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Although textbooks are a traditional component in many higher education contexts, their increasing price have led many students to forgo purchasing them and some faculty to seek substitutes. One such alternative is open educational resources (OER). This study by John Hilton III synthesizes results from sixteen efficacy and twenty perceptions studies involving 121,168 students or faculty that examine either (1) OER and student efficacy in higher education settings or (2) the perceptions of college students and/or instructors who have used OER.

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Are academics at your institution struggling to find the time and space to invest in their own continuing professional development (CPD)? With so many competing priorities, many academics find it difficult squeeze CPD in among their other daily responsibilities.

Are academics at your institution struggling to find the time and space to invest in their own continuing professional development (CPD)? With so many competing priorities, many academics find it difficult squeeze CPD in among their other daily responsibilities. CPD is often the first thing to be jettisoned in busy schedules. Gone is the time when five days of training could be allocated to improving the skills and knowledge of academics. So how might we rethink academics’ CPD to make it more accessible and relevant? 

OER Africa is conducting research on different CPD methods that might resonate with busy academics. We are advocating repackaging training to be appealing, engaging and relevant to today’s academic. Below is an interactive report developed to showcase some of the initial findings of this research. Initially presented as part of the OE Global’s 2021 CONNECT conference, it is now made available for your attention, right here.

Please click the link below to access the interactive presentation, but be warned, your active participation will be required! Please complete the interactive components of the presentation honestly and fully as we would like to use your data as part of the research process.

                              

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In this week’s article, Leanne Rencken delves into the ongoing collaboration between the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) and OER Africa. OER Africa has developed three learning pathways, as part of its grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and, along with AfLIA, is piloting them with university and academic librarians on the continent.

African Library and Information Associations & Institutions (AfLIA) Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, 2019

Image courtesy of AfLIA, CC BY

 

Report by Leanne Rencken,[1] for OER Africa.

Three inspiring conversations with remarkable African librarians provided me with great hope that our libraries on the African continent are in good hands.

Why did I have these conversations? My mission was to find out more about the ongoing collaboration between the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) and OER Africa

OER Africa has developed three learning pathways, as part of its grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and, along with AfLIA, is piloting them with university and academic librarians on the continent. 

The pilot project focused on three learning pathways:

  • Find Open Content is a short tutorial for participants to acquire the skills necessary to search for open content, decipher Creative Commons rights and permissions and evaluate the accuracy and relevance of Open Educational Resources (OER) identified.
  • Adapt Open Content provides a rapid solution to adapting open content for new purposes. It covers adaptation options, and how to revise and remix open content.
  • Publish using Open Access explains what Open Access is, and why academics might consider publishing in this way. It goes on to discuss publishing options, guidelines, and touches on other Open movements.

I spent a few delightful hours on Zoom calls with Dr Nkem Osuigwe, who is based in Nigeria, but commutes to Accra, Ghana for work, Dr Sarah Kaddu, who is based in Kampala, Uganda and Dr Ayanda Lebele, who is based in Palapye, Botswana. 

With their shared vision, curiosity, thirst for knowledge, leadership, and a collection of PhDs, it’s not surprising that I’m in awe of these three women who, in one way or another, are stewards of library science and services on the African continent.

Dr Nkem Osuigwe, who is the Human Capacity Development and Training Director at AfLIA, chatted to me about the pilot, in which 50 librarians across Africa participated, and who, by completing these learning pathways, are testing innovative alternative approaches to continuing professional development (CPD), to reduce dependence on traditional workshop-based professional development. 

Dr Osuigwe reveals herself through anecdotes; she is a great storyteller and admits she is driven by curiosity and her love for anything that concerns reading. She is the only librarian in a family of medical professionals, her late father, husband, and children included. She explains that she holds a position of importance in her home, because doctors can’t know everything, and often turn to their in-house librarian for research assistance.  

This same thirst for knowledge, and innate hunger to find out more about how the world works led to her appointment at AfLIA and how she approaches her current position. 

As she describes it, AfLIA is the platform for all librarians in Africa to come together, learn from each other, and encourage one another. It’s a strong network of different types of libraries, as well as an advocate for better operating environments for libraries on the continent. One of her most vivid memories, from when she first started out at AfLIA, is of a goosebumps-inducing visit to a library in Nakaseke, just outside Kampala. She was struck by how much the humble, two-room establishment influenced and involved the community it served.

"This little library could get news from the radio, TV, newspapers, but also books. They knew when and where it was going to rain, the cost of seedlings, how to get better produce. They were passing this information down to members of the community, so, in turn that made the community go there to find out, ‘where do I sell my bananas today, at what price, how do I sell them, which market will give me higher prices…’ That was the first time I realized that public libraries can really do awesome things when the people that work there understand what it is all about, when they engage their user communities more."

Thanks to this need to know more, see more, and do more, coupled with her networking skills, Dr Osuigwe stumbled across open licensing. She pursued a friendship with Amna Singh of StoryWeaver on Twitter, and, through these interactions was introduced to Pratham Books (India) and its enormously appealing StoryWeaver project. This work sees the creation of openly licensed children’s storybooks that can be translated, copied, and adapted at will, because of the Creative Commons licence used. Once she had made the connection, written a book for the platform, and participated in a StoryWeaver competition to translate children’s stories, Dr Osuigwe had a better idea of the potential for open licensing, what it means for African libraries, and how children can access books in their mother tongue.

And because Dr Osuigwe goes all-in with everything she does, she continued to make fruitful connections, initially via Twitter and then in-person, between AfLIA and Wikimedia, as well as AfLIA and OER Africa. Subsequently, several productive projects have ensued. 

For the learning pathways pilot, AfLIA selected potential participants from amongst its tertiary-level librarian community. They received questionnaires to ascertain their knowledge of OER and open licensing, Open Access, and using the Internet to retrieve information. Librarians from nine universities in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda were ultimately selected. 

Dr Lebele and Dr Kaddu were two of the participants selected to participate in the pilot project, which consisted of an introductory Zoom call, followed by a call for participants for each learning pathway. The librarians had two weeks to complete the learning pathway(s) they had chosen. Participants also received pre- and post-pilot questionnaires and a user experience survey. 

For Dr Kaddu, who works as a lecturer at the East African School of Library and Information Science at Makerere University, CPD is critical, because she’s got to stay relevant to her students, who are a lot more digitally savvy than she was when she studied for the same degree. As she explains it:

"When you look at the information landscape today, you’ll see that it’s characterized by plenty, there is a lot of information available out there, so the question is, how do I navigate all this information?"

She also says that the webinars AfLIA has provided, as well as the digital skills it is supplying to support educators in their daily work, have been well received. 

"They raise awareness of existing trends that we might otherwise take a while to get to know. AfLIA, being a continental voice, has been key in unifying all that is needed on the continent, there is one place to go for guidance on curricula, for example, and it’s been very useful."

In fact, Dr Kaddu, who completed the Adapt Open Content and Publish Using Open Content learning pathways, has taken these resources and worked them into her own curriculum, so when her publishing seminars with the masters and doctoral students come up, she is teaching them a lot of what she’s just learnt. 

While Dr Osuigwe believes that much of what librarians learn during their formal education can become obsolete in five to ten years, Dr Kaddu reckons that sometimes it feels like three to six months. To counter that, she says:  

"You must continuously learn and discover what is out there to make your work better, something that is going to complement what you are doing, to make your work appreciated, otherwise your learners will challenge you. Acknowledge that there is a gap, while you are teaching, and challenge your students to help."

Prior to the pilot project, Dr Kaddu had a vague awareness of OER, and the symbols representing the various Creative Commons licensing options. However, following these tutorials, she says a lot has now been clarified for her, and in turn for her students. 

‘They were really awesome, they were well designed, the information was easy to find, the materials were very, very clear,’ she says of the tutorials, and although she only had to complete two of the three, she’s working on learning pathway one in her free time. 

Like many others in her line of work, Dr Kaddu is mindful of the fact that ‘academics are supposed to publish’. She says knowing what she now knows, she plans to publish more and is advocating for open content. 

"I really want people to put their content out in the public domain, so that it can be utilized. If we publish to a greater audience, who are available to comment on our work, we can only improve. When info is in the open, it attracts many benefits. I no longer want to have it ‘closed’ – that’s selfish, and it’s not taking Africa anywhere. We need to add on to the existing literature, content, and data we have. We want to promote our scholars."

It’s going to take some convincing though. Dr Kaddu says the initial reaction, amongst her students, to publishing using open access, is negative. She says, ‘we need to be into it, to participate in it and promote it, then they will appreciate it’.

Dr Ayanda Lebele is the Director of Library Services at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST). She tells me that it’s impossible to talk about her professional self separately from her private self because ‘I’m passionate about librarianship, it’s generally who I am.’ While she has this in common with her colleagues from Nigeria and Uganda, there are other similarities in their approaches to work.

‘For it to be functional, and effective, it’s the people that matter the most,’ says Dr Lebele, describing her team of librarians or, as she sees them, her work family, at BIUST.

To this end, she has entrusted a lot of the processes around CPD to her team, directing them where necessary, but also letting them find their own way. That way, she’s constantly learning as well. 

With regards to the learning pathways, she had 16 members of her team sign up for the tutorials. It was a challenge, as they were just going into lockdown in Botswana at the time, so there was the related anxiety, difficulty in adapting to working from home, and data and device limitations. 

But she’s pleased to report that they succeeded and are still reaping the benefits. One of her team members, Winnie Jamara, was the self-appointed champion for the completion of the course work, while another, Barulaganye Hulela has taken the knowledge on board and applied it specifically to podcast development. 

‘She adapts content we get from the open access platforms and uses it to suit the BIUST context, and to disseminate information to our audience, who we no longer interact with face to face due to COVID-19,’ Dr Lebele explains. ‘Through the pathways we did, we’re able to enhance our service delivery.’ 

Just as Dr Kaddu admitted that there was some hesitancy in her students adopting the idea of open publishing, Dr Lebele has seen a similar attitude from teaching academics at her own institution. She believes that, as librarians, they have some responsibility towards changing this mindset.

‘We see ourselves as knowledge workers,’ she says.

"We don’t just manage giving people information, we also manage how they participate in knowledge creation. We have a responsibility to help those who don’t have the awareness, to know their role is not just to be reading knowledge created by other people; they also have to package their own knowledge, so that somebody else may benefit from it in a context that best suits their environment."

Having completed the Adapt Open Content and Publish Using Open Content learning pathways, Dr Lebele is a great believer in the subject matter, but would like to see a more basic introduction to open licensing and OER. She explains further, saying we need to take a step back to where people are, bring them on board and build their interest. She’s concerned that ‘people don’t see the need’. 

Dr Osuigwe shares this sentiment: 

"People inherently want to learn, but the point is that sometimes you don’t know that something exists, and so, you don’t hunger for it. Once you’re curious to know what’s happening in your field, and you dig into it, you stir up that hunger to learn."

Finally, Dr Osuigwe chatted to me about motivation, what will drive librarians to complete these tutorials, and thus embrace this unique opportunity for CPD.

With reference to open licensing and OER, she says:

"This is an area that people do not know much about, and it’s also an area that will help librarians generate more resources for their user communities. Where they can go and learn how to collaborate with others and to create resources if needs be. That’s the motivation for me! I believe that in everybody there’s a curiosity quotient, there’s that element in everyone born in this world to find out what’s next. But you know, life kind of puts out the fire in almost everyone, so what we are trying to do is to reignite that fire to find out what’s next, what can be done, how can this be achieved. This is the adventure!"

If you’d also like to get in on the adventure and find out more about open licensing and OER, you can complete the learning pathways available here on the OER Africa website.

 

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[1] Leanne Rencken is an enthusiastic, happy person with years of experience in content creation, curation and publishing. She has travelled extensively across Africa, from Botswana where she grew up, to Nigeria, Kenya, Angola and beyond. She believes in the transformative power of great content, no matter the platform or product. Most recently this love of story-telling has led to her to pursuing travel, teaching English as a foreign language, and freelance writing and editing on a wide-range of topics.

 

 

Sustainable food systems and climate change are pressing global issues that go hand in hand. Will these challenges be left to the youth because they will be most affected? This article will explore what role OER can play in empowering youth to transform food systems.

Image courtesy of Billy Chester, Unsplash

On 9 August, 2021 the world’s leading climate scientists delivered their starkest warning yet about the deepening climate emergency. Sustainable food systems and climate change are pressing global issues that go hand in hand. Will these challenges be left to the youth because they will be most affected? This article will explore what role OER can play in empowering youth to transform food systems.

International Youth Day, which takes place on 12 August, aims to bring youth issues and challenges to the attention of the international community while also celebrating the potential of youth as partners in today’s global society.

Glover and Sumberg [1] explain why the youth are an important demographic:

Today's youth generation is the largest in history, and the global population of young people is concentrated in low- and middle-income countries located in South and East Asia and Africa (The World Bank, 2006; IFAD, 2019). The interests and needs of this youth generation are important, not only because they are many, but because they will need–indeed, they are entitled to expect–decent work and livelihoods, as well as long and healthy lives; yet, to achieve this objective for so many people will be challenging in an era of ecological stress. From a development perspective, today's youth generation is on the front line: it will have to cope with the effects of environmental and climate change, which are likely to accelerate and intensify during their lifetimes and those of their children.

The 2021 theme for International Youth Day is ‘Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health’. In Africa, food security and sustainable farming practices have always been important. While the agricultural industry continues to be the largest source of employment in many African countries, off-farm food-related activities are expected to be important for future job opportunities, including for youth.[2]

Stakeholders in the educational and agricultural sectors need to ensure that youth have the support mechanisms to amplify efforts collectively and individually to protect the Earth and life, while integrating biodiversity in the transformation of food systems. Given the planet’s growing population, producing sufficient healthier food sustainably will not ensure human and planetary wellbeing if other crucial challenges are not also tackled, such as social inclusion, health care, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation. [3]

Empowered youths can lead community development efforts to facilitate the improvement of lives in their community, appreciating and supporting cultural differences, and being custodians of the land, water and wildlife. Youth in Africa are expressing strong readiness and passion in actively contributing to the processes of delivering solutions that transform food systems. [4]

The next generation recognises that our future depends on functioning food systems, and at the same time, it is Africa’s youth that holds the power to deliver them. To begin with, young Africans are informed and educated, alert to the twin threats to our prosperity of malnutrition and climate change. We do not farm like our parents and grandparents farmed, nor do we eat the way our forebears ate.

 – Mike Nkhombo Khunga, Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Global Youth Leader, Malawi, and vice-chair of the UN Food Systems Summit's Action Track 5: building resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses [5]

How can OER empower youth to fulfil this role?

Technical and Vocational Training (TVET) in agriculture faces specific challenges, such as a lack of formalized training programmes and agriculture not being an aspirational career.[6] OER can be used as an important building block for skills development in the TVET sector. This is especially important in the field of agriculture and food systems, as openly licensed content can be contextualized and adapted to be culturally and environmentally relevant, while documenting agricultural practices can help to share these beyond local communities. Agricultural content for TVET needs to be linked to advances in technology, facilitate innovation, and have greater relevance to a diverse and evolving agricultural sector, with a focus on agribusiness and entrepreneurship. Digital technologies, OER, and open education practices in this sector can provide access to innovative models of agricultural processes and marketing that may not have been accessible before. They can also provide a means for sharing this knowledge from one generation to the next, despite the change in many rural societies where more children are enrolled in school and spend less time in the fields with their elders. Open education practices can, when well implemented, contribute to reduce the costs of producing and distributing course material, expand access, meeting the needs of learners in different contexts, and therefore be beneficial to learners in the developing world. 

OERs can contribute to making informal and formal skills training accessible and affordable  in the farming and food systems industries. Beyond technical skills, building capacity for effective management, decision-making, communication, and leadership are required to create jobs in the agricultural sector. OERs can be part of finding, implementing, and sharing innovative solutions to make employment in food systems appealing and to strengthen different sectors managing our food from farm to fork, while ensuring the existing knowledge is not lost on the way. These OERs can be integrated or adapted for community development programmes or used for informal learning if they are accessible, thereby enabling and supporting youth to become leaders in the development of sustainable and resilient food systems.

  • OER Africa has resources on food security and African agricultural practices, some of which were developed as part of a programme to train household food security facilitators to work as change agents in the areas of agriculture, food and nutrition using participatory learning in a structured environment focusing on households within communities.

All the resources developed for this programme are available here:  https://www.oerafrica.org/household-food-security-programme

  • The Young Professionals for Agricultural Development website has some suggestions for ways to engage youth in agriculture.
  • Digital Green works with partners to create digital solutions to assist rural communities and increase the effectiveness of smallholder farmers in the developing world. These solutions are shared using a CC BY licence and include production and dissemination of community videos to share knowledge [7] and using open-source software to share data to assist farmers boost agricultural productivity and food security.
  • African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) works toward inclusive, agriculture-driven prosperity for Africa by strengthening the production and dissemination of more gender-responsive agricultural research and innovation. AWARD invests in African scientists, research institutions, and agribusinesses so that they can deliver agricultural innovations that better respond to the needs and priorities of a diversity of women and men across Africa’s agricultural value chains.
  • This toolkit synthesizes a decade of learnings and resources from agriculture and forestry mentoring programmes implemented by Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) and AWARD.
  • This NEPAD concept note provides information on how to curate openly licensed skills development course materials and content aimed at African youth.

There is increasing urgency to tackle global issues such as climate change and food system challenges. African youth lie at the centre of opportunities to galvanize and sustain positive change at a systemic level and OER provide an invaluable tool to assist them with the skills and knowledge to do so.



Related articles

Why is ‘Open Education’ important?

Promoting diversity and inclusion in the OER space

Open pedagogy

 

Access the OER Africa communications archive

 


[1] Glover D and Sumberg J. (2020). Youth and Food Systems Transformation. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 4:101. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2020.00101/full

[2] Townsend et al., 2017 in Glover D and Sumberg J. (2020). Youth and Food Systems Transformation. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 4:101. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2020.00101/full

[6] Brown, T., and Majumdar, S. (2020). ‘Agricultural TVET in developing economies: Challenges and possibilities’ UNEVOC Network Discussion Paper. Available from www.unevoc.unesco.org/l/687