The aim of the AgShare Planning and Pilot Project was to create a scalable and sustainable collaboration of existing African organizations to publish, localise and share teaching and learning materials that would fill critical resource gaps in African MSc agriculture curriculum. An additional objective was to ensure that these high quality publications would lend themselves to modification for other downstream uses. The 18 month AgShare planning and piloting initiative was conceptualised by OER Africa and Michigan State University (MSU) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
AgShare is premised on developing partnerships among African universities and community-wide partners for collaborative content (OER) development. As such, three types of partners comprised the leadership and organizational structure of this collaboration: universities (faculty and students), community-wide partners (NGO, extension and stakeholders in agricultural value chains), and content providers. In this way, AgShare sought to demonstrate the possibilities of bridging the divide between the so-called ivory towers of academic knowledge produced by Africa’s faculties of agriculture and the agricultural knowledge produced and used by farmers in the field.
MSU and OER Africa facilitated the process by which AgShare became a catalyst for collaboration and alignment among existing African, OER and agricultural organizations to strengthen MSc agriculture curriculum through the following pilot projects:
- Haramaya University, Ethiopia: Creation of a comprehensive set of course materials to be used within its MSc in Agricultural Information Communication Management (MSc AICM). AICM is one of the regional postgraduate programs implemented through the Regional Universities’ Forum for Capacity-Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM).
- Makerere University, Uganda: Improve the efficacy of the dairy value chain through utilization of OER in Uganda. This pilot was jointly implemented by the university’s Agribusiness and Management Program and its Livestock Development Program.
- Collaborative Master of Science in Agricultural and Applied Economics (CMAAE): Haramaya University and Moi University (Kenya), both members of CMAAE, produced two case-study based modules on a selected commodity (coffee for Ethiopia and maize for Kenya), to demonstrate the economic role of prices and approaches to the study of agricultural market organization. These modules were made available to the entire CMAAE membership—in East, Central, and Southern Africa.
- United States International University (USIS), Kenya: Develop a pedagogical model and framework for teaching farmers and farmer organizations to gain new knowledge and agri-management skills to transform their farming as a livelihood practice to farming as a business enterprise (from farm to firm).
AgShare’s proof-of-concept initiatives demonstrated that:
- Course materials can be created relatively rapidly and cost-effectively in areas of need by harnessing and adapting existing openly available educational resources rather than developing these from scratch;
- Deployment of such course materials into higher education program, if designed according to sound educational principles, can lead to direct and immediate improvements in the quality of the learning experience and thus create enhanced conditions for improving learning outcomes for learners participating in those programs;
- Where course materials are developed as OER against clearly defined educational needs, there are immediate and practical opportunities to facilitate their re-use by other university faculties of agriculture;
- Actively engaging students in the production of educational materials will enhance their own learning experience;
- Building structured relationships between academics, students, content suppliers and community-wide partners such as farmers, farmers’ associations and agri-businesses to facilitate the creation and sharing of OER can have positive impact for all parties;
- Once OER have been created for specific educational purposes (i.e. Master’s Degree program) through such structured relationships, it becomes easier and cheaper to re-package these materials for different target audiences (for example, farmers or agri-business) than if one seeks to produce materials separately for each of these target audiences.
Thus, the proof-of-concept projects delivered a strong evidence base for the value of harnessing OER to support the development of agriculture in Africa. They also generated a plethora of resources ranging from course materials and guides to videos and photographs illustrating the various processes undertaken.
OER Africa was able to leverage the learnings from this pilot and planning project to conceptualise and deliver AgShare II.