Wednesday, February 23, 2011

OER university; Open planning meeting

The Open Planning Meeting that would pave way for the establishment of Open Educational Resources university (OERu) was held in the Council Room, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand from 9am to 5pm NZDST on 23/02/2011. A live streaming of the meeting  (with the support of UNESCO Office for pacific states) was also available at  the OERu channel in the Ustream. In his welcome address Dr Robin Day, Chair of the Board of the OER Foundation and Deputy Chief Executive of Otago Polytechnic said that "We extend an open invitation to all post-secondary institutions that care about sharing knowledge as a core value of education to join us in planning these sustainable learning futures."

Professor Jim Taylor, from the University of Southern Queensland led discussions on the OER university concept and introduced a logic model for planning the OER university. Prof. Jim Taylor pointed out that the OER university will create a parallel learning universe to augment and add value to traditional models of delivery through open collaboration networks. "This is not theoretical speculation, it is entirely viable." said Jim Taylor. Conventional supply of education using traditional delivery methods will not the meet the demands for access to higher education. Consider, for example:  
  • the need for 18 million new teachers
  • the doubling of post-secondary students in the next decade
  • the need to build roughly one new university per week in India alone to meet the future demand for learning.  
Recorded closing session of the meeting
While the face-to-face participation was limited to 24 persons because of the physical venue constraints, 202 people were registered for virtual participation from 46 different countries using Ustream, Identi.ca and WikiEducator facilities. Representatives from, Australia, Canada, Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa attended the meeting in Dunedin including representatives from the university and polytechnic sectors, Ako Aotearoa, the New Zealand Ministry of Education, and the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand.

Dr Visesio Pongi, Director of the UNESCO Office for the Pacific States and Sir John Daniel, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth of Learning were also participated through video messages. Dr Visesio Pongi stressed the importance of OER in realising the mission of education for all in his welcome address. "The concept of free learning for all students is well aligned with UNESCO's global mission to provide education for all which now seems imminently more doable with the mainstream adoption of OER in our formal education institutions." said Dr Pongi. Sir John Daniel, commended the project's focus on providing pathways for credible qualifications. "Students seek flexible study opportunities, but they also want their achievements recognised in credible credentials." said John Daniel. "This important meeting should tackle the challenges of combining flexibility with rigour, which requires clarity in conception and quality in execution." 

Phil Ker, Chief Executive Officer of Otago Polytechnic highlighted that institutions must stop reinventing wheels by sharing OER.  OER is the vehicle to improving quality in education and the platform for sustainable education practice. Credible, accessible assessment can be provided for a fraction of the cost of traditional delivery approaches.

The meeting has also considered the inputs from the SCoPE seminar on OER University hosted by the  BCcampus in British Columbia Canada.

As per the agenda, the meeting had four sessions, which chiefly discussed the logical model for the OER university and the way ahead. All the sessions were designed to creatively engage  face-to-face as well as   virtual participants.

The OER university is being designed to provide free learning to all learners with pathways to gain academic credit from formal education institutions around the world. It will be rooted in the community service and outreach mission of tertiary education providers to evolve parallel delivery systems that will augment existing educational provision. OER university will have partner universities and institutions who provide reviewed OER for studies and  credential services to the students/learners enabling them to acquire valid degrees. According to Dr Wayne Mackintosh of OER Foundation, the OER university will reduce the expenses for higher education up to 80%! The OER university aims  to provide free learning for all students worldwide. Media all over the world has also recognized the importance and necessity of the OERu initiative and many reports have already came out.

Logic Model for the OER University
As per the logic model, the OER university will be a collaboration of participating Universities/Institutions. The OERU will maintain/provide 
  • Open Curriculum
  • Open Design and Development
  • Open Pedagogy
  • Open Student Support. 
The collaborating institutions will provide
  • Open Assessment Services
  • Open Credential Services
  • Open Community Service 
In this model, learners who come to the OERu ecosystem will get free OER learning from OERU and for those who want credible qualifications on completion of the studies can avail the assessment and credential services of the collaborating institutions by paying moderate fee.


From the above it is very clear that the OERu is not to replace or compete with the existing higher education system, whereas it is an innovative move to augment the reach of partner universities and intuitions by using OER to ensure education for all.   In my view, the emerging OER university is going to become a University of Universities that makes each partner University truly universal! This universal reach would be the unbeatable returns for each partner University. Moreover the cost savings in the preparation of learning materials by way of using OER can be reinvested into the system to make it sustainable and cost effective.

The open meeting has discussed the operational and financial sustainability of the logic model for OERu. in detail. The meeting has initiated work on developing proposals for action relating to open business models, open pedagogy, open curriculum and open student support. It was also decided to convene an online follow-up meeting to refine the draft proposals for action generated at the meeting including outputs, key performance indicators, milestones and budgets for securing external funding. This meeting will be conducted asynchronously. The follow-up meeting will most likely be hosted on the UNESCO OER community platform. By this time more collaborators are expected to join this great mission, which is the need of the hour  (full summary of the meeting is available in WikiEducator.org).

The OER Foundation, Otago Polytechnic, Athabasca University and University of Southern Queensland , who are the confirmed partners in this initiative, are very keen to ensure that the OER university is established in a year's time with two qualifications initially, viz, foundation courses leading to a "Diploma of Arts" which will carry credit for Bachelor Degree qualifications thus focusing on the Community Service mission to widen access to degree study and, a Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Learning and Teaching, which will include an elective for OER. . Universities/INsitutions interested in joining the OER university as an anchor partner, may email Wayne Mackintosh, Director of the OER Foundation.

Visit http://wikieducator.org/OERU_meeting_summary for full summary of the meeting.

Note: OER university uses lowercase "u" to refer to the original etymology associated with a community of scholars
Some media report links:

#oeru

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Towards an OER University

In a joint Media release the OER Foundation, New Zealand and the UNESCO Office for pacific states have announced their decision to to host a strategic international meeting in Dunedin on 23 February, to commence planning for the provision of free learning to all students worldwide. Support from the United Nations Science and Education Organisation (UNESCO) to stream the meeting on the internet will allow the participation of education leaders and interested persons from around the globe. The joint press release invites all stakeholders to join the meeting as a virtual participant. The meeting is expected to become the first milestone towards the establishment of an OER University.

OER University will definitely be a great success becuse it is the need of the hour. Moreover, Open Distance Learning using OERs is the most environment friendly way of education. It will drastically cut down the necessities for extensive travels for studies as well as enormous printing of study materials. I would recommend agencies like United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change etc should also join hands with this innovation. Looking forward to see the promising future wherein Open Distance Learning (ODL) supported by Open Educational Resources (OER) and ICT build the inclusive Mainstream Education System.

Please see the original media release in the iframe below:

 License:CC-BY-SA
#oeru