Thursday, January 20, 2011

Success and reach of Learning4Content (L4C); a facilitator’s testimony

Learning4content (L4C)  is an innovative wiki skills training programme of project, presently facilitated by the Open Educational Resources Foundation (OERF). The L4C  was started as a sub project of the eLearning for development programme of Commonwealth of Learning (COL) with funding support from the Hewlett Foundation, when COL was the home for project. The core idea of Learning4Content is to provide free skills training in wiki technology for educators in exchange for a voluntary donation of knowledge in the form of a free content lesson on Soon this initiative was proved to be a big success and today L4C is the world's largest (online & off-line) free initiative to train wiki as well as freely sharable learning material development skills!

When we talk about L4C we cannot leave unmentioned because is the ecosystem where L4C flourishes., a media-wiki technology based web-platform to facilitate the collaborative development of freely sharable educational content, was launched by Dr. Wayne Mackintosh on 13 th February 2006 with his first edit on the desktop prototype. Subsequently Commonwealth of Learning has started to promote the project. When the attained substantial growth to become an independent project, the operating mechanism of the project was shifted to the premises of New Zealand Open Polytechnic  with the continued support from COL and facilitation support from the newly formed OER Foundation during mid 2009. aims at the development of stable OER ecosystems in all sectors of education through collaborative efforts and using open standards and technologies. Live site is used for L4C training. During each training, valuable educational content is added to the site by participants. This is indeed a unique approach!

My first experience as a resource person of L4C was at the Open University of Sri Lanka. It was actually an experimental L4C in which we - Dr. Krishna Alluri (then Educational Specialist of Commonwealth of Learning), Prof. Uma Coomaraswamy ( former Vice Chancellor of the Open University of Sri Lanka) , Mr. Raji N.R and myself - have blended a workshop on the Life Long Learning for Farmers' (L3F) project of COL with L4C. The participants included a wonderful mix of academicians, scientists and real farmers. The aim of the workshop was was to help the members to learn to develop OER that is relevant, quality assured, suitably designed and delivered to ensure that the target learners will be able to learn. Our rather unique concept was planning teams from different universities with one subject matter specialist, one with expertise in computer use and communications and the other a farmer associated with the university community. We steered the teams in a way that the farmer had the final authority for the content, its style, use of language and media and the overall design for delivery and learner support. the other members of the team had to respond to farmer's needs. thus, the workshop led to creating awareness of the participants and limited capacity to develop OER that is relevant, quality assured, suitably designed and delivered and satisfied the purpose of the L4C workshop for the L3 Farmers project. Definitely, the wholehearted support and encouragements extended by the learned community towards the farmer community were a major success factor in Colombo experiment.

The same kind of experiment was repeated in the L4C workshop conducted at Arul Anandar College, Madurai in Tamil Nadu state, India from 16/05/2008 to 18/05/2008. The organizing team included Dr. K. Balasubramanian (now Education Specialist, Agriculture and Livelihoods in COL) Dr. K Murugan ( Director, Student Support Services Division of Tamil Nadu Open University) and myself. In this workshop also the participants were drawn from academicians, extension workers/volunteers and farmers. During the Madurai Workshop we faced major disruptions in Internet connectivity and to overcome the situation we had to install a standalone version of wiki in the computer lab. Even after facing all these difficulties we were able to facilitate same amount of enthusiasm and engagement as we had seen in Colombo.

For me, both the above experiences were a revelation of the beauty of concept as well as tremendous scope of L4C and L3F.  I was equally thrilled by the response of participants during each subsequently conducted L4Cs also - that include co-facilitating of the Half Day WikiEducator workshop conducted at the Fifth Pan-Commonwealth Forum for Distance Learning (PCF5) at University of London, U.K (along with Dr. Wayne, Ms. Patricia Schlicht  and others), at Acharya Narendra Dev College, University of New Delhi, India on 3,4 and 6 October, 2008 (along with Dr. Savithri Singh), in Khulna, Bangladesh from 25/05/2009 to 30/05/2009 in association with RUPANTAR (with the wonderful coordination support from Mr. M.A Halim) and recently at Tamil Nadu Open University, Chennai, India on 30/07/2010 and 31/07/2010 along with Dr. K Murugan. It is not my case alone. All those who facilitated/organized Learning4Content workshops around the world will agree that L4C is a unique training initiative with the magical ability to attract people from all walks of life towards open technologies and open educational resources.

The importance given to face to face L4C workshops during the initial period was subsequently shifted to online L4Cs where the workshop facilitators explored the possibilities of other free technology options/services to entertain larger audience from different parts of the world and also for value addition to L4C workshops. For instance, the use of google groups as the main communication channel between the facilitators and participants and also among facilitators and participants deserve special mention here. With the popularisation of online L4Cs, the number of people trained through this initiative has increased dramatically.

Apart from the main activities of free training and educational content development, the major value addition from  WikiEducator as well as the L4C initiative is the wonderful networking of educators who believe in open technologies and free content. The testimony for the above statement is also my own experience. All the educators whose names are mentioned above have become my friends and colleagues in OER domain only because of, L4C and L3 Farmers' projects.

Around thirty four countries have already hosted Learning for Content (L4C) workshops. Global reach of L4C by way of participation in the online workshops is much higher than that. Hosting organizations include academic institutions as well as NGO organizations. Definitely L4C is making history!.
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Success and reach of Learning4Content (L4C); a facilitator’s testimony by Apletters [Anil Prasad] is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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