Institutionalizing OER at the University of Cape Town


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This presentation will introduce the exciting terrain of OER, identify the social, technical, legal, and financial motivators that are enabling the movement, and demonstrate how it has the potential to change academic practice and create new avenues for collaboration and feedback. He will argue that in adopting and familiarising oneself with OER practice academics can become ‘global scholars’, embracing Web 2.0 tools and open licensing systems which have the potential to enhance and increase the reach of their knowledge.

The presentation will detail an African university’s journey towards institutionalizing support for open educational resources. The talk intends to provide a base with which OER advocates can encourage African academic leaders to embrace openness and to highlight some of the benefits not only for the global community but also for the institution, students and contributing academic.

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  • THEME: What Progress with OERs in Africa? How far have we come with developing African learning object repositories? What progress has been made with building the continent’s open education resource base? Presentation Slides: We generally advise speakers that, in a Presentation Session, given that you are likely to have a limited time to present, the "positioning" of your presentation should be kept to one or two slides, and the details of what you have done kept to 4 – 5 slides so that the focus for another 5 slides (maximum) can be on sharing outcomes, ideas and lessons learned. Your presentation should thus consist of approximately 12 slides . Presentation slot: Friday, May 28th, 2010  13:45 – 15:15
  • Firstly, an alternative conception of what I believe OER might become. Open educational resources could be the openly licensed and freely accessible teaching and learning resources created to support the process of teaching. What if all resources created for teaching and learning at universities were made available by default as OER? Would we benefit as a global society by increasing access to inquisitive minds? Would it mean that we might get better prepared students in our classrooms? Could it improve teaching by enabling academics to select and combine the best possible media to support their teaching? These are questions beyond the scope of this presentation, however I will be able to reflect on our institutions journey to lay the groundwork for such an open ecology.
  • But first lets touch on why this is happening now. Overall the biggest change is in advancing technologies. This is because the cost of sharing digitally has been reduced drastically. Presumably in the past, cost alone was reason enough not to share. Most of our teachers are currently creating teaching materials in digital form for our classes. We think it makes sense to extend the reach of these materials by sharing them freely and openly on the internet? We have a change our social understanding of knowledge sharing. Consider the Open Source Software movement which led the way in showcasing the value of collaboration, openness and the power in an ‘architecture of participation’ (O’Reilly 2003) The wealth of teaching and learning materials now available for legal use online enable academics to select and combine resources without re-inventing the wheel every time they revisit their curriculum . This is key for busy academics and resource constrained institutions. OER presents real benefit to users and creators in terms of having already-archived materials to draw from, allowing educators the time to focus on pedagogy, context, and teaching. Thirdly the key initiative enabling the legal sharing and re-working of online content and materials has been the development of alternative licensing systems which accommodate the preservation of ‘some rights reserved’ as opposed to the old binary model of full copyright versus public domain. These include the creative commons license as well as the GNU General Public Licenses.
  • With seed funding from the Shutteworth Foundation UCT was able to conduct an audit of existing open materials on campus, identify, customise and deploy a software platform to host and share OER from UCT, and run advocacy and awareness campaigns to support OER production. Fortunately, there was another project happening in our Health Sciences campus funded by the Hewlett grant via the University of Michigan. This project was responsible for the creation of OER materials specifically for health sciences. These two projects aligned themselves very early in the lifecycle and were able to work together immensely. This is an excellent example of two distinctly funded projects working together in tandem towards a common goal . We were able to use some of their processes around OER creation, and they were able to use our directory to showcase the results of the project.
  • During our initial audit we discovering learning resources which had been created and were already being shared quite openly on the internet. Some had licenses which made them OER, and some were just out there! Our project then needed to identify and catalogue these resources and in some cases help academics work through the idea of open licenses. In fact we had one academic who had been sharing his teaching material via an open website since the early 90s. He believes in academic sharing as the default and had planned his sabbatical devoted to the development of open teaching and learning materials. So it was more a task of organizing and cataloguing the already shared content from the university. We found teaching materials shared openly on our departmental servers, LMS, social hosts such as slideshare and youtube and educational blogs and websites. We ended up drawing numerous sketches of how we might tie it all together, as illustrated here. Our task was then to: Ensure open licenses were in place and understood in terms of embedded 3 rd party content. Organize and share the metadata which describes each resource with international repositories. In a sense we were sharing and consolidating the idea of openness at our institution. To do this we needed to create a local web based service where academics could create, manage, and share some parts of what they considered useful for teaching.
  • UCT has a well established LMS based on the Sakai OS platform. A number of the resources which had been identified as potential OER were in fact hosted in our LMS. In many cases they were hosted publicly – but near impossible to locate through search. The OER directory was therefore designed to complement the LMS by allowing contributors to list and describe resources wherever they might be hosted thereby adding metadata and discoverability to the link. In terms of selecting software we knew that we would be using open source. We assessed Plone, e-prints, dSpace, Wordpress, and Drupal. Each piece of software was tested to accommodate the results of our audit and basic requirements, a subset of the software matrix is shown here. What we were finding at UCT were intact resources of teaching & learning materials contextualized in many different formats and in various locations. The audit of what might be already shared at our institution, was an essential process which allowed us to determine what kind of system would suit our particular needs. We selected Drupal based on the ease of use and setup to meet our requirements. The large community around this OS project was also a key factor in the selection. Drupal allowed us to design a system would be driven by the users and allow people to contribute autonomously.
  • So we launched the UCT OpenContent directory on February 12 th , 2010. A place for UCT academics to list, describe and share teaching and learning materials that they designated as OER. Items are organized in a taxonomy based on the universities organizational structure such as faculty and department and meets the requirements of the Dublin Core metadata standard to ensure interoperability. The site is synced to international repositories of OER such as OER Commons to increase visibility. Incoming traffic from those sites is increasing rapidly.
  • The website allows each academic to keep a public profile and portfolio of their shared teaching and learning materials. One of our OER champions, Jean Paul Van Belle created materials specific for the South African context based on his curriculum needs. He has written two textbooks which are designed to address learning in his specific context and provide an alternative to expensive foreign textbooks. So the website gives the academic a place to showcase their teaching profile online. It gives them control of what is visible there and an opportunity to list a short biography and picture if desired. We can see that Jean Paul has three open teaching materials shared here and if I was to click on one…
  • I would go to the OER metadata page. This is where the item is described and exposed to search engines and international OER repositories. We have built in some rating and sharing tools to allow the students to bookmark, rate and share with friends. As I said before the directory lists and describes shared content already online so from the listing page I could then jump to the content hosted elsewhere, most often hosted based on the media type.
  • This particular resource is a downloadable pdf document
  • One of our other OER champions is Matumo Ramafikeng. We met with her early in the project. She was interested in creating an online distance course on occupational therapy. What we have noticed is that the distinction between e-learning or online materials and OER is blurring . In this case Matumo needed to create elearning material. We were fortunate to have a meeting with her early in this process, as we were able to direct her to the concept of open educational content which led to her finished product being OER, and therefore accessible to many more students, teachers and self learners. In a sense the resource was what we like to call ‘born-OER’ – designed with the end in mind, designed to be open. While we did initially look for existing OER teaching material in her area of focus, none could be found. Because there was little material on her subject internationally, we actually had the opportunity to fill the gap in this case, and create some OER to represent this subject. Here is the home page for that online set of webpages
  • Here is one of the lecture pages containing the content, slides and work notes. So Matumo’s material was developed from scratch to address a curriculum need and the end result is getting much more use and providing her with more exposure globally. In fact Matumo’s resource is one of our most popular OER’s in terms of click throughs from the OER directory.
  • To ensure sustainability we identified open champions throughout the institution and attempted to solicit greater interest in the OER movement by leveraging the exposure we could offer our academics. Our champions, the so called open scholars, were happy to showcase and share their teaching and learning materials outside of the classroom and around the world. There was no push and very little incentive besides exposure to contribute to the project. We therefore needed a system which would enable academics to add resources to the OER directory themselves. So it was a self empowered model - in a sense giving academics a space to create and share their teaching portfolio. Submitted content is checked for licensing conflicts and suitability as a teaching resource only. This pride of authorship model relies on the professionalism of teachers as the creators of quality learning activities using quality teaching tools. We also provide rating and commenting systems which allow the academic to gather some feedback from content users. As this was the result of a project, it was impossible for us to assume that their would be long term human resources to continually clear content or help academics transform their materials. However support and advocacy activities have been absorbed by the Centre for Educational Technology at UCT which is normally responsible to help academics use technology in their teaching. It is hoped that academics interested in creating digital teaching and learning tools with the help of the centre will make them OER.
  • Academics are sharing, its just not always in an organized way. Systems and software which support the sharing and curation of teaching materials can help us to optimize and increase discoverability while profiling open scholars . In many ways academics are well poised to lead the way in referencing online and legally open content for the modern day. With so much content online and open we need to set a good example of how this content can be used and how to properly reference it for our students, rather than relying on classroom fair use over and over. Teaching materials can benefit from being valued much like we value research in HE. Open education practices are exposing some contradictions in our practice and potentially disrupting business as usual. Institution's require strategies to incorporate the production and sharing of OER as part of the universities ‘usual business’ which is valued as equally as research. Universities can capitalize on the active curation of teaching material and potentially marketing the type of teaching the institution does. Showcasing OER at your institution is one way to encourage academics to share and contribute to this movement. If you have an educational technology unit helping academics create elearning materials, this is a fantastic place to introduce the concept of OER and encourage the idea of developing content with openness in mind.
  • Institutionalizing OER at the University of Cape Town

    1. 1. Open Teaching in a Digital Age: Becoming Global Scholars OER at the University of Cape Town eLearning Africa 2010 Michael Paskevicius
    2. 2. OER: An Alternative Conception <ul><li>Open educational resources are the openly licensed and freely accessible teaching and learning resources created to support and enhance the process of teaching </li></ul><ul><li>What if all resources created for teaching and learning at universities were made available by default as OER? </li></ul>
    3. 3. Why and why now?
    4. 4. Opportunities at UCT <ul><li>OER UCT Project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Audit of potential open materials </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Creation of an OER directory </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advocacy and awareness </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Health OER </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focused on materials development </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. Result of Institutional Audit <ul><li>Many UCT academics already sharing </li></ul><ul><li>Need to organize the already shared content from the university </li></ul><ul><li>Sharing and growing the </li></ul><ul><li>idea of ‘openness’ </li></ul>
    6. 6. Software Development Process <ul><li>Relationship to Learning Management System (LMS) </li></ul><ul><li>Software selection process </li></ul>
    7. 8. Professor Jean-Paul Van Belle
    8. 11. Matumo Ramafikeng
    9. 13. Strategy for Sustainability <ul><li>User able to manage own resources and profile </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Pride of authorship’ model of OER publishing </li></ul><ul><li>No separate business unit designated to clear content </li></ul><ul><li>OER support will continue from the Centre for Educational Technology </li></ul>
    10. 14. Challenges and Lessons Learned <ul><li>Academics are sharing, but not always in an organized or optimized way </li></ul><ul><li>Academics can lead the way in demonstrating how the internet can be used as a resource </li></ul><ul><li>Teaching materials are generally undervalued </li></ul><ul><li>Requires strategies to incorporate the production and sharing of OER as part of the universities ‘usual business’ </li></ul><ul><li>Digital teaching materials benefit from being ‘born-OER’ </li></ul>
    11. 15. 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. Prepared by: Michael Paskevicius [email_address] OpenContent Directory : http:// OER UCT project blog: Follow us: http:// Follow me: http:// Presentations: http://