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Open Education has the potential to make education more accessible, enable the creation of relevant teaching and learning materials, improve the quality of content, and empower learners to be critical thinkers and knowledge creators. Open Education Week (OE Week), held annually, is an opportunity for actively sharing and learning about the latest achievements in Open Education worldwide. OE Week provides practitioners, educators, and students with an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of open educational practices and be inspired by the OE community. OE Week will be held from 1-5 March 2021.

The term ‘Open Education’ is often used when discussing open educational resources (OER). However the term more broadly refers to a commitment to remove unnecessary barriers to access learning while seeking to ensure high quality educational experiences that will enable success both during and after studies. This commitment includes developing policies and practices of openness in entry requirements (with minimal or no restriction on qualifications), choice of courses, place of study and time, and so on. An open education approach can inform practice in face-to-face education, distance education, and online and blended learning.[1]

Open Education incorporates the key principle of learner-centredness. The learner should be the focus of the educational process and should be regarded as an active participant in an interactive engagement. Cognisance needs to be taken of the learner context, building on their experience wherever possible. Open Education should encourage independent and critical thinking. This is facilitated by regarding the learner as an active participant in the educational process and can be further enhanced by offering learners choices, possibilities, and contesting viewpoints within that process. Teaching independent and critical thinking empowers learners to be able to interact confidently and effectively within society.

Click here to learn more about Open practices, trends and opportunities in higher education in Africa.

 

Lifelong learning is central to openness. Learning should continue throughout life, rather than being limited to childhood and teenage years, and should be of direct relevance to the needs and life experience of learners. The concept of lifelong learning implies an acknowledgement of the reality that learning is a process in which all people are inevitably involved from birth until death and a consequent attempt to make structured educational opportunities available to people throughout their lives.

Education has become far more accessible to more people through the innovations introduced by Information and Communication Technology (ICT). While ICT has created many new possibilities for reaching learners, it also creates new barriers to access for many. Although online learning can accommodate different ways and styles of learning (making for greater accessibility) and enable the construction of a richer learning environment, all learners potentially face barriers to learning. These barriers may include the high cost of Internet access and technology, technical constraints in the use of technology, a shortage of appropriate resources (in the local language or context), or content that is not designed to be accessible to learners with disabilities.

Harnessing technology and online learning methods can provide access to education for those in remote areas, for the socially disadvantaged, and for the marginalised. If carefully implemented, Open Education can play a potentially important role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and enabling lifelong learning. Of course, effective learning design is critical and recognises that people learn differently and require learning resources that are related to their needs and circumstances.

The FLOE Handbook can guide teachers and content creators to develop more inclusive and accessible educational resources.

 

An important element of openness is licensing. Legal frameworks such as Creative Commons help to govern how open a resource is. These licences provide mechanisms to ensure that authors of materials can retain acknowledgement for their work while allowing it to be shared, can restrict commercial activity, and can aim to prevent people from adapting it if they so wish. Open licensing creates possibilities for teachers and learners to access teaching and learning materials that they may not otherwise have been able to access. While e-books for the academic market are becoming more widely available, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, unaffordable prices, an inability to buy e-books due to a refusal to sell or bundling of titles in packages, and restrictions on research copying are affecting coursework and research in universities. In the UK, libraries say they have struggled with high e-book prices and lack of availability for years, but this situation is now critical because students urgently need digital resources during the pandemic. Follow the hashtag #eBookSOS for more.

Using and creating OER encourages collaboration, so educators are able to share teaching practices and benefit from the ideas of others. Effective OER practices have the potential to improve the quality and reduce the costs of educational materials. This opens the possibility of making previously expensive materials affordably accessible to many. This is one potential solution to the challenges facing learners and teachers in Africa and across the world.

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) has created guidelines and a resource list for institutions to keep the doors of learning open during the COIVID-19 pandemic.

 

The fundamental principles underlying OER are the freedom to share knowledge and that the knowledge should be legally, socially, and technologically open. OER promote the creation and adaptation of content for different contexts. This is particularly important in Africa as it is the least visible continent online, despite accommodating a population of over a billion people. Content used in Africa is not always created by Africans. By using OER, learners and teachers in Africa are able to findadapt, and create open content that is tailored to their needs, inclusive, and reflects the local context.

OER Africa has developed a series of learning pathways for university academic staff that will enable them to improve their teaching and learning capacity using OER.

 

If you are interested in engaging in Open Education practices and networking with colleagues, there are a few ways to participate in OE Week. You can host an event, share OER, or attend activities hosted by others. For more information click here

Remember all the resources on the OER Africa website are free to use and share. Let us know what you are doing to celebrate OE Week. Tag @OERAfrica in your social media posts and use #OEWeek. 


[1] Commonwealth of Learning. (2020). Open and Distance Learning – Key Terms & Definitions [online]. Available from: http://oasis.col.org/bitstream/handle/11599/3558/2020_COL_ODL_KeyTerms_Definitions.pdf [accessed 22 October 2020].


For more articles in this series, click on the links below.

 

What's New

Are you familiar with open learning as an approach to education? Are open learning and open pedagogy the same thing? What does open pedagogy look like in practice?

In this week’s article, we explore the concepts of open pedagogy and open learning. We also unpack open pedagogy using an interactive learning template.

 

Are you familiar with open learning as an approach to education? Are open learning and open pedagogy the same thing? What does open pedagogy look like in practice?

Open Learning

In a report prepared by Saide (2000) for the South African Department of Education, the authors dispel certain misconceptions about open learning that have developed over time.

Firstly, open learning is not the same as distance education. The idea of open distance learning creates a false expectation that all distance learning is open. There are many instances of distance learning that do not provide open access or lead to success. In addition, face-to-face learning can be open. Open learning is an approach that has the potential to promote openness within a whole educational system.

Secondly, open learning is relevant to all fields of education, not just adult education.

And finally, open learning goes beyond opening learning through isolated, individual educational projects.

'The principles of open learning provide a set of benchmarks against which all aspects of any educational system (international, national, provincial, or institutional) can be measured. This process can lead to improvements in the underlying design of such system, because it can remove unnecessary closure and consolidate closure where it is important to the efficient and financially viable functioning of the system.' (Saide, 2000) 

In this report, Saide (2000) suggests that,

'open learning [is] an approach to education which seeks to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning, while aiming to provide learners with a reasonable chance of success in an education and training system centred on their specific needs and located in multiple arenas of learning.'

Open Pedagogy

There has been much debate about the link between open pedagogy, open educational resources (OER), OER-Enabled Pedagogy (Wiley & Hilton, 2018) and open educational practice (OEP). 

In an article published in the International Journal of Open Educational Resources (IJOER), 'Towards a Working Definition of Open Pedagogy,' Witt (2020) proposes a working definition of open pedagogy as  'any pedagogy informed by the practitioners’ conscious identification with the open movement, open access, and open educational resources.' He suggests that OER-enabled pedagogy and open educational practices address the how, [and] open pedagogy addresses the why.

In this spirit we want to share our conception of open pedagogy as part of an open learning approach. We are interested not only in what open pedagogy means, but also in the why and the how. We use a set of open learning principles to help us understand why open pedagogy is necessary, but also what it means in practice.

Open Learning Principles

Over time, Saide (2019) has developed and adapted a set of open learning principles and categorised them as follows:

1. Increasing access for success 

  • Learners have meaningful and affordable access to opportunities for lifelong learning.
  • Unnecessary barriers to access are removed.
  • Wherever appropriate, learning provision is flexible, allowing learners to increasingly determine where, when, what and how they learn, as well as the pace at which they will learn.

2. Enabling success

  • Providers create the conditions for learner success through learner support, contextually appropriate resources and sound pedagogical practices.
  • Learning processes centre on the learners and contexts of learning, build on their experience and encourage active engagement leading to independent and critical thinking.

3. Continuing success

  • Prior learning and experience is recognised wherever possible.
  • Arrangements for credit transfer and articulation between qualifications facilitate further learning.

The intention is for educational practitioners to apply these principles as part of an ongoing process of evaluation and improvement, to develop meaningful educational opportunities, regardless of the 'mode of delivery' used.

Open pedagogy is not just about open content

Wiley (2013) spoke about open pedagogy as “that set of teaching and learning practices only possible in the context of the free access and 4R permissions characteristic of open educational resources” (Wiley, 2013, final paragraph). Conole (2010) defined open educational practices as “a set of activities and support around the creation, use and re-purposing of Open Educational Resources (OERs)”. So open pedagogy (and open educational practices) assumes access to content and resources in the form of OER.

For us, access can mean many things. Hegarty (2015) associated open pedagogy with attributes such as participatory technologies; people, openness, trust; innovation & creativity; sharing ideas & resources, connected community; learner generated; reflective practice; and peer review. So, we need to think about access to technology, or access to data, for example. Particularly in this time of Covid, when most students are online (if they have access to data and technology) and remote we also think of access to people — each other and their lecturers.

What about access to the learning process? Think about university students you know of who struggle with reading, either because most, if not all, of the reading is in academic English and they do not have the experience of reading those kinds of texts. Or the student who has an educational background that has not prepared them well for post-school study. You may be thinking about a student who has work experience, but not in their direct field of study. For these students, access is about language, level, and what students already know. 

In our view, open pedagogy asks the question: how do we provide learning opportunities for students in ways that remove barriers to access, and scaffold and mediate learning in ways that support students to succeed?

Understanding open pedagogy

At the heart of our understanding open pedagogy is understanding how people learn. One of the open learning principles for enabling success is that,

'learning processes centre on the learners and contexts of learning, build on their experience and encourage active engagement leading to independent and critical thinking' (Saide, 2019).'

We have developed a set of requirements for giving practical expression to this principle.

People learn by doing things that lead them to construct their own new knowledge. Reading, creating a mind map, doing an interview, planning a learning session, creating a model, doing an experiment, or teaching a class are all examples of being actively engaged in the learning process. If an action is facilitated or mediated in some way, students begin to understand and reflect on their action, and in that way start to internalise what they have learned.

Telling or transmitting information results in limited learning. For deeper learning to occur, people need to engage in a meaningful activity and then reflect on what they have done to learn something from it. This is an active rather than a passive conception of how we gain new knowledge.

Learning is structured around key activities that build up into identified learning pathways. There are structural links between programmes, modules, units and activities.

An important concept in open pedagogy is the idea of three presences: social presence, teacher presence and cognitive presence.

The most important thing you can do to make online learning accessible, meaningful and successful is to engage students in supportive and collaborative active learning. Create a presence. Create a set of learning activities that engages students in meaningful thought (cognitive presence), discussion with other students (social presence) with you as a critical and compassionate guide (teacher presence). Saide (2020)

Let’s explore the following activity template to unpack open pedagogy a bit more. Scroll down in the block to use the interactive template.

Open pedagogy and open learning principles

Stop and think

Which of the open learning principles are supported by our concept of an open pedagogy?

Our concept of open pedagogy supports student access to active learning, supporting them to reflect, think critically and solve problems. In open pedagogy, the materials “become a mediator” (Moll & Drew 2008), facilitating a conversation between and amongst the students and the teacher and supporting progress through the identified learning pathways. Open pedagogy supports students to succeed and equips them for critical lifelong learning.

Are you open?

Additional Resources

For further ideas about activity based learning, access the following online module: Designing Engaging Learning Activities

Conole, G. (2010). Defining open educational practices (OEP) [Blog post]. http://e4innovation.com/?p=373

Hegarty, B. (2015). Attributes of open pedagogy: A model for using open educational resources. Educational Technology, 3-13. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ca/

Laurillard, D. nd. Learning Design

Mhlanga, E. 2009. Enriching online learning experience: the three ‘presences’, Saide.

Moll, I & Drew, S. 2008. Learning, a learning spiral and Materials Design, SAIDE, WIP.

OER Africa. 2020. Online assessment: How do we know if students are learning successfully?

Saide. 2000. Open Learning in South African General and Further Education and Training: Report Prepared for the South African Department of Education, May 2000.

Saide, 2003. What is a Learning-centred Learning Centre? p26.

Saide, 2019. Open learning principles Enabling successful learning

Saide, 2020. Quality Online Teaching and Learning, an online course

Wiley, D. (2013, October 21). What is open pedagogy? Iterating toward openness [Blog post]. http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/2975

Witt, A N. 2020 Towards a Working Definition of Open Pedagogy, IJOER, https://www.ijoer.org/towards-a-working-definition-of-open-pedagogy/

As readers will know, OER Africa is a strong proponent of open educational resources (OER) and open licensing. Creative Commons licences are the ones most frequently used when OER content is produced. There are six of them, which range from very permissive, allowing copying and modification (CC BY), to those that are more restrictive, permitting distribution of a work in its original form, but no modification (CC BY-ND).

Image courtesy of qthomasbower, CC-BY-SA 2.0

 

As readers will know, OER Africa is a strong proponent of open educational resources (OER) and open licensing. Creative Commons licences are the ones most frequently used when OER content is produced. There are six of them, which range from very permissive, allowing copying and modification (CC BY), to those that are more restrictive, permitting distribution of a work in its original form, but no modification (CC BY-ND). Users need not request permission to use resources with a CC licence, but the terms of each licence must be met. For more information on CC licensing, go to the OER Africa tutorial on Finding Open Content.

Creative Commons and other organisations discuss OER in the context of five key points called the five Rs – reuse, retain, revise, remix, and redistribute.[1] Retain, reuse, and redistribute mean that users have the right to download, distribute, and keep the content without requesting permission from the resource creator. Revise and remix mean that the user may change the content in some way without asking permission. As an example, the stories on African Storybook and Storyweaver can be reused, retained, revised, remixed, and redistributed. At the tertiary level, all OER Africa content carries a CC BY licence. Go to the OER Africa tutorial on Adapting Open Content for more information on the five Rs.

Although many OER proponents argue that all five Rs are required in an open licence for a resource to be considered truly open, some organisations have opted for more restrictive licences. Two African award-winning early literacy NGOs – Ubongo, headquartered in Dar es Salaam, and the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy (MILL), based in Johannesburg – have each decided to permit three Rs, but not to allow remixing or revision. MILL limits its resources to a non-commercial and non-derivative (CC BY-NC-ND) licence so that the methodology of its Vula Bula literacy materials can be retained. Ubongo uses the same licences for much the same reason; it does not wish its strict quality assurance methods to be compromised in any way through someone else’s adaptation. 

The experience of Ubongo and other organisations with different kinds of CC licences is discussed in Closed or open? Ubongo’s switch from copyright protected to Creative Commons licensing.

In many countries, the high cost of textbooks and financial burdens placed on students have led initiatives to write and publish openly licensed textbooks. Siyavula, a South African NGO, produces open textbooks in mathematics and science in English and Afrikaans that are aligned to the South African curriculum as set by the Department of Basic Education (DBE). It licenses some versions of its textbooks only as CC BY-ND, while others carry a CC BY licence. Textbooks that feature a DBE logo are branded with a CC NY-ND licence to prevent any changes without permission, while the logo does not appear in the CC BY version. The ones in the latter category are downloadable in ePUB format to allow for easy adaptation.

Figure 1 Siyavula textbooks are available in PDF or ePUB formats depending on the licensing conditions.

Licence type is an important consideration, but file format is equally significant. By way of example, text document formats such as Word or ePUB files are relatively easy to edit if you have the required software, but their PDF equivalents are not. In addition, video can be particularly challenging to adapt, even if it is legally permissible. Khan Academy (KA) videos are a case in point. KA offers most of its videos with a CC BY-NC-SA licence, which allows for changes in content or language. But adaptation requires software and skills that many educators do not possess.

Thus, OER content creators should consider both the most appropriate licence to apply to their work and the format in which it will be released. In 2015, the University of Cape Town published a three-step guide for academics on open licensing, which includes a discussion of content creator intentions, institutional policy frameworks, and selecting and application of licences.

Figure 2 All resources must be atttributed to the content creator.

Finally, OER content creators must correctly attribute every resource they use while producing their OER. The figure above shows the attribution page of OER Africa’s learning pathway on finding open content. Note that each resource includes information on the licence used.

In conclusion, while the meaning of openness can relatively easily be defined, working out aspects of openness that are most suitable to implement for different kinds of resources is a process that will be strongly influenced by the wider context in which these decisions are being taken. Some organisations want to maximise distribution but are reluctant to permit adaptation of their resources because of potential problems this might create. Others have no objection to their resources being adapted, but those resources are in a format that cannot be easily revised. Still other organisations are unwilling for their content to be reproduced and monetised by commercial publishers, either for ethical reasons or because it might jeopardise their own financial sustainability. This suggests that we need flexible, less prescriptive definitions of OER that will remain relevant for different contexts and needs and that allow people and organisations to move towards greater degrees of openness in ways that work best for them.


For more articles in this series, click on the links below.


[1] Open Educational Resources (OER): 5 Rs of OER. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2020, from https://nsufl.libguides.com/oer/5rs

 

Open Education has the potential to make education more accessible, enable the creation of relevant teaching and learning materials, improve the quality of content, and empower learners to be critical thinkers and knowledge creators. Open Education Week (OE Week), held annually, is an opportunity for actively sharing and learning about the latest achievements in Open Education worldwide.

Open Education has the potential to make education more accessible, enable the creation of relevant teaching and learning materials, improve the quality of content, and empower learners to be critical thinkers and knowledge creators. Open Education Week (OE Week), held annually, is an opportunity for actively sharing and learning about the latest achievements in Open Education worldwide. OE Week provides practitioners, educators, and students with an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of open educational practices and be inspired by the OE community. OE Week will be held from 1-5 March 2021.

The term ‘Open Education’ is often used when discussing open educational resources (OER). However the term more broadly refers to a commitment to remove unnecessary barriers to access learning while seeking to ensure high quality educational experiences that will enable success both during and after studies. This commitment includes developing policies and practices of openness in entry requirements (with minimal or no restriction on qualifications), choice of courses, place of study and time, and so on. An open education approach can inform practice in face-to-face education, distance education, and online and blended learning.[1]

Open Education incorporates the key principle of learner-centredness. The learner should be the focus of the educational process and should be regarded as an active participant in an interactive engagement. Cognisance needs to be taken of the learner context, building on their experience wherever possible. Open Education should encourage independent and critical thinking. This is facilitated by regarding the learner as an active participant in the educational process and can be further enhanced by offering learners choices, possibilities, and contesting viewpoints within that process. Teaching independent and critical thinking empowers learners to be able to interact confidently and effectively within society.

Click here to learn more about Open practices, trends and opportunities in higher education in Africa.

 

Lifelong learning is central to openness. Learning should continue throughout life, rather than being limited to childhood and teenage years, and should be of direct relevance to the needs and life experience of learners. The concept of lifelong learning implies an acknowledgement of the reality that learning is a process in which all people are inevitably involved from birth until death and a consequent attempt to make structured educational opportunities available to people throughout their lives.

Education has become far more accessible to more people through the innovations introduced by Information and Communication Technology (ICT). While ICT has created many new possibilities for reaching learners, it also creates new barriers to access for many. Although online learning can accommodate different ways and styles of learning (making for greater accessibility) and enable the construction of a richer learning environment, all learners potentially face barriers to learning. These barriers may include the high cost of Internet access and technology, technical constraints in the use of technology, a shortage of appropriate resources (in the local language or context), or content that is not designed to be accessible to learners with disabilities.

Harnessing technology and online learning methods can provide access to education for those in remote areas, for the socially disadvantaged, and for the marginalised. If carefully implemented, Open Education can play a potentially important role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and enabling lifelong learning. Of course, effective learning design is critical and recognises that people learn differently and require learning resources that are related to their needs and circumstances.

The FLOE Handbook can guide teachers and content creators to develop more inclusive and accessible educational resources.

 

An important element of openness is licensing. Legal frameworks such as Creative Commons help to govern how open a resource is. These licences provide mechanisms to ensure that authors of materials can retain acknowledgement for their work while allowing it to be shared, can restrict commercial activity, and can aim to prevent people from adapting it if they so wish. Open licensing creates possibilities for teachers and learners to access teaching and learning materials that they may not otherwise have been able to access. While e-books for the academic market are becoming more widely available, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, unaffordable prices, an inability to buy e-books due to a refusal to sell or bundling of titles in packages, and restrictions on research copying are affecting coursework and research in universities. In the UK, libraries say they have struggled with high e-book prices and lack of availability for years, but this situation is now critical because students urgently need digital resources during the pandemic. Follow the hashtag #eBookSOS for more.

Using and creating OER encourages collaboration, so educators are able to share teaching practices and benefit from the ideas of others. Effective OER practices have the potential to improve the quality and reduce the costs of educational materials. This opens the possibility of making previously expensive materials affordably accessible to many. This is one potential solution to the challenges facing learners and teachers in Africa and across the world.

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) has created guidelines and a resource list for institutions to keep the doors of learning open during the COIVID-19 pandemic.

 

The fundamental principles underlying OER are the freedom to share knowledge and that the knowledge should be legally, socially, and technologically open. OER promote the creation and adaptation of content for different contexts. This is particularly important in Africa as it is the least visible continent online, despite accommodating a population of over a billion people. Content used in Africa is not always created by Africans. By using OER, learners and teachers in Africa are able to findadapt, and create open content that is tailored to their needs, inclusive, and reflects the local context.

OER Africa has developed a series of learning pathways for university academic staff that will enable them to improve their teaching and learning capacity using OER.

 

If you are interested in engaging in Open Education practices and networking with colleagues, there are a few ways to participate in OE Week. You can host an event, share OER, or attend activities hosted by others. For more information click here

Remember all the resources on the OER Africa website are free to use and share. Let us know what you are doing to celebrate OE Week. Tag @OERAfrica in your social media posts and use #OEWeek. 


[1] Commonwealth of Learning. (2020). Open and Distance Learning – Key Terms & Definitions [online]. Available from: http://oasis.col.org/bitstream/handle/11599/3558/2020_COL_ODL_KeyTerms_Definitions.pdf [accessed 22 October 2020].


For more articles in this series, click on the links below.