Thursday, November 17, 2011

OERu anchor partner and stakeholder meeting; prototype courses in 2012

Inaugural open planning meeting of the founding anchor partners and stakeholders of OER Tertiary Education Network (OERTen) for OER university was held at the Council Room of the Open Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand on 9th and 10th November, 2011. There was also global virtual participation (both synchronous and asynchronous) supported by online streaming (funded by UNESCO), ether pad (provided by BCcampus - Canada) and back channels like and twitter.

There were 22 face to face participants at the Council Room, who represented University of South Africa, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology - New Zealand, Southern New Hampshire University - USA, Commonwealth of Learning (Intergovernmental organization) - Canada, Otago Polytechnic - New Zealand, University of Canterbury - New Zealand, Thompson Rivers University - Canada, OER Foundation (International Organization) - New Zealand, Athabasca University - Canada, Empire State College (SUNY) - USA, Thompson Rivers University - Canada, Acharya Narendra Dev College - India, University of Southern Queensland - Australia, University of Canterbury - New Zealand, NorthTec - New Zealand, University of Wollongong - Australia and Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. More than 100 persons from 41 countries were registered as virtual participants and majority of them participated at the various sessions of the two-day open planning meeting depending on their interest and time-zone conveniences.

The statements made by the Anchor Partners of OERu at the beginning of the meeting revealed their commitment in nurturing the OERu system by contributing development support, content, credential services, and courses. Subsequently the participants (both face to face as well as virtual) actively engaged in group discussions on crucial topics such as:

  1.  Inaugural OERu credential
  2.  Quality assurance and cross-border articulation
  3.  OERu course prototype to be developed in 2012
  4.  Next Generation Learning Challenge
  5.  Open management of OERu system and its financial sustainability
The general set up of OERu courses would likely to be such that the courses would be developed individually or collaboratively by the participating institutions and added to a general course repository (most probably on WikiEducator). Apart from this the participating institutions would use their own Learning Management Systems for online delivery and remote management of courses.

The most prominent among the inputs came before the anchor partners in respect of the inaugural qualification was the recommendations of the SCoPE online seminar on ‘Designing OERu credential’ organized by BCcanpus, as a preparatory work for OERu open planning meeting. It has recommended following categories of credentials;

  1. Diploma of Arts
  2. Associate of Science
  3. Bachelor of General Studies
  4. Bachelor of Education & Bachelor of Nursing
  5. Masters of Education
The meeting has discussed above suggestions as well as other suggestions came up during the meeting.
OERTen partners would retain institutional autonomy for core services including assessment and credentialing within the institution's accepted quality frameworks for OERu courses as well.  Therefore OERu would also likely to require verify the identity of students verified in study centres etc. Such arrangements would also be required for final examinations. However a Transnational Qualifications Framework would be required for the purpose and the Commonwealth of Learning can effectively contribute for this. COL and UNESCO are particularly interested in implementing the OERu programme for African and Asian students on priority basis.

The OERTen network will provide first-year level courses during the foundation phase of the OERu. It would carry credit for a "pre-degree" exit credential (for example the Diploma of Arts at the University of Southern Queensland), carry credit towards an existing credential "on the books" of the relevant anchor partners, and would be a ladder towards an Associate or Bachelor Degree of General Studies / Trans-disciplinary studies for those partner institutions who offer this type of credential. professional bodies will not be considered during the foundation phases. 

The financial sustainability of the system would be maintained using the fee for credential services and by maximising return on investment by reusing and integrating OERu OERs for use in "on-campus" mainstream courses. The open planning meeting has discussed the possibilities of using Academic Volunteers International in course development, review and student support activities. The services of students, academicians, retired teachers etc can be  used as a reliable source of volunteer service.

The meeting expressed hope that in five years time the model OERu project  would achieve 5000 student enrolments. The yearly cost for the students shall not exceed 5000  US Dollar . The OERu would adopt  open,and transparent governance model. It was also decided to constitute Project Learning Group with representatives from anchor partners to network with the wider world and workout strategies for the implementation of OERu prototype  by February, 2012. The OERu is expected to be formally operational from 2013 onwards.

I also see tremendous scope for OERu, in the years to come, in facilitating knowledge transfer for alternative environment friendly technologies as being  seen in various accords of UNFCCC etc. Another potential area is lifelong learning as being demanded by the knowledge economies. Only  open and flexible systems like OERu would be able to promptly respond to the demands of the labour markets in knowledge economies. Moreover, when we would become 10 billion strong people in the current century itself, what else can ensure higher education for all?

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Guidelines for OER in Higher Education by UNESCO and COL

Yesterday (Nov 1, 2011) UNESCO and COL together have brought out the ‘Guidelines for OER in Higher Education’ at the UNESCO General Conference at Paris Headquarters. It is also a natural outcome for UNESCO as it had coined the "OER" phrase in 2002.  Perhaps an ideal memento to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the phrase - which has been working as a catalyst in converging and strengthening the efforts for open and inclusive higher education system all over the world. The UNESCO Open Educational Resources Platform was also launched in the same function. The platform offers selected UNESCO publications as open educational resources.

The introduction to the guidelines clearly states its purpose as “ encourage decision makers in governments and institutions to invest in the systematic production, adaptation and use of OER and to bring them into the mainstream of higher education in order to improve the quality of curricula and teaching and to reduce costs.”

The raise of knowledge economies, the projected 98 million growth to current 165 million  global enrolment for higher education  by 2025, innovations in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) etc make it imperative for our higher education systems to open up educational resources and further build on it through collaborative efforts and by avoiding duplication and wastage of time and resources.

The guidelines precisely explain all the crucial factors relating to the use of OER in higher education such as the higher education context, open licensing and the emergence of OER, the transformative potential of OER and the scope of the guidelines.

The guidelines are also contain separate sections for all the key stakeholders of higher education viz
  1. Governments
  2. Higher education institutions
  3. Academic staff
  4. Student bodies
  5. Quality assurance/accreditation bodies and academic recognition bodies 
Many governments in the world have already started to develop OER policies, many academic bodies have working policies on OER - I hope these guidelines would definitely exert further momentum for the main stream adoption of OER. The policy making bodies are usually found to be comfortable with triggering innovations on the basis of the guidelines and other documentations from intergovernmental organizations.

We should also realize that when the world population would touch 10 billion mark towards the end of the current century itself, the only powerful tools in our hands to meet the demand for higher education would be OER and ODL. Therefore let us carry forward the spirits of this UNESCO – COL joint initiative.

The CC-BY-SA licensed version of the guidelines can be downloaded from the Commonwealth of Learning website at
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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Living in a 10 billion plus world

A UN press release dated May 3, 2011 says: "The current world population of close to 7 billion is projected to reach 10.1 billion in the next ninety years, reaching 9.3 billion by the middle of this century, according to the medium variant of the 2010 Revision of World Population Prospects, the official United Nations population projections prepared by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs..." 

(See full text at

We officially touched the 7 billion mark yesterday (31/10/2011), and likely to touch 10 billion mark as predicted. In this context, a thought comes to my mind is: “What will be the greatest challenge before the 22nd century people?"

I think that living among ten billion plus population will be the greatest challenge before 22nd cy people. Therefore, it is high time we started to teach ourselves and our children to live in large crowds. Because it will take at least two generations’ time for such skills to become habits of individuals. It should start from revitalising the basic ethics of social life - which is being lost dangerously - such as perseverance, self restraint etc. If the capacity to acquire higher amount of luxuries is the indication of one’s wealth today, in the days to come, the ability to sacrifice luxuries intelligently would be the indication of one’s capacity to survive.Similarly, when the equations between demand and capacity to supply starts to crumble down one by one, ability to devise intelligent prioritization would become crucial in both individual and social lives.

In the same way all the systems of a rocket is being tested before its launch to ensure that it can withstand the friction and gravitational forces, it might become necessary for us to test all our social systems including the most basic ones such as health care, education, transportation etc to ensure that they are competent for a ten billion+ world. We should also realize that there is possibility for the effects of environmental issues (like climate change) and the effects of population explosion might get amplified by each other.

I anticipate, in the days to come, we might see vibrant discussions and hectic activities on the topic ‘skills and technologies for  a ten billion+ world’. Yes, it is the way how the man take up challenges, and stands on the earth with millions of years’ history!

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