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Open Education and Open Government in Chile

Joi, 2016-11-17 07:00

Presentation of Chile’s updated Open Government Action Plan by Werner Westermann, CC BY.

Werner Westermann is a fellow from our first Institute for Open Leadership, held in San Francisco in January 2015. He works at Library of the National Congress of Chile, and is involved in open education projects and advocacy in Chile and internationally.

The 2016 Open Education Conference (Open Ed) was an inspiring experience where I got the chance to meet individuals engaged in innovative and equitable open teaching and learning practices. I was happy to see that open pedagogy is now at the forefront of the OER movement – we see that creating and using OER is now a widely accepted way to improve educational outcomes. We also know that there’s a need to develop strong policies at all levels to promote and sustain OER efforts, especially in K-12 schools. To feed the policy rationale, more and different types of research need to be outlined, specifically those concerning efficacy and impact, which suited my contribution at Open Ed related to the ROER4D project perfectly.

Open Ed also provided the opportunity to connect with Institute for Open Leadership mentors and fellows from both cohorts. It was perfect timing to share an update on our commitments in advocating for open policy. I’ve been working with the Library of the National Congress of Chile to consider adopting an open policy.

After months of waiting, Chile released its 3rd Action Plan 2016-2018 for the Open Government Partnership (OGP).  The plan outlines a commitment from the Library of National Congress of Chile entitled “Open Educational Resources for Civic Education” where the following resources will be openly licensed (CC-BY):

  • Digital Citizenship Competence Framework: Conceptual definition of competencies organized in dimensions, described observable performance and level of achievement of each competency.
  • Curricular and Extracurricular Digital Citizenship Plans composed of:
    • Lesson plans and digital resources for the curricular subject of History, Geography and Social Sciences for the levels of 7th and 8th grade.
    • Lesson plans and digital resources for an extra-curricular workshop for the development of cross-cutting fundamental objectives.
  • Bank of Items for Online Evaluation System: A platform for public and permanent evaluation to measure the competences of digital citizenship.
  • Teacher training module: Brief virtual training course (20 hrs.), designed for a self-instructional modality.

The inclusion of this open policy commitment in Chile’s OGP Action Plan is by far my biggest achievement so far in advocating for OER. I believe that the Institute for Open Leadership is a big reason for this success.

Thanks to my mentor Nicole Allen and her work, I recognized OGP as a relevant platform to promote open education policy.  When I found out that the construction of Chile’s 3rd OGP Action Plan was going to be developed in part via a public consultation process, I made contact with the OGP officials in Chile related to the Secretary of the Presidency. Following the very clear pathway and recommendations set forth in the paper written by Nicole and Jan Gondol, I presented the benefits and potential for OER and Open Education and described how it made sense within the OGP framework. Initially, the OGP representatives were very skeptical. But I had a productive conference call with Jan from Slovakia and Jennryn Wetzler from the U.S. State Department, who shared with me their experiences incorporating OER into their national OGP Action Plans. After that call I had a solid plan for action.   

I was invited to contribute to Chile’s OGP Action Plan with an institutional commitment, but I had doubts on the effectiveness of raising awareness about OER using this platform. Since Chile’s process only accepted institutional contributions, I decided to take the risk and engage my institution through a Digital Citizenship project I’m currently involved with. I was able to participate in the OGP roundtables, which were attended by ministries, governmental departments, and civil society organisations. At that time, the meetings were heavily oriented to open data issues related to environmental and energy concerns. But at the same time, there was some interest to explore the relation between education and open government, so I was happy to talk about the benefits and potential of OER within their broader open government framework.

The participants in the roundtable were receptive to the idea of incorporating open education commitments under the umbrella of our national OGP Action Plan. Later, the OGP convened the Ministry of Education in Chile, and I got the chance to meet and speak with high-level ministry officials in order to explain and advocate for the benefits of OER. 

I could have never championed the inclusion of open education policies within our OGP Action Plan without the helpful support of the Institute for Open Leadership and the Open Policy Network. I strongly believe that the visibility of the resources committed in Chile is a strong start for ongoing OER support.  On November 18, I will present the resources that we will be creating in a seminar hosted by the Council of Transparency, one of the governmental departments participating in the OGP roundtables.

At the institutional policy level, I would like to translate into Spanish the wonderful work done by IOL second-round fellows Amanda Coolidge and Daniel DeMarte, who this year drafted and released the OER Policy Development Tool. I could see this tool coming in handy with progress within my own institution, along with the already translated resources such as the Commonwealth of Learning’s OER Policy Template and Guidelines for Open Educational Resources in Higher Education. These resources can help to guide and support any institution to build a OER policy, and I can’t wait to deploy them.

There’s so much happening at the policy level in support of OER to improve teaching and learning. In 2017 there will be regional workshops in preparation for the OER UNESCO World Congress that will be held in September. Let’s keep up the fantastic work started by the Institute for Open Leadership. Let’s continue to help each other (and decision makers too) with information, educational resources, solid arguments, and useful research to make productive policy changes within our institutions and governments.

The post Open Education and Open Government in Chile appeared first on Creative Commons.

OER Symposium held by affiliate team at NDU in Lebanon

Mie, 2016-11-02 13:27

Creative Commons affiliate team at Notre Dame University—Louaize (NDU) in Lebanon held a two-day symposium on “Open Educational Resources (OER): Trends and Prospects” from September 15-16, 2016 as a part of their 2017 roadmap to create awareness and cultivate openness culture within the university . The symposium highlighted the University’s strategic commitment to the integration of openly-licensed educational resources in the teaching and learning process. The occasion also marked the one-year signing of the Affiliate Agreement between Creative Commons and NDU.

Creative Commons Regional Coordinator for the Arab World. Ms. Zarif meets NDU President Fr. Walid Moussa

To commemorate the event, NDU hosted Naeema Zarif, Creative Commons Regional Coordinator for the Arab World. Ms. Zarif met NDU President Fr. Walid Moussa, who expressed the importance of capitalizing on recent trends in open education to broaden access, foster innovation, and alleviate student textbook costs.

Dr. Fawzi baroud and Ms. Naeema Zarif at the OER symposium

During the symposium, Dr. Fawzi Baroud, Assistant Vice President for Information Technology, described the history of  NDU’s involvement with open education beginning with his own participation in the U.S. State Department sponsored Open Book Project in 2014 and the continued collaboration with Creative Commons to create awareness and devise capacity building projects for an optimal OER culture within the university. He also traced the University’s future trajectory with regard to OER and the role it will play in advancing OER in Lebanon and the region. Ms. Zarif went on to speak about CC licenses in a panel titled “Creative Commons Licenses and the Future of Open Education in the Arab World.”

Dr. Kamal Abouchedid, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities

The symposium’s second day (titled “NDU Student Attitudes toward the Use of OER”) focused on the piloting of OER in a university-wide English course targeting close to 600 students in more than twenty sections across three campuses. Dr. Kamal Abouchedid, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, highlighted the integration of OER as a strategic initiative at NDU and as a means of fostering open education.

Joining the discussion from Denmark via Skype, Dr. Ena Hodzik

The design of the course was described by Dr. Sandra Doueiher, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of English. Joining the discussion from Denmark via Skype, Dr. Ena Hodzik spoke about the scholarship of OER, specifically about the issue of quality and utility in the integration of OER. Dr. Hodzik went on to explain that the student survey administered by NDU closely aligned with the major themes in the literature of OER.

Dr. Sandra Doueiher and Dr. George Abdelnour

Survey results were presented by Dr. George Abdelnour, Chair of the Department of English and Translation. The extensive survey sought student feedback on the use of OER based on general attitudes, effectiveness, quality, and learning outcomes of the resources used. By a 2 to 1 margin, he explained, students showed high levels of satisfaction and engagement with OER. The findings also showed a favorable inclination toward enrolling in courses using OER in the future.

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Pondering the Future of Open Education in Nigeria

Mar, 2016-11-01 14:00

In March we hosted the second Institute for Open Leadership. In our summary of the event we mentioned that the Institute fellows would be taking turns to write about their open policy projects. This week’s post is from Dr. Jane-Frances Agbu from the National Open University of Nigeria. We also interviewed Dr. Agbu about her work in September.

My name is Dr. Jane-Frances Obiageli Agbu. I am from Onitsha, a small but vibrant town in the Eastern part of Nigeria in West Africa. I work with the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). I was the Head of NOUN-OER unit from 2014 till July 2016. Currently, I am the Dean of Faculty of Health Sciences of NOUN, which gives me the opportunity to focus on OER-Health. I am also an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology.

Photo by Jane-Frances Agbu, CC BY.

It is natural to view anything that is ‘open’ and ‘freely available’ with a sort of hesitation or anxiety. It is also natural to presume these types of resources to be of less quality because of our contemporary instinct that almost everything should be paid for, and that the more these materials are hoarded, the pricier they will be. The open movement, with its initiatives around ‘Open Education’, ‘Open Access’, and ‘Open Educational Resources’, can make many people very uncomfortable.

I embraced the concept and practices of Open Education in 2006 when I joined the National Open University of Nigeria. Back then, I was a mother of three very young, and I needed to work close to home. NOUN was just five minutes away from my home. It was a perfect situation, and with very minimal knowledge about open education, I applied and got a job there. At the time, NOUN then was just three years old. However, they offered robust training for new entrants in the open education space, since the concept and practice was relatively new in Nigeria.

My friends and colleagues, who were so used to the conventional face-to-face mode of education, were disappointed with me. They asked me, ‘What is “open” about the open university?’ and said, “You should seek appointment in a ‘normal’ university in order to be respected and advance your career”. these comments were both troublesome and motivating. I wondered whether I made a mistake joining NOUN, but a chance encounter in an elevator with one of our students got me thinking. He simply asked, ‘Do you work here?’, and when I nodded my head, he said ‘thank you for giving me the opportunity to work and learn’. It was heartwarming, and 10 years later I am happily still an advocate of open education.

I became more involved in the Open Educational Resources movement in 2013. It was another chance encounter because the invitation to the workshop that introduced me to OER was initially meant for a senior Professor at my University, but he was busy and I was asked to attend. The workshop took place in Abuja, Nigeria and was organized by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) in collaboration with UNESCO and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). There, I met Abel Caine of UNESCO and Alex Gakuru of Creative Commons. Alex said something that really stuck with me: “We are Africans, we live communal lives, we cook together, we work together. It is in us to share, so why are we not sharing knowledge?” I was incredibly captivated with this statement, and I wrote a long proposal to my institution on the need to embrace OER. A year and half later, I was asked to champion OER within NOUN. With support from UNESCO, we were able to organize an OER workshop to educate policy makers, university faculty, and course content developers. In December 2015 we shared our experiences with the Federal government of Nigeria.

You’ll see that my journey toward embracing open education and Open Educational Resources has not been a straightforward one, but it is a life that leaves me with smiles and appreciation. Mysteriously, it appears that some angels have crossed my path in this journey and further helped me to understand the beauty of opening up knowledge for common good.

While pondering on the palpable anxiety for the ‘open’ movement, let me share with you a bit more of my thinking:

  • Naturally, with whatever knowledge we have, we want to be the “sage on the stage rather than a guide on the side”. This famous statement from Allison King brings back floods of memories for me. I can still visualize my former professors speaking eloquently in class, filling students with respect and awe. I felt anxious and wondered if I could ever get to be as knowledgeable as my professors. They were knowledge personified. But for me, open education has demystified this sort of reverence toward dissemination of knowledge. Open Educational Resources—with its five Rs (retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute) and the flexible license options of Creative Commons—has humanized and democratized teaching and learning. Surely there are some that still believe in sole ownership of knowledge. Those people will continue to feel threatened by the ‘open movement’, but we’ve seen the incredible opportunities of open education, and we’ll continue on our path.
  • Some are also hesitant to share knowledge because of fear of scrutiny. This of course is a natural instinct (no one likes to be criticised), but overcoming this shows that you view criticism as an avenue of learning and improvement. I think we will come to see that the costs of being ‘closed’ are much greater than the costs of being ‘open’, and that in the long run ‘open’ will be more personally gratifying, and help the most people.
  • Also, is it possible that this initial anxiety toward being more open is triggered by the desire for conformity? It is a lot easier to move with the popular opinion, while advocates of OER and other open initiatives are still in the minority. But we must realize that it takes courage to walk with the less-traveled crowd. And we will realize that we are not alone, and that there is an increasing support network of educators, students, and advocates to rely on and collaborate with.

Photo by Jane-Frances Agbu, CC BY.

In March 2016, I was selected as one of the participants for Institute of Open Leadership (IOL2). I met other beautiful individuals that share a similar vision for ‘open’. In a lush garden up high in mountains of Cape Town, we shared our experiences, our projects, and open policy plans. The beauty remains with me as we continue to receive guidance from our mentors and share information amongst the IOL2 fellows.

IOL2 Fellows + Mentors, by Cable Green , CC BY 2.0

Here are some useful links related to my work:

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Cultivating a Culture of Knowledge Sharing

Joi, 2016-09-01 19:26

In March we hosted the second Institute for Open Leadership. In our summary of the event we mentioned that the Institute fellows would be taking turns to write about their open policy projects. This week’s post is from Fiona MacAlister, OER Specialist at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa.

I was privileged to attend the second Institute for Open Leadership (IOL2), held in Cape Town, in March of this year. It was an amazing experience, during which I worked with various mentors and a small group of fellow open colleagues from around the world. One of the plusses of the Institute was hearing about the challenges that everyone faced and how they had gone about, or were going about overcoming them albeit, in some cases, with what many would consider relatively small wins. That, however, is the nature of the OER world. Lots of small wins are what ultimately lead to the big wins.


IOL Fellows atop Table Mountain, by bella_velo, CC BY 2.0

One issue that emerged is that there are no quick fixes when it comes to promoting the concept of open educational resources (OER). Tertiary institutions are a particularly difficult nut to crack, as the concept of knowledge sharing is not a popular one in what is, more often than not, an environment in which research ideas are cultivated and jealously guarded in the safe spaces of minds and offices. Not surprisingly, this does not make for fertile ground in which to plant the idea of knowledge sharing, but we persevere.

The fact that the OER movement has not quite taken off has been a cause of frustration for many of us for some time now. To those of us involved in the movement, the benefits of sharing would appear be a ‘no brainer’. However, over the course of my time as an OER Specialist at my current institution, I have had time to reflect on why the concept of OER is such a difficult one to communicate, even on a basic level.

To put things into perspective: We are on the brink of finalizing a joint Open Access/Open Educational Resources policy. We have been working on an internal online OER course and a booklet on Creative Commons licensing and OER, both of which will soon be released. We are also currently in the process of developing a range of courses together with the Office of Student Support in the Faculty of Health Sciences, which are intended to support the first year experience and will be released with an open license. I should be elated by these wins but, in my opinion, the impetus created by them will be difficult to maintain without a larger mindset change—that goes well beyond the reach of our current two-year project.

Many people become rather uncomfortable when you start to talk about openness in this somewhat esoteric vein, which is why I suspect so many OER projects are expected to produce facts, stats, quantity and research. What I think mitigates against the full success of projects which use this sort of approach, and structure, is that the concept of openness is not, at its heart, a purely quantitative or researchable one. True openness, and a willingness to share, will not flourish in an environment that is dominated, primarily, by a production line or microscopic analysis. It seems to me that we have become too cautious about addressing the real face of openness which is, in essence, an altruistic project which should ultimately benefit the world at large. In my opinion, it is the main reason why so many open initiatives disappear into the ether once the funding dries up. We have lost sight of the real spirit of the open movement because we are reluctant to admit that it doesn’t lend itself readily to the commercial, quantitative structures of our world.

We have been conditioned to believe that by being truly open to the world and people around us that we will lose something of ourselves and gain nothing in return. In some circumstances this may be true but, in reality, the world will gain something from us and something of our unique perspective on the world. All of us have knowledge to share, openly and freely, that will be of benefit to others and that can be repurposed in a way that will communicate that benefit across a range of cultures.

Openness and trust go hand-in-glove. Trust can only come from a willingness to share which, in the final analysis, stems from a concern for the common good. It really is as simple as that. That, in my opinion, is the foundation upon which the future of the open movement lies. If we don’t come from that starting point, we will remain trapped in theoretical frameworks, and the initial impetus of the movement will eventually be relegated to the world of academic research. Is that something we really want, or do we still believe that the open movement will ultimately be of benefit to the world at large?

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