OER in Africa

Learn about and discuss projects, collaborations, wisdom and challenges of OER in Africa.

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13 February 2009

OER in Africa

Educators in the US and elsewhere in the world, including in Africa, recognize the potential of open educational resources (OER) to improve teaching and learning.  African institutions, however, are severely hampered by lack of funding; infrastructure and equipment constraints; and policies  and practices that militate against using OERs effectively.  Even so, planning for and implementation of OERs are beginning to take place in every region of the Continent.  The Hewlett Foundation is supporting three initiatives that are crucial to meeting the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals—teacher education, health, and the establishment of an African umbrella organization for OER development and implementation.  Through these projects, we are beginning to see learning materials developed by Africans for Africans as well as for others interested in African content.  Africa is now joining the global OER knowledge pool.


Panel Speakers

Lisbeth Levey, Moderator

Jophus Anamuah-Mensah, TESSA (www.tessafrica.net)

Ted Hans, OER health in Africa ( http://www.oerafrica.org/Communities/OERAfrica_Home.aspx)

Neil Butcher, OER Africa (http://www.oerafrica.org)

Catherine Casserly, Discussant 



Extra content

Embedded Content


Patrick McAndrew
9:57pm 4 March 2009

Panel on OER Africa led by Liz Levey: Jophus (TESSA) , Ted Hans (OER Health in Africa), Neil Butcher (OER strategist for OER Africa),  Cathy Casserley (Hewlett Foundation).

Jophus: TESSA focus from college to school based approach to teacher training. TESSA resources as a means to an end to create new mind-set. TESSA  is multi-organisational, multi-country, multi-lingual, multi-cultural. Vital role for collaboration but also vice-chancellors and ministries. Three common issues: access to materials (low bandwidth), institutional capacity for change at different levels, need to ensure support for teachers as they develop more active learning styles (headteachers are vital).

Ted Hans: aim to “out collaborate” everyone else to build worthwhile collaboration with organisations in Africa. The medical OER reflect input from African Universities.

Neil Butcher: need to recognise that African Universities are fairly traditional in not valuing materials development as compared to research. So have multi-layered approach 1. To make changes at policy level. 2. Need to know what intellectual property and materials actually exist. OER gives an excuse for this audit but valuable in other ways. 3. Pilots that look for where needs are defined and develop OER to meet immediate and practical needs. Need to work now within constraints that exist. Plan to bring African content into the mainstream through existing repository. Avoid inventing new networks but offer value to existing networks. Ensure everything is demand driven. Keep things simple – avoid OER as a concept as being a solution to everything. The licence is the key to open content and  should be integrated into existing material production. Not about driving costs down but part of solution to building capacity.

Cathy: OER came about in 2002 at Hewlett/UNESCO in meeting of 25 people half from lower resource countries. Thirst for content but needs to be for local context and with participation from the start . Supply side has gained traction but now need demand side.  TESSA has shown that there can be shared sense of ownership.

Q: Dan Atkins: Expand on why it is wrong to overload OER aims. NB: makes for too many complexities, and ignores other ways to achieve broader aims.  DA: Still need to keep broader aims in mind though. NB: agree. But should target openness as a separate factor for many other innovations.

Q: Work at U Western Cape which ran into difficulties and switched to student project process that leaked out and led to additional impact.

Greg McKenzie
11:34pm 4 March 2009

OER in Africa

Facilitator: Liz Levey

Presentations and discussion of projects, collaborations, wisdom and common challenges from African project participants Lisbeth Levey, Moderator; Jophus Anamuah-Mensah; Ted Hans, OER Health in Africa; Neil Butcher, OER Africa; Catherine Casserly, Discussant


Executive Chair of TESSA project.

Improving the quality and range of teachers in sub-Saharan Africa.
To promote innovation and change. TESSA is a consortium of 18 organizations including concerned higher-education institutions. Works in nine countries. Very large landmass with multiple languages. How do you create a viable partnership?

Five common needs:
- Lack of qualified teachers
- Inadequate numbers of teachers
- Limited opportunities
- Lack of text books
- Limited opportunities for professional development

Partner Advisory Counsel makes decisions and settles major issues. No fixed blueprint for the implementation of textbook materials. Mode of access is varied; print, computer, etc.

Any change will require changes in educational policies. We need a viable local institution and program. Most partners formed the implementation on their own.

Different needs and capacities. Sustaining a permanent consortium. Maintaining and growing institutions. Mindset networking.

Some successes: Opening universities, one in Sudan. Uganda 1000 teachers are using materials. National commission on Education is producing materials and they are being used.

Hoping for more successes in the next year.


OER at Michigan is a commitment to open resources.

Why Africa:
Michigan already had faculty contacts and experience in Africa. Building on a long-term relationship and trust. From President down. How do we move forward to a demand-driven program? Building a community. Started making connections between faculty in Michigan and Africa. Looking at this as a new mode of publishing. Workshops: Set up an institutional framework. Not looking to build new campuses. Hoping to out-collaborate everyone else. OERs are tied into all activities.

2009 design frame is for co-collaborative, co-production of materials using emails and face-to-face interactions.

Where We Are:
Policy progress and in production of materials. Computer based self-paced learning on computers with case studies. Demonstrate procedures narrated by faculty. Always working on the communication channel.

OER Strategist for OER Africa

OER Africa is new, only 12-13 months. Health OER is one beginning of development.
For vast majority of faculty the concept of OER is totally foreign. Much education needed here. It is essential that the process be driven from Africa as the focus. Point of departure is policy development with a commitment to academic involvement.

Recently worked on institutional policies in Ghana.

Institutions have to understand what intellectual property they have and how original it is. It's about the institutional understanding of its own assets and using those for sustainability.

Produce materials to meet immediate academic needs in those contextual environments. Very tight budgets. By August materials will be distributed. This can be scaled up to every college at the university. From 200 – 2000 students per year.

Then we are seeking to make sure that we actively turn around the consumptive logic and facilitate Africa's role as a producer of material. We don't want to create more repositories. We need to overcome negative stereotypes about Africa's ability to produce quality educational materials. We've tried to avoid the temptation to build our own institutions. We are working to leverage existing collaborations in Africa.

In terms of experience and feedback. Were trying to make the process demand-driven. From the outset everything is driven by demand. We need to keep focused on listening to find out what the real needs are. Keep things simple. This is more difficult than making things complicated. New layers of meaning make it difficult to implement the simple concepts. If you try to solve all problems together you wind up solving none of them.

We should not focus on "developing" OERs but on integrating existing materials into the open licensing model. It's critical that we all understand that we can't use OER to cut the cost of higher education. The cost is already low. At the end of the day the fundamental problem with African education is the lack of institutional capacity.

Catherine Casserly

UNESCO brought together a group. There is a need for quality OER material. Please don't bring this material from the North but use our own. In Nigeria the content had been just released but because they had been co-developers and creators there was a great feeling of ownership and this encouraged immediate integration and distribution.

One concern: Michigan had existing relations with institutions in Africa, but how can we develop networks to help spread that knowledge throughout the continent?

Development Agenda:
Can OER shift the development agenda? What is the demand for problems to be addressed immediately? We have a new model for innovation and this is how we can shift the paradigm.

Too many goals? The concept of OER can be burdened with meaning creating very complex project designs. Or you fall into trap of thinking that implementing OER licensing will transform the educational process. We shouldn't try to run too many agendas. You need a strategic, emergent vision. Let the network focus on what they need. On our side we focus on putting that into a new framework. Living specification. Break the chicken and egg problem of what is possible v what you want to do. Transformational plans can have effect later in the implementation.


1:17am 5 March 2009

I thought this presentation was extraordinary because it mirrors my experience (Teachers Without Borders) in Africa and around the world.  

1:20am 5 March 2009

321 Third Avenue, S. #304
Seattle, WA  98104

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