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What We Are Learning: Lessons Emerging in Year 2 of a 3 Year Process

Since inception in 2008, OER Africa has sought to respond to the challenges faced by educators in Africa’s universities by working with them to collaboratively develop and implement open educational resource (OER) processes to redress specific teaching and learning insufficiencies. These processes have been tailor-made to fit the realities of the contexts within which they are to be applied, including inadequate bandwidth, a shortage of skills to develop and adapt relevant and appropriate teaching and learning materials, insufficient funding and over-stretched human resources. Strategies implemented to this end have included OER sensitization and advocacy, proof of OER concept pilot projects, policy work, materials development and adaptation, course design, and action research.

Initially, OER Africa adopted an expansive partnership strategy to advance this agenda. However, as its focus for its current work supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, OER Africa identified a need to deepen the knowledge base required to take OER in African universities to the next level – that is, the mainstreaming of engagement with OER to improve pedagogical practice. It decided to do this by supporting a small selection of universities which are committed to transforming teaching and learning practices, in the context of the information society, through Action Research and Critical Practice, to build evidence that OER practices can both lead to and support transformation, and can be successfully mainstreamed and institutionalized.

Thus, over a three year period, from 2014 to 2017, OER Africa is working with four universities: the African Nazarene University (ANU), the Open University of Tanzania (OUT), the University of the Free State (UFS), and the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science (known as Onderstepoort). We are supporting these institutions to implement pedagogical changes using OER: our objective is to identify key supporting and inhibiting factors to sustaining such changes. Our approach is informed by an understanding that supporting significant institutional change requires sustained engagement and support over an extended period and that, while some critical success factors will be generic, others will be institutionally specific. Click her to download Lessons Emerging.

Institutional Table of Comparative Implementation Strategies

The following table is a summary taken from the formative and illuminative mid-term evaluation of this grant, conducted by Prof Ken Harley in May / June 2016. It is Table 2. Diversity across HEIs and the two regions: East Africa and South Africa in his report and can be found on p. 7 of the same report (available separately).

Issue   

East Africa: ANU and OUT

South Africa: OP and UFS

Project strategy for embedding and disseminating the OER model

Embedding at ‘whole’ institutional level, one private (ANU), one public (OUT); Dissemination from here to other institutions.

 

 

OP:  Embedding in a high status faculty: from there to whole institution and beyond

UFS: Embedding and dissemination through institution’s CTL (dedicated to improving teaching and learning)

Starting point in HEIs

Project brought an entirely new initiative

Project concepts being grafted onto existing initiatives.

Mode of delivery

ANU: contact university moving to distance/blended delivery

OUT: distance education moving from correspondence to digital and online

Both: Traditionally contact, interested in blended approaches using technology.

Institutional interest in OER

ANU: To have cost-effective materials for ODL

OUT: OER to reach students at all centres; provision of affordable materials

Both: Need for basic provision of learning materials.

 

OP: Has expertise to share; OER can help build on their status as leaders in their field;

UFS: Focus on courses and processes to enhance student learning (OER licensing follows).

Both: more expansive needs

The two means of achieving aim of pedagogic transformation

OER and policy development: concurrent

OER and policy development: more sequential than concurrent.

Networking infrastructure

Wi-Fi signal variable

Wi-Fi more easily accessible to staff and students on and off campus.

Project support

Geographic distance from Saide means project support is timetabled far in advance of IL visits. Often lengthy gaps between visits are inevitable.

Proximity of ILs – greater opportunity for more informal hands-on support according to needs as these arise

Implications of project support but no funding

More pressing issues of remuneration for module writers

Remuneration for extra workload generated by project appears less pressing