The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is playing a leadership role in the development and use of open educational resources (OER) that can be freely shared, adapted and re-used. Recent initiatives in open schooling and teacher education demonstrate the potential of OER to support Learning for Development.
OER FOR OPEN SCHOOLS
COL’s “OER for Open Schools” initiative made significant strides in promoting the use of OER in open schools across the Commonwealth. This multi-year, pan-Commonwealth programme built capacity in developing OER in six Commonwealth countries, which resulted in a repository of OER for 20 subjects at the Grade-10 level: www.col.org/CourseMaterials.
Recognising the role of OER in expanding access to education, COL is continuing to support growth in awareness, acceptance and use of freely available learning resources in open schools. There continues to be a great need for capacity building so that educators have the ability to develop, adapt and share OER. By supporting enhanced capacity in online learning, COL seeks to contribute to the development of sustainable models of online learning in open schooling through various activities.
COL supported development of new OER and a TV channel to enhance access to basic education in Kenya. The Elimu TV channel and web portal were launched in September at Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi. The channel is broadcasting video lessons for out-of-school children and youth in the city’s least developed neighbourhoods. COL partnered with the Network for Non-Formal Education Institutions, a non-governmental organisation, to adapt lessons in 10 subjects to OER. These lessons can be accessed through Elimu’s web portal, www.nnfeischools.co.ke.
“In addition to making education more accessible, the Elimu initiative is contributing to OER that can be freely used by teachers and students anywhere,” said Ms. Frances Ferreira, COL Education Specialist, Open Schooling. “The next step will be to explore how to use mobiles to support learning among this target group.”
COL trained 25 teachers in Lesotho and Zambia to repurpose print-based course materials for online learning. Held in collaboration with the Ministries of Education in both countries, workshops in July (Zambia) and August (Lesotho) provided training in instructional design for online learning. Participants developed assignments that can be used in online courses and are continuing to work on developing online courses, with post-workshop support from a COL consultant. When complete, the courses will be freely available as OER on the Moodle learning management system.
COL is also sponsoring 20 students, including 12 from open schools, to take the Certificate in Designing and Facilitating eLearning programme at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. The online course consists of three 20-credit courses that focus on the theory and practice of eLearning.
COL Education Specialist, Ms. Frances Ferreira, made a presentation about development and use of OER at the Distance Education Association of Southern Africa (DEASA) annual general conference in Swakopmund, Namibia in September 2012
OER FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING
COL is collaborating with partners to improve the quality of English language teaching at the junior secondary school level through the Open Resources for English Language Teaching (ORELT) initiative.
ORELT began with extensive research about English language teaching in Commonwealth nations. Through a partnership of Ministries of Education, schools and teacher training institutions across the Commonwealth, ORELT has developed a bank of open–content, multimedia, English-language resources in online and traditional text formats to support school-based education. Educators in six countries in Africa and Asia collaborated over the past three years to develop the materials, incorporating case studies, activities, video, audio and print. Six modules have been created, covering essential skills in reading, writing and speaking English.
To ensure the new ORELT modules are successfully introduced and rolled out, COL hosted a workshop to train “Master Trainers”. Facilitated by the University of the Gambia, the four-day workshop brought together 25 educators from The Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. In addition to learning about the ORELT modules, participants received training in using the multimedia resources in the classroom, navigating the ORELT website, and adapting and sharing open resources.
The 25 Master Trainers are now leading in-country training of junior secondary school teachers and teacher educators. The ORELT materials will be disseminated among junior secondary school English-language teachers through training workshops in The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
“The ORELT modules offer a rich learning experience that will help improve learning outcomes in English-language teaching,” explains Dr. Abdurrahman Umar, COL Education Specialist, Teacher Education. “In addition to creating a library of open resources that can be adapted, shared and used, this initiative will also continue to build capacity in developing and using open educational resources.”
EDUCATION MINISTERS COMMIT TO POST-2015 DISCUSSIONS
Commonwealth education ministers concluded their 18th conference in Mauritius in August with an undertaking to contribute to United Nations and UNESCO discussions about global development goals after 2015, the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All goals. Ministers have set up a Commonwealth Ministers Working Group to ensure that Commonwealth perspectives are presented for inclusion in the framework for post-2015 anti-poverty targets.
In their Mauritius Communiqué, Ministers acknowledged that solid progress had been made towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals in education and the Education for All goals by 2015, particularly in universal primary education. They noted, however, that 23.3 million primary-aged children are still out of school in Commonwealth countries and identified quality education and equal access as common challenges.
COL formally reports to Commonwealth education ministers when they meet every three years at their Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (CCEM). At 18CCEM, COL partnered with the Commonwealth Secretariat to provide each education minister with a seven-inch tablet computer loaded with COL activity reports, conference and background documents, introductory videos and demonstration software. The tablets, described more fully on page 16, were presented through funding from UNICEF Child-Friendly Schools and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as a “tool for learning” that represents a part of the future of education.
Ministers also commended COL in their Communiqué, referring to COL’s growing impact and leadership in developing innovations in technology to enhance access to education. Education ministers also emphasised the need to strengthen the Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC) and the importance of developing and using OER for teaching and learning.
18CCEM was attended by 40 countries, including 34 delegations led by ministers. It also included parallel forums for stakeholders, teachers, you
The 19th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers will be hosted by The Bahamas in 2015.
Photo: Ministry of Education and Human Resources, Mauritius