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Supporting innovation in educational technology by enabling open educational practices


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Delivered at the Educational Technology Users Group (ETUG) Spring Workshop 2012 with the theme “Innovation: What’s on Your Horizon?”

Delivered at the Educational Technology Users Group (ETUG) Spring Workshop 2012 with the theme “Innovation: What’s on Your Horizon?”

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  • This talk will be based on my experiences working at the Centre for Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town. The focus will be on a small institutional open educational resources project I was involved with from 2009-2012. I would like to touch on: The case for open education in Southern Africa The open education project at the University of Cape Town Some of the unintended benefits and unforeseen consequences of the project And then share with you some other interesting open initiatives in the South
  • An often displayed representation of global science outputs clearly shows the issue of unrepresented outputs in Africa for science publications. Territory size shows the proportion of all scientific papers published in 2001 written by authors living there. Scientific papers cover physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, clinical medicine, biomedical research, engineering, technology, and earth and space sciences. There is more scientific research, or publication of results, in richer territories. This locational bias is such that roughly three times more scientific papers per person living there are published in Western Europe, North America, and Japan, than in any other region.
  • Furthermore most of the educational content being used in Africa comes from the developed nations. Although inadvertent, this may be considered a form of cultural imperialism as knowledge dictated as important in developed nations is absorbed by developing nations. The South African Minister for Higher Education calls for more locally produced educational content relevant to countries in Africa.
  • But its not all bad news. Concurrently Africa is coming online with deep sea cables approaching from all angles! In my time in African I saw a dramatic increase in the availability of bandwidth in Southern Africa. The number of providers is increasing, costs are coming down, mobile internet is default, and it’s a very exciting time. But does this only mean that content will flow from developed nations to developing nations faster?
  • Futhermore in most of the developing world, cell phone usage is exploding. I found that more of my friends in South Africa carried smart phones than those here in Canada. For the masses its their first computer and their first connection to the internet.
  • So institutions in Africa are faced with the next challenge, should they attempt to compete globally and increase the number of science outputs in peer reviewed journals? Those which in many cases are too expensive to purchase access to. Or could they use this new resource to solve developmental challenges and increase access to education?
  • I will report on one project which aimed to use new technologies to increase access to educational materials at the University of Cape Town. UCT enjoys a fabulous global reputation and numerous notable scholars. The currently growth adverse institution has approximately 25,000 students and 1000 academic staff. Nearly all teaching is done on the main campus with little to no distance education. Despite all of the prestige, UCT still sits in a country with great social problems; including vast inequality, limited access to basic services for some and a troubled schooling system resulting in many not being able to access higher education. Informal communities such as this are within 25 minutes of the university and multi-million dollar homes. Current debate at UCT initiated by VC Max Price "Can UCT be an elite university without being elitist?“
  • Impressively, UCT has a number of outreach programs which aim to help address these social problems. Many are in fact entirely run by students on a volunteer basis. These four on the left are student let teaching programs to help prepare pupils for university and improve their experience in schooling. The UCT knowledge co-op seeks to attract community partnerships with the university. The SCAP program and Opening Scholarship look at the changing nature of academic scholarship in light of new technological developments. OpenUCT and UCT OpenContent are aiming to increase access to UCT’s knowledge resources.
  • The ground for all of this work, the Cape Town Open Education Declaration; a major international statement on open access, open education and open educational resources which helped raise awareness about openness in South Africa
  • As I arrived in Cape Town in 2009 the Shuttleworth Foundation had just funded a project to launch open educational resources at UCT. OER UCT project, f unded by Shuttleworth Foundation to the total value of R800,000, had as its key activities: Surveying existing T&L resources with potential to be OERs Providing support to OER creators Facilitating the publication of 5 exemplar OERs Creating an OER Directory for UCT Documenting the OER UCT process as a case study Promoting longer-term sustainability of the initiative   With only a limited amount of funding - the equivalent of about £73 000 we needed to meet all our objectives (as stated above). As we knew that we could not rely on further funding from the Shuttleworth Foundation, we devised a number of strategies to ensure the longevity of the project. I will elaborate upon the 10 key strategies.
  • Our first challenge was forming a team to take this project forward. As we realised that we had very little funding for salaries, we decided to make the most of the time and skill sets of existing staff members of CET and only employed a part-time project manager and two part-time graduate students to implement the project. An academic in CET was appointed the director of the project and the Co-ordinator of the CET Learning Technologies section was appointed as technical manager as part of their usual activities and one learning technology consultant was co-opted from the learning technologies team. In addition we invited our colleague from Health Sciences who was project managing another OER project to join the team meetings on a regular basis.
  • A seminal decision was to opt for a resource-based approach and not a course-based approach as adopted by both MIT and OU. AS we did not have the funding to offer lecturers instructional design support, we chose to request lecturers to make available the resources they were prepared to share – from entire courses to individual resources such as podcasts, powerpoint presentations, lecture notes, worked examples, manuals, e-books). Our research in the Open Scholarship project had identified a number of potential resources and the willingness of many academics to contribute a selection of their resources.
  • A further strategy was not host resources on a separate repository, but rather to create a ‘portal’ to act as a directory to where the resources are already hosted so as to reduce duplication and maximise the use of existing infrastructure. Additional functions of the directory included capturing metadata, searching the site, linking to lecturers self-created portfolios and allowing lecturers to upload or remove resources themselves.
  • Rather than develop a directory from scratch, the team decided to investigate various Open Source Software (OSS) options and after trialling various products decided upon Drupal . Some of the specialist programming was undertaken by a software consulting company, but most of the customisation of the directory was undertaken by one of the graduate assistants under the guidance of the learning technology consultant. Once key requirement was that the directory would need to be integrated with the UCT login system so that there was no special username and login required for academics to contribute their resources.
  • In keeping with the pride-of-authorship model, a minimal moderation process was adopted where the OER team would check for copyright compliance - i.e. that an alternative intellectual property system such as a Creative Commons licence had been specified; that no embedded copyright was evidenced in the materials; that the format of the resource was congruent with the type of licence specified and that sufficient metadata was provided about the resource.
  • The OpenContent directory allows you to add context to your online resource by adding metadata which describes what it is. This makes it searchable, discoverable, and furthermore makes it part of the UCT collection of open online educational content. I think there is a real benefit, in being part of the collection of open resources we make available from UCT.
  • Following the 1 year project, it was decided that the management of the OER initiative would become part of the portfolio of the Curriculum Development Officer in the Centre for Educational Technology (CET) as this person already deals with supporting the development of digital resources for teaching and learning. Basically an instructional designer with a eye for creating open educational resources.
  • To promote the idea of Open Educational Resources we have adopted a range of marketing initiatives including running seminars and workshops on OER creation; running an OER blog, a project Facebook and Twitter account; arrange social events where OER contributors are acknowledged and negotiate a button on the UCT homepage to connect directly to The UCT OpenContent website.
  • The OpeningScholarship project recommended that the OER initiative at UCT should not be seen in isolation but should be seen as part of a more ambitious Open.UCT project that included making research and community engagement resources available to the general public. The initial plans for Open.UCT are in place and initial funding has been granted.
  • The growth of contributed open content at UCT has increased steadily and we now have more than 200 resources available.
  • Academics are also becoming increasingly interested in alternative analytic metrics and new ways of measuring influence. We found that reporting these back to academics often led to conversations around how their content could be even better described and indexed.
  • The big question most contributors of OER seem to have is: does my content actually ever get used?
  • The first example is of the IEEE chapter using our CHED computer literacy guides for lab training. Students from the chapter actually wrote to us asking for permission to use the guides. We were able to say “yes absolutely!” they are freely available on our website and the Creative Commons license provides the terms for reuse.
  • Of course the A guide for first year students, which was a resounding success and has been used by the University of Venda and the University of the Western Cape to help new students acclimate to the university environment.
  • One of our greatest stories of reuse was that or Matumo Ramafekeng, whose materials which were published as OER on OpenContent, were selected for publishing in the Journal of Occupational Therapy of Galicia, an open access journal for occupational therapists in the Spanish speaking world For those who have heard of Alan Levine, this story actually made his “Amazing stories of sharing 2010” edition!
  • Finally I just wanted to share some other interesting open education initiatives happening in South Africa.
  • Funda is an organization of student volunteer tutors that aims to improve the quality of teaching available to high school students in disadvantaged townships. On Saturday mornings,  high school students are brought to UCT to be tutored and mentored. The sessions are just 2 hours and transport is provided. Thanks to the help of the excellent tutors, the students get individual attention and this really helps them to excel. OER’s such as Khan Academy videos are being used to supplement instruction. Funda also has a project which seeks to translate Khan Academy videos into South African languages both through the subtitles and using voice over.
  • Siyavula (also a Shuttleworth project) supports and encourages communities of teachers to work together, openly share their teaching resources and benefit from the use of technology. Siyavula is based upon the collaborative textbook editor created at Rice University called Connexions and allows South African teachers to collaboratively author textbooks appropriate for their context. The books are also now being printed and recently were added to the approved book list for South African schools~
  • OER Africa is an innovative initiative established by the  South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide) to play a leading role in driving the development and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) across all education sectors on the African continent.
  • Thank you!
  • Transcript

    • 1. Supporting innovation ineducational technology by enabling open educational practices Michael Paskevicius Reporting from: Centre for Educational Technology University of Cape Town
    • 2. AgendaThe case for open education in Southern AfricaOpen education at the University of Cape TownUnintended benefits, unforeseenconsequencesOther interesting open initiatives in the South
    • 3. Global Science Research Outputs (2001) 2006 SASI Group (University of Sheffield) and Mark Newman (University of Michigan).
    • 4. “There’s been no significant break in relationsof knowledge production between the colonialand post-colonial eras. African universities areessentially consumers of knowledge producedin developed countries.”Blade Nzimande, Minister for HigherEducation and TrainingUNESCO World Conference on HigherEducation 2009 CC-BY Eve Gray:
    • 5. What’s different about Africa now?• 100x improvements in both international and national bandwidth• TENET/SANREN bandwidth 10Gbps (coming soon)• Enables new possibilities, especially for audio, video and rich media• Africa coming online CC- BY Steve Song
    • 6. Mobile revolution The penetration of mobile phone networks in many low and middle-income countries surpasses other infrastructure such as paved roads and electricity, and dwarfs fixed Internet deployment. You Know - Mobile Stats for Africa 2011, Compiled by Praekelt Foundation
    • 7. What can be done with this onslaught of bandwidth and access to knowledge? CC-BY Eve Gray:
    • 8. University of Cape Town : from - Settlement : from - Author:
    • 9. Open access/education projects at UCT
    • 10.
    • 11. OER UCT Project• Funded by Shuttleworth Foundation from March 2009 – February 2010, total value R800,000 ($97,000 CAD)• Activities: – Survey existing teaching & learning resources with potential to be OERs – Provide support to OER creators – Facilitate the publication of 5 exemplar OERs – Create an OER Directory for UCT – Document the OER UCT process as a case study• Encourage and support the production and sharing of South African open educational resources
    • 12. Strategy 1: Small part-time team• Employ a part-time project manager & graduate assistants• Use existing staff members of CET – Academic in CET – Project Director – Co-ordinator of the CET Learning Technologies -technical manager – Student volunteers
    • 13. Strategy 2: Resource-based OERIncludes:• entire courses• individual resources – e-books – Manuals – Presentations – Podcasts – Lecture notes – Animations
    • 14. Strategy 3: Referatory of OER• Reduce duplication and maximise the use of existing infrastructure• Directory allows – Lecturers to upload or remove resources – Lecturers to capture metadata – Search, browse and discover resources by category or keywords
    • 15. Strategy 4: Use OSS - Drupal • Use Open Source Software + Drupal modules customised by CET team • Specialist programming and theming done by consulting company • Uses same authentication as other UCT sites
    • 16. Strategy 5: Academic agency• Decentralised uploading – Individuals academics upload and maintain their resources directly• Pride of authorship – Quality assurance with the individual not the system – Quality assurance part of broader teaching and learning systems, not separate• Minimal moderation – Copyright compliance only
    • 17. Strategy 6: Metadata standardUsers add Dublin Coremetadata which increasesthe discoverability of aresource This particular resource is hosted in the LMS, but described and shared in OpenContent
    • 18. Strategy 7: Project incorporated into existing portfolio• To ensure the sustainability of the UCT OpenContent directory, the management of the OER initiative would become part of the portfolio of the Curriculum Development Officer in the Centre for Educational Technology (CET)
    • 19. Strategy 8: Marketing• Seminars & workshops• Blog – OER@UCT• Facebook / Twitter• Social events• Button on UCT homepage
    • 20. Strategy 9: Innovation grants • 9 small grants in 2011 • £800 ($1,200 CAD) each • Health Science, Engineering, Law, CHED, Science • To create and/or adapt OER • From entire curriculum to small media intensive teaching and learning resources
    • 21. Strategy 10: Open.UCT• Aims to make freely available scholarly resources which can be shared, including research, teaching and other scholarly resources• Engage the UCT community in open education and open scholarship issues in the broader sense• Participate in global open education and open scholarship discussions from a developing country perspective
    • 22. 0 50 100 150 200 25001-201002-201003-201004-201006-201007-201008-201009-201010-201011-201012-201001-201102-201103-201105-201106-201107-201108-201109-201110-201111-201112-201101-201202-201203-2012 monthly Growth of OER at UCT Resources added Growth of total content
    • 23. Measuring influence: Alternative metrics
    • 25. Computer Literacy in the CommunityIEEE UCT chapter use the openly licensed computerliteracy guides to support training in a computer labdonated to a local high school
    • 26. Studying at University: A guide for first year students • Used by Venda University and the University of the Western Cape with new students • Stellenbosch University uses some of the illustrations • The guide has been accessed over 3800 times via the directory and over 600 physical printed guides have been sold!
    • 27. OpenContent becomes a Journal Article• Materials published as OER on OpenContent selected for publishing in the Journal of Occupational Therapy of Galicia, an open access journal for occupational therapists in the Spanish speaking world
    • 29.
    • 30.
    • 31. Collecting OER in Africa: OER Africa
    • 32. Prepared by: Michael Paskevicius OpenUCT OpenContent Directory: Follow me: Presentations: This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 South Africa License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.