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As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread, millions of learners and educational institutions globally have had to make rapid, unforeseen changes to how they run their learning programmes. Face-to-face teaching and learning have become impossible in many countries and there is uncertainty over when educational institutions will reopen their doors. This may have long-term effects on school programmes, examinations, and most importantly, learning. 

The pandemic has forced many educators and learners to explore new modes of learning provision such as online learning. It also places much greater emphasis on students being able to engage with educational resources as a primary mode of learning. Fortunately, over the last decade, a growing number of open educational resources (OER) have been made available by people in the education space for others to use. These OER offer great promise in ensuring that a range of educational materials are accessible to learners and educators.

What are OER?

There are many definitions of OER, one of the most comprehensive being:

Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property licence that permits their free use and repurposing by others. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. (Hewlett Foundation, OER Defined)

The Cape Town Open Education Declaration states that OER should be freely shared through open licences that facilitate use, revision, translation, improvement, and sharing by anyone. The materials need to be published in formats that allow for both use and editing, while accommodating manipulation and adoption on various technical platforms. It also requires that materials be made available in formats that are accessible to people with disabilities and people who do not yet have access to the Internet, where possible.

Creative Commons Licences 

The most common mechanism to share educational resources openly and legally is by using Creative Commons (CC) licences. Creative Commons ‘provides free, easy‐to use copyright licences to make a simple and standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work – on conditions of your choice’ (Creative Commons, nd). 

CC licences provide a wonderful opportunity to translate materials into other languages and use them for varying purposes. This is illustrated in the World Bank’s recent rapid response note, Remote Learning and COVID-19

A quick inventory of content that can be easily made available via remote learning is a first order of business. Freely available, ‘open education resources’ are plentiful in some languages; in languages where digital learning content is limited, translating existing open education resources from other languages may be worth considering, together with partners. (World Bank, 2020).

Over the years, countless educational materials have been available as OERs and released online. Because they are openly licensed, OERs can be rapidly aggregated and deployed in remote learning contexts to substitute for the loss of face-to-face teaching time caused by institutional shutdowns. With most proprietary educational materials locked behind paywalls and not free to copy or use, OERs can provide educators and students access to free, high quality resources, offered with no threat of litigation from overzealous copyright lawyers. 

In our upcoming series of communiques, we will share tutorials designed to provide users the skills to find and adapt OER. We will identify excellent open reading resources for your children while at home, and even how to start to assemble OER into a learning design. 

Our next installation will be on showcasing OER platforms. We will look at OER Africa’s activities and highlight some of the useful resources and sections on the website.

Image Credit: Bandita, CC-BY-SA 2.0

What's New

As the spread of COVID-19 continues around the world, face-to-face lectures have ceased in many countries and academics are trying to find practical ways of delivering curricula remotely. In response to this, the Association of African Universities (AAU) and OER Africa presented a series of four webinars on Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) strategies.

As the spread of COVID-19 continues around the world, face-to-face lectures have ceased in many countries and academics are trying to find practical ways of delivering curricula remotely. In response to this, the Association of African Universities (AAU) and OER Africa presented a series of four webinars on Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) strategies. In contrast to online learning, which is an experience that is planned from the beginning to be delivered online, ERT refers to ‘a temporary shift of instructional delivery to an alternate delivery mode due to crisis circumstances.’[1]

The webinars were intended to assist academics to implement ERT effectively. They covered a broad range of topics, including how to teach remotely; what content to cover; how to ensure that students are learning effectively; and how to communicate with students. We targeted academics with limited knowledge of online learning, aiming to provide a simple and practical guide to help them implement effective ERT for their students.

Recordings of all four webinars, along with their downloadable resources, are accessible here. To access information for individual webinars, click on the links below.

Webinar 1: Teaching effectively during the campus closure – Tips and tricks
Webinar 2: What to teach during campus closure
Webinar 3: How to know if learning is happening during campus closure
Webinar 4: Communicate effectively during campus closure

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To further support educators and students, OER Africa is also publishing regular communications on Open Educational Resources (OER) and their relevance within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Click on the links below to access articles in this series.
OER Africa COVID-19 Statement (3 April, 2020)
Understanding OER in a Context that Necessitates Remote Learning (9 April 2020)
Showcasing OER Platforms: OER Africa (15 April, 2020)
Online (and offline) reading resources for children (23 April, 2020)
How to Find Open Content (30 April, 2020)
OER Repositories in Africa (8 May, 2020)

For more, sign up to the newsletter here.

OER courseware is also available on the website. Follow us on social media for links to our news and events.
       

 

[1] Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T. and Bond, A. (2020). The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning. Educause Review. Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, most African higher education institutions have halted face-to-face classes. But learning can continue, so OER Africa would like to share resources to help you to keep the doors of learning open.

 

Photo courtesy of Trust Katsande, Unsplash

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, most African higher education institutions have halted face-to-face classes. But learning can continue, so OER Africa would like to share resources to help you to keep the doors of learning open. In contexts with limited educational means, Open Educational Resources (OER) can contribute to the accessibility of education and can encourage a culture of flexible and collaborative learning, particularly if the learning materials are reused, customized, and shared. 

A useful way of accessing such resources is via online knowledge repositories. A knowledge repository is an online database that systematically captures, organizes, and categorizes knowledge-based information. A few examples of OER repositories for the African context are:

 

 

 

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) OER – KNUST OER seeks to promote open learning through an open exploration that enables faculty, students, and the global academic community to access open licensed educational resources to maximize the impact and reach of their scholarly work through open sharing.

FundaOER, an initiative of VVOB, provides a repository of OERs to advance teaching and learning in Initial Teacher Education and Continuing Professional Development in South Africa. Articles, factsheets, videos, and other types of materials, covering different themes and phases, are freely and openly available on the platform.

The African Veterinary Information Portal (AfriVIP) contains materials pertaining to veterinary science. All its course materials, videos, animations, and images carry an open licence.

OpenUCT is the open access institutional repository of the University of Cape Town (UCT). It makes available and digitally preserves the scholarly outputs produced at UCT, including theses and dissertations, journal articles, book chapters, technical and research reports, and OER. These resources are organized into collections that are mapped against the university's organizational structure.

University World News recently published a list of South African OER, available here

For higher education courseware, the following resources are useful:

 

Following adoption of the UNESCO Open Educational Resources (OER) Recommmendation, UNESCO launched the Dynamic Coalition for the OER Recommendation on 2 March 2020

Following adoption of the UNESCO Open Educational Resources (OER) Recommmendation, UNESCO launched the Dynamic Coalition for the OER Recommendation on 2 March 2020.

The multi-stakeholder coalition aims to expand and consolidate commitments to actions and strategies, as well as reinforce international cooperation among all stakeholders in the four areas of the Recommendation:

1.     Building capacity of stakeholders to create, access, re-use, adapt and redistribute OER;

2.     Developing supportive policy;

3.     Encouraging inclusive and equitable quality OER; and

4.     Nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER.

The work of the Dynamic Coalition has become more pertinent amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as countless educational institutions have closed in response to various lockdown requirements. Millions of students and educators are required to study and work from home, thus necessitating greater use of freely available open and online learning resources.

In support of this, UNESCO has issued a call to support learning and knowledge sharing through OER amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Details about the call are available here.

In recognition of the importance of digital technologies, UNESCO has also launched a page featuring initiatives that it and its partners are involved in to harness the potential of digital technologies against COVID-19. You can access the page here.