On Display: Open Online Courses & Open Educational Resources for Africa

Two recent developments in the area of distance education and open access might have benefits for students in Africa: massive open online courses (MOOC) aim at large-scale participation and open access. Participants do not need to be a registered student and are not required to pay a fee. Open educational resources (OER) are freely accessible and openly licensed media that are useful for teaching and learning. They are resources meant to be used for education and include, for example, full courses, course materials, learning objects, videos or tests.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

  • CollageMOOCsHarvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created a new online-learning experience with online courses at EdX. EdX’s goals combine the desire to reach out to students of all ages, means, and nations, and to deliver these teachings from a faculty who reflect the diversity of its audience. EdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is governed by MIT and Harvard. If offers HarvardX, MITx and BerkeleyX classes online for free. In 2013, EdX will offer also WellesleyX and GeorgetownX classes and courses by the University of Texas System.
    The MIT course 14.73x “The Challenges of Global Poverty” is intended to be an introduction to the issues of global poverty, as conceptualized by leading economists and political scientists.
  • 33 US universities – like Columbia, Duke, Emory, Princeton – have partnered with Coursera, a social entrepreneurship company, offering courses online for anyone to take, for free: “Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.” (Vision of Coursera). Of interest are courses in statistics, data analysis but also the humanities, e.g.:
    Listening to World Music“, by Carol Muller, a South African born Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. This course is about the ideas and vocabulary for listening to world music, and examines the music of several world music cultures and how they have entered into mainstream popular culture.
    The Modern World: Global History since 1760“, by Philip Zelikow, the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia, gives a survey of modern history from a global perspective.
  • UDACITY offers courses especially in the computer sciences, mathematics and physics.
  • Stanford University offers “Class2Go” and “Venture Lab“.
  • Compare the timeline offered by the Chronicle of Higher Education under the headline “What You Need to Know About MOOCs“.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

  • OERcollageOER Africa provides a starting point for finding OER. The project focusses on the supporting and developing of OER in agriculture, health education, foundation courses and teacher education. In the section “OER in Action” they  showcase some African OER initiatives, like the IADP-SADC Digital Resources Project, that looks to extend the International Association for Digital Publications (IADP) Affordable Access project running in South African higher education institutions into universities in Malawi and Botswana.
    OER initiatives in Africa” is a similar overview hinting to e.g.
    The UCT OpenContent directory, a web portal for accessing open teaching and learning content from University of Cape Town and
    Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA), bringing together teachers and teacher educators from across sub-Saharan Africa and offering a range of OER materials in four languages to support school based teacher education and training.
  • In 2011 the African Virtual University (AVU) launched the portal OER@AVU – Open Educational Resources” hosting e.g. 219 text books available in English, French, and Portuguese, 91 videos, and other resources e.g. on ICT and Intellectual Property Rights.
  • The “Open Textbooks: List” by Student PIRGs offers a good overview about some examples of Open Textbooks, e.g. by the publisher Flat World Knowledge. For a broader approach see the Wikipedia Category:Open content.

Finally, compare the eLearning Africa conferences and the article by Claire Adamson on “Finding the Sweet Spot: Open Educational Resources in the developing world” (January 22nd, 2013, eLearning Africa News Portal) for a more critical acclaim of the debates.

Thanks to hints by Nadia Cohen and to the project “Bildung weltweit” with a web-dossier on “Open Educational Resources“!