, or inter-institutional. In order to continually test this premise, OER has not only developed an action research Agenda, but also sought the counsel and support of an Advisory Group of experts in various aspects of higher education.

African Virtual University

The OER Movement at the African Virtual University [16] first gained momentum after the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and AVU collaboratively conducted a pilot project in 2005, aimed at increasing the use of OpenCourseWare (OCW) materials in African institutions of higher learning. A conceptual framework and architecture, the “AVU OER Architecture”, was configured to support the creation, organization, dissemination and utilization of OERs. A strategy for collaborative partnerships for African higher education and training institutions was also developed. The strategy recognized the importance of raising awareness in order for those in the continent to familiarize with OERs. The scale and scope of existing OERs present a huge challenge to learners, educators and researchers in the developing world. OERs are not just about digitized information, but about developing methodological approaches and mechanisms that manage and ascribe meaning to them. Various awareness raising activities have been carried out by the AVU.

The AVU believes that OERs are not just about having digitized information, but about having collaborative partnerships that develop methodological approaches and mechanisms for OERs that focuses on the four main elements of the OER evolutionary process: Creation, Organization, Dissemination and Utilization (Pence, 2005). The strategic combination of these elements which form the ‘AVU OER Architecture’ will lead to the development of a local, dynamic, rational, comprehensive and sustainable OER strategy for African education and training institutions. For a long time, Africa has been receiving content from the developed economies. In most cases the content has had little or no relevance to the African context. The AVU recognized this and since it was evident that the OER movement was strong in more technologically developed countries, decided to use its experience and developed competencies to bring together Partner Institutions and spearhead the OER Movement in Africa. The purpose of the AVU OER Architecture is to lay out the basic building blocks or elements of the OER movement within the AVU network and on the African continent. The architecture is grounded in two experiences: a thorough analysis of the existing theories and perspectives concerning the global Open Content movement and the AVU’s experiences in establishing processes, systems and frameworks of design, development, managing and sharing OER on the African continent. The combination of these components constitutes the empirical and theoretical ‘foundation’ on which the AVU OER Architecture is based.

The constituent parts (or ‘elements’) of the AVU OER Architecture (Creation, Organization, Dissemination and Utilization) are supported by ‘scaffolding’ in the form of the following activity sets: Capacity Enhancement, Sensitization, Technological Infrastructure support, Policy formation, Research, and Collaboration . From this basic framework, the dimensions of the AVU OER Architecture are formed to create ‘knowledge spaces,’ in which OER and ODeL practitioners can find meaning and information about ODeL initiatives and methodologies. The AVU targets policy makers and managers of the universities as the initial practitioners to be sensitized on the OERs. Without their understanding of the merits of OERs in the African academy, it will be difficult for them to create an enabling policy environment for the practitioner to thrive in exploring the field of OERs.

University of the Western Cape

The Free Courseware Project [17], [18] promotes the publication and use of free and open educational resources at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), a previously disadvantaged South African university. We believe that there can be a universal knowledge commons, in which local and global perspectives enrich each other, but that local people are best able to find solutions to their local problems. We study and support "rip-mix-learn" practices and a higher education environment in which barriers between institutions and disciplines shrink, and learners become the creators of content and learning. To accomplish (at least part of) all this, we use a small budget effectively, rely on collaboration with many partners within the university and beyond, and engage with the international OER community to benefit from other projects' experience and share the lessons that we have learned.

The project was started in August 2006. Its initial phase is intended to run for two years. The focus in Year 1 was on laying the groundwork, establishing the technical infrastructure, raising awareness, identifying suitable courses and lecturers to work with, and building a project team that could start publishing courses. The core project consists of only two staff members, a Project Manager and a Junior Software Developer (who was initially hired as an intern), but we collaborate extensively with other groups at the university. We work across all faculties and departments and engage in one-on-one meetings with faculty members. Given our limited resources, we focus on people who are already actively using e-learning, or who are working in the open access field. The project now has 6 published courses in 3 academic areas, is part of the OCWC, and partners with EduCommons.

Merlot African Network (MAN)

Merlot African Network (MAN) [19] is a Networked partnerships between African and US educational institutions affiliated with the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) and leading Global eLearning Providers with development programs targeting Sub-Saharan Africa. Network members work in partnership to develop collaborative projects for Development and innovations in the best practices for using OER and OA as eLearning solutions. Partners meet twice annually, during the MAN Forum on OER and OA, organized as part of eLearning Africa, held in different Africa Countries each year, and the MERLOT Africa Panels, during the annual MERLOT International Conference.

The ultimate goal of MAN is to facilitate Communities of eLearning Expertise and Capacity Building for Open Education, Scholarship, and Development in Africa. The organization has the following five strategic Objectives:

  1. Build strong networked partnerships between African, US educational institutions and global eLearning providers that will result in joint education, research and development programs in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. Extend the MERLOT Community of Practice to immediately serve the goals of providing access and quality eLearning resources and communities of eLearning expertise in Africa.
  3. Build African expertise in the successful use and development of Open Education Resources (OER) and Open Access (OA) to support scalable eLearning curricula and scholarship.
  4. Conduct educational research to guide the effective and sustainable pedagogical integration of OER and OA in eLearning design and research.
  5. Organize expert meetings for sharing best practices, and social networking to improve the productivity and leadership of collaborative projects among members.

MAN is pursuing its goals through participation and leadership in a number of projects that promote partnership and international networking.

Teacher Education in Sub-Sahara Africa (TESSA)

Teacher Education in Sub-Sahara Africa (TESSA)[20] is a research and development initiative creating open educational resources (OERs) and course design guidance for teachers and teacher educators working in Sub-Saharan African countries. It is a consortium of 18 national and international organisations including 13 institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa who are using the TESSA materials in a variety of teacher education programmes.

TESSA has produced a large bank of materials directly aimed at enhancing and improving access to, and the quality of, local school based education and training for teachers. These materials (including audio and other media) are modular in format. They focus on classroom practice in the key areas of literacy, numeracy, science, social studies and the arts and life skills. All the materials are available through this website in a variety of different formats and languages. TESSA has produced a large bank of materials directly aimed at enhancing and improving access to, and the quality of, local school based education and training for teachers. These materials (including audio and other media) are modular in format. They focus on classroom practice in the key areas of literacy, numeracy, science, social studies and the arts and life skills. All the materials are available through this website in a variety of different formats and languages.

All materials carry a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license [[3]] and are openly distributed on their web site.

Impact & Use

The growth of OER and OER projects have resulted on a number of activities that are directly impacting access to education, cost reduction, and localization. OER has liberated a number of alternative educational models such as the University of the People and the Peer to Peer university, that leverages the community aspect of OER to open access to groups seeking alternatives to traditional universities. The ability to modify and reuse OER to better meet local needs is well illustrated by the efforts of the Tecnológico de Monterrey and the China Open Eduction Resource to modify hundreds of OER from the MIT OCW initiative for local use, saving the university hundreds of thousands of dollars in course design and development costs. Efforts at Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand, and the Open High school of Utah, in which the institutions have committed to entire curriculum in OER, are meant to result in improved quality and reduced cost. OER is also impacting the way educational materials are developed, reducing the cost of text books to individual learners. FlatWorld Knowledge [21] has developed a model in which high quality textbook can be co-developed and published as OER, while Wikibooks [22] has made available hundreds of open textbooks available in dozens of subject areas for free use and modification. This use of OER is particularly relevant as the cost of text books distributed through traditional proprietary publishing models have become prohibitively expensive for many learners and simply unavailable in many regions of the world.

Although there are hundreds of documented cases of OER in various forms being created, contributed, modified and used, there is less data on its impact on curriculum, cost, accessibility, and improved teaching and learning. During the relatively short history of OER much effort has been invested in the creation of a pool of OER for use, serving as the basic infrastructure for others to use and develop. The infrastructure in terms of open tools and content have resulted in the development of educational models that are unique to the OER environment. That said, even though data about OER impact is just starting to be collected, it is known that traditional courseware is expensive to design, produce, and maintain, and that OER provides opportunities to institutions committed to using it. This holds true also of open source educational software, open textbooks, and open access journals. To a large degree, the impact of OER will be determined by educational providers, individual learners, faculty, government policy makers, and other decision makers who see the potential and benefit of OER. The following are some examples of projects, activities, and organizations that are productively using OER in ways that are impacting operations and through extension the experiences of teachers and learners.

Tecnológico de Monterrey

In an effort to cost effectively introduce high quality course materials in a culturally sensitive manner for use by high school and undergraduate teachers, the Tecnológico de Monterrey has adopted a model based on knowledge adoption [23] and transference as applied to OER, during which they go through a five phases process that helps ensure widespread use of shared learning resources globally. The phases include, proposal, design and development, incubation, adoption, and transference. During summer 2008, 156 courses were enriched by teachers (21 from high school and 135 from undergraduate) with 1,035 OERs (213 in high school courses and 822 in undergraduate courses) by an adoption process applied to teach or explain a concept, explain a subject or other activity in their classrooms, reaching 13,186 students (1860 in high school and 11,326 in undergraduate) during the academic semester of August to November 2008.

New Zealand OER Project

The primary objective of the New Zealand OER project [24] was to develop some 'proof of concept' open courseware that is freely available to all tertiary education institutions in New Zealand and beyond. Underpinning this objective were the goals to increase the quality of eLearning materials, increase flexibility in their re-use, and significantly reduce the duplication of investment in their design, development and production, creating efficiencies and reducing overall cost throughout the sector. New Zealand is reasonably large in geographical terms - a little bit larger than Britain. However, the population is small at 4 million people and is is geographically isolated. While the education sector is well served there are limitations on resources with many institutions regionally based, serving smaller more rural population centers. In a country like New Zealand with limited economic resources, there is more to gain by being an active member in a global community of open educational resource sharing and development than by protecting content, limiting sharing, and forcing redundant effort. Sharing and reusing can cut the costs for content development, thereby making better use of available resources. The overall quality should improve over time due to peer review and iterations, compared to a situation where everyone always has to start from the beginning. Open sharing will speed up the development of new learning resources, stimulate internal improvement, innovation and reuse. When presented with a list of proposed goals or benefits with using OER in their own teaching, the most commonly reported motive was to gain access to the best possible resources and to have more flexible materials. The project generated 12 courses:

  • Information and Computer Technology... 1
  • NZIM Certificate in Management........ 6
  • Building and construction............. 3
  • Moodle Training and Learning Design... 2

Although accurate download figures have not been measured, it is known that the complete OER NZIM Certificate in Management has been adopted by several polytechnics, and that the Hardware Fundamentals course has also been widely adopted. In addition, it is also known that a number of institutions are using the courses as templates for new design, providing a valuable resource in a sector with few trained professional learning designers. The New Zealand OER project illustrates the impact of OER through adoption and modification, allowing not only sharing of open courseware, but sharing of learning design expertise that has been embedded in the materials and is available for reuse. The adoption of complete programs, courses, and the creation of derivative work points to the benefits of cost reduction and improved curriculum.

The Open High School of Utah

The Open High School of Utah (OHSU) [25] is an online charter high school. Its curriculum is based exclusively on open educational resources. This means that the entire OHSU curriculum is available to the public for free, even if a student does not attend the OHSU. Because the Open High School exclusively uses open educational resources, their teachers are able to make deep, lasting changes to the curriculum in order to meet student needs. They have combined the flexibility of their curriculum materials with student performance and web analytics data to engage in cycles of continuous improvement of the curriculum, a highly data-driven process by which the curriculum is always getting better. OER has been used as the base for the following courses:

  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Earth Systems Science
  • Computer Technology
  • General Financial Literacy
  • World Civilizations
  • Geography for Life
  • Health
  • Fitness for Life
  • English

The Open High School of Utah is capped at 125 students for the 2009 academic year and is currently accepting applications for its first class in the Fall semester 2009. It is anticipated that although the OHSU will be directly impacting 125 students and their families through enrollment, that the materials will be widely adopted by other virtual high schools, independent learners, and for use in home schooling. Due to their commitment to exclusively using OER, the OHSU anticipates experiencing a number of concrete benefits flowing from this strategic decision. Specifically, they expect medium and long-term curriculum spends to be significantly lower than at traditional schools allowing investment in other parts of the teaching and learning endeavor including learner support. Second, because the OER that is being used are not encumbered by the restrictions placed on proprietary content, they have local control over them, and can adapt them to meet the local learners' needs in a way that no traditional school teacher could ever achieve through adapting a traditional textbook. The notion that each learner has unique needs and can benefit from a personalized learning experience supported by flexible curriculum and adaptable pedagogy is supported by OER, which liberates the potential for significant and fundamental rethinking of curriculum and educational reform.

The FLOSS4Edu and the Learning4Content project

The FLOSS4Edu [26] and Learning4Content [27], have partnered in a fashion that illustrates the impact and scalability of OER.

FLOSS4Edu is an initiative aimed at addressing the following challenges:

  • The absence of Free content in African Schools
  • The lack of skills and knowledge to use Free and Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) technologies and
  • Access to FLOSS resources given the high cost of bandwidth and shortage of FLOSS distribution channels.

The FLOSS4Edu project was inspired by Nicholas Kimolo in Kenya. Under the sponsorship of Commonwealth of Learning (COL) a conceptual building framework was developed to support and add value to existing FLOSS initiatives in the education sector. FLOSS4Edu is particularly interested in the power of social software for education in Africa and how wiki technologies can contribute to the development of free content by Africans for Africa. The FLOSS4Edu project seeks to create a large community of educational practioners in Africa participating in the development of Open Educational Resources (OER's). It also seeks to have an inclusive process of involving everyone willing to participate in content development including teachers, students, professionals, experts and all.

The FLOSS4Edu project is showing early signs of the potential impact of community based approaches for OER in Africa, including for example:

  • The establishment of FLOSS4Edu community nodes for East and West Africa respectively;
  • The catalyst for initiating a French localisation of WikiEducator lead by the Cameroon thus demonstrating Africa's initiative and capacity to play a global leadership role rather than Francophonie[28] members from industrialised countries taking the lead with localisation efforts;
  • Inspiring a project at the University of Education, Winneba in Ghana under the oneVillage Foundation to produce 1000 OER lessons and to build a community of 500 active contributors from the University of Education, Winneba and its surrounding areas.
  • Organising numerous capacity building workshops in Kenya and Ghana.
  • Contributing to WikiEducator's achievement as inaugural recipient of The MERLOT Africa Network (MAN) awards for Exemplary Open Education Resource (OER) practices, in 2008 at eLearning Africa.

FLOSS4Edu has taken full advantage of the Learning4Content project that uses OER to support the world's largest attempt to develop wiki skills for education. This ambitious and empowering project aims to:

  • conduct 160 workshops
  • train 2500 teachers/educators
  • develop 2500 lessons of free content
  • reach educators in at least 52 Commonwealth Countries

This is a smart project which uses OER training materials to develop capacity in how to develop OERs within a real OER wiki community. Participants are encouraged to sign a voluntary learning contract whereby they commit to donating knowledge back to the community by developing a free content lesson or resource. The conversion rate is surprisingly high with 55% of Learning4Content participants signing and submitting their learning contracts.

Commencing in January 2008, the Learning4Content project has achieved 85% of its targeted number of educators trained by February 2009. As of February 2009, the project has enrolled and trained 2,135 educators (953 through face-to-face workshops and 1,182 through online workshops) and has succeeded in achieving impressive results with regard to gender parity in ICT skills development -- historically dominated by a male bias in ICT training interventions. In the case of the Learning4Content project, gender parity has been a high priority as demonstrated by the results: 53% Male and 47% Female. The online versions of the Learning4Content project draw participants from all corners of the globe and face-to-face workshops have already been conducted in 25 different countries: Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Israel, India, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Kenya, Kingdom of Tonga, Malaysia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda and Zambia.

The Learning4Content project is a low cost model which is scalable because:

  • All training materials and facilitors' guides are available as OER;
  • Training costs are limited to an honorarium of CAD$1000 per workshop;
  • Learning4Content workshops require commitment from local institutions for providing access and contributions in kind for the computer laboratory and local catering costs;
  • The Learning4Content project identifies new facilitators through a train-the-trainers approach to expand and scale-up capacity development a global scale;
  • The WikiEducator community has the critical mass to identify and attract large numbers of prospective trainees.

The partnership between Learnign4Content and FLOSS4Edu illustrates not only the effective use of OER for faculty development and training resulting in capitlization of human resources, but also illustrates a process that develops social capital on a global scale.

FlatWorld Knowledge

FlatWorld Knowledge [29] is an organization that connects OER textbooks directly with courses and social learning opportunities. Through the model more than 30 OER textbooks have been created in 8 business subject areas and are currently being used in more than 30 courses at over 25 universities. Although printed versions of the texts have a fee lower than 30 US dollars, the online versions are free. In addition to being fee free, the textbooks are licensed in such a way that that can be modified to meet learner and local needs with a "book builder" utility. FlatWorld Knowledge also provide some community building functionality that allows learners using texts to ask questions of the larger community. These types of activities would no be possible using traditional proprietary publishing licenses and distribution channels. In addition, to providing learners free options for open textbooks, FlatWorld Knowledge connects OER textbooks with course delivery, illustrating a very close connection between the production of OER and its use.

MIT OpenCourseWare (Student Generated OER)

High School Courses Developed by MIT Students: [30] MIT students develop and teach many courses for high school as part of MIT's Educational Studies Program (ESP) [31], which is an MIT student group that has been offering high school courses for over 50 years. As part of ESP, MIT students have produced over 60 introductory courses in 10 disciplines as OER, dozens of advanced placement (AP) courses, science laboratories, and an array of other OER to support high school students.

Budapest University of Technology and Economics (Student Generated OER)

Student Generated Study Resources: [32]In Hungary, students of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Informatics at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, have created a vast repository of educational resources that include lecture notes, exam texts with model answers and summaries of articles and books. Without institutional support (and to some degree without institutional awareness of these efforts), the students compiled roughly 10,000 pages of content. The main benefits reported by the project co-ordinator were a more flexible learning process and access to a knowledge base that supported independent study and exam preparation. /I don’t have first hand knowledge of this effort/

Impact and Use support page

Catalysts, Enablers, and Future Directions

Sustainability & Scalability

Open Educational Resource sustainability is based on the concept of a community supported cycle of materials creation, sharing, adoption, and use. The cycle is further enhanced when derivative works are created through modification and then shared back with the community for reuse and further modification. This cycle allows for increased quantity of resources and enhanced relevance and usability. In addition, the process promotes learning as authors discover openly available content, review it, and modify it in a cycle of continuous improvement. An ecosystem will be formed as the community strengthens and the quantity and quality of source materials improve from the perspective of participants. Like all other social organizations, there are conditions that serve as catalysts and enablers for growth and improvement. Literature and experience indicates that individuals are more likely to contribute to an OER community if the barriers are low and if their efforts result in high value. This means that existing content is easily discovered, reused, modified, mixed with other content, and shared. The more likely that these conditions exist, the more likely processes will evolved that take advantage of the viral nature of OER.

Interoperability is an important characteristic that points to sustainable OER. A lack of interoperability creates barriers for cooperation among individual OER projects reducing the over all value that can be derived from the OER. Interoperability takes a number of forms including:

  • Licensing: Open licenses are at the heart of OER. The more open the license, the lower the barriers become to use. modify, reuse, and distribute OER. Although licenses that allow for use, but not derivative work can be useful, they do not allow for easy localization. In addition, the application of a noncommercial use restriction creases challenges for mixing content that do not carry the restriction and reduces a traditional form of distribution through commercial channels.
  • Open Standards: Open standards allow for interoperability among technologies and infrastructure used to create, identify, discover, manage, distribute, and modify OER. Open standards can involve the use of metadata, content packaging, runtime formats, identity management, federated searching, and workflow management. Open standards reduced the costs of working together and sharing OER.
  • Open File Formats: Open, nonproprietary file formats allow for ease of modification, reduced barriers to sharing content at the software application level, and increases the likelihood of the existence of low-cost open source file readers and editors.

Although interoperability reduces the barriers to communication and sharing that is necessary for community development, it is not sufficient for sustainability. The ecosystem requires the establishment of processes that are sustaining in part because individual actors benefit from participation. For example, when the creation of content is a natural byproduct of research, licensing and openly distributing artifacts created as part of the research cycle as OER enhances the impact of the research and allows the findings to be more easily integrated into university curriculum. In turn, establishing a protocol in which university students use and produce OER as part of their learning process, not only provides a larger stock of educational artifacts to be used and tested in practice, but it also exposes learners to fundamental processes of community-based disciplinary research, in which discovery and knowledge creation is an iterative process, based on the exchange, critique, and expansion on the ideas and work of others. A process that take advantage of OER can simultaneously create a strong connection between research, practice, and education, by supporting larger and open communities. Faculty now have access not only to high quality packaged and published open courseware, but also have access to the collective productivity of each learner and colleague that publishes on the OER model, while the process itself is a learning opportunity for students. In this scenario students, teachers, researchers, practitioners, and funders all benefit.

On the macro-level, there is an important role for national policy and foundation support. OER is a relativity new phenomena in education, which has been dominated for the past 50 years by propriety publishing models of content creation and distribution. It is hoped that national policies like those promoted by the CIO Council in the UK for Open Source, Open Standards and Re–Use [33], and declarations such as the Cape Town Open Education Declaration [34] can be used to support and influence thinking around OER, liberating the creativity needed to make OER successful and benefit society. We have already felt the impact of investments from The The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in OER courseware, Mellon in OER technology, and the Shuttleworth foundation supporting a variety of open education initiatives.

Conclusion / Why OER in Africa?

<Highlighting major points in the background document and relating them to the objectives of the overall project and the various initiatives.>

Graduates of African Masters of Science (MSc) programs in Agriculture are the change agents for African agriculture. They are the best and brightest future leaders in industry, government and academia to implement impactful change that will directly and positively affect small farmers and rural communities. Enabling them with the appropriate graduate education and training in Africa requires upgrading faculty, curriculum and research on multiple levels. OER can be instrumental in addressing these requirements through products and processes that support curriculum innovation.


OER Reuse

OER Sustainability

OER Access Issues

  • UNESCO Discussion (Feb. 09) [35]

Who is Supporting OER


Questions to be Thinking About

  • The unique capability that you bring to the collaboration.
  • Potential synergies with other efforts in the collaboration.
  • How you will achieve the primary objectives using OER.
  • How you will measure success - quantitative and qualitative metrics.
  • How your effort is driven by the demands/needs of African universities and faculty.
  • In what ways you are working directly with constituents (faculty, farmers, stakeholders, etc.).
  • How you will demonstrate replicability and scalability of your efforts.
  • How you will demonstrate the sustainability of your efforts.
  • How you will demonstrate building social capital.
  • How you will demonstrate unintended positive impacts.

Overview Outline

Introduction Introduce major themes and connections between Open Educational Resources content and process and the potential for leveraging and growing knowledge, the development of social capital, improvement of education, and the potential of connecting university education with practice in the African context.

Background & Context of African Agricultural University Education

  • Brief Historical Background
  • Role of OER in Addressing Major Challenges

Background & Context of Open Educational Resources

  • What
    • Definitions
    • History of OER
    • Major Activities & Initiatives
  • Why
    • Localization / Relevance
    • Cost Reduction
    • Access
    • Improved Quality
  • Current State of Open Educational Resources
    • Broad Overview of OER Related Projects

This section is intended to illustrate the growing activity in OER and opportunities for potential partnership, collaboration, and use within the OER model.

    • Brief Descriptions of Major Projects/Activities
    • Inventory of CourseWare Assets
      • General
      • Ag Specific
      • Current Licenses
      • Africa Specific
    • OER in Africa
      • OER-Africa
      • African Virtual University
      • University of the Western Cape
    • Impact & Use
  • Catalysts, Enablers, and Future Directions
    • Interoperability
      • Licensing
      • Community Building
      • Open Standards
      • Open File Formats
      • OSS Infrastructure
      • Policy and Legislation
      • CapeTown Declaration
      • UK CIO Council
    • Commercial Use
    • Ecosystem
      • Cycle of creation, acquisition, use, derivation, reuse, and re-contribution
      • Students as active participants
      • Researchers as active participants
      • Teachers as active participants
      • Practitioners as active participants
  • Conclusion / Why OER in Africa?

Highlighting major points in the background document and relating them to the objectives of the overall project and the various initiatives.

Reference links