Opportunity The National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) is the second largest university in Africa with more than 180,000 students. The OER project at NOUN was initially motivated in response to the 2012 UNESCO/Commonwealth of Learning Paris Declaration on OER. Specifically, NOUN referred to the section that encouraged government-funded materials to be released under an open licence and made available and accessible as OER.
NOUN administrators and faculty recognized that, as it is a government-funded institution, all its course material is fully paid for by the government. Thus, selling their educational content through the use of restrictive licences was tantamount to forcing the tax payers to pay twice for materials already paid for. Moreover, the communal character of African culture makes OER a good fit and “naturally adaptable to the African worldview of sharing for the common good of all” (Agbu, 2015).
OER also have the potential of humanizing and democratizing teaching and learning. Open education provides immense opportunities for learners. This understanding, along with a grant from the European Union, was the basis of the decision at NOUN to release 50% of its content (more than 800 courses) as OER by 2017.
Innovation To accomplish this ambitious goal, a special unit reporting directly to the Vice Chancellor, was set up to ensure implementation and stimulate OER awareness at NOUN and elsewhere in Nigeria. The unit is charged with leading awareness seminars, technical training, and capacity-building workshops, as well as transforming NOUN courses into fully open-licensed OER. This NOUN unit is also pro-active in training its local staff in OER creation, assembly, use and reuse, in addition to ensuring the OER are accessible and usable in the NOUN ICT-enabled environment. Internationally, NOUN was the first West African university to join the OERu, a consortium of 30 post-secondary institutions.
Development Process NOUN technical training staff, supported by senior administration, collaborated with UNESCO to develop a logical framework to ensure the OER conversion process proceeded expediently. NOUN course materials were generally formatted as PDF, so these had to be converted to Word for editing. In the format conversion process, the content was copy edited and enhanced with interactive elements, as well as updated to ensure the currency of the courses. This process ensures significant quality improvements in the preparation of OER. The process was led by instructional designers, working with technical and library staff. The OER courses are based on an open-source master (XML) template with embedded metadata, machine-readable code, and open-source fonts. The OER were then released on the NOUN website in three formats: ePUB, Open Document Text (ODT), and PDF with A Creative Commons-Attribution-Share Alike licence.
NOUN Portal In December 2015, the University launched the NOUN OER portal, with support from the European Union and the Hewlett Foundation; it is an online repository of 40+ existing NOUN courses using an open licence. Following this, an International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) Chair in OER was appointed.
MOOCs As a direct result of the OER initiative, NOUN committed to building at least twenty OER-based MOOCs to respond to the most important needs of learners across Nigeria. The first three courses in the History and Philosopy of Science, Information Literacy, and Study Skills were launched in 2016, specifically addressing the one million plus Nigerian students per year who pass the university entrance examination, but do not get a place.
Benefits The OER initiative awakened the interest of NOUN administration, as well as faculty members, in the possibilities of OERs to improve the quality of educational materials. On being made aware of the OER initiative, NOUN faculty members were at first curious, then suspicious. However, faculty soon found OER materials provided by other organizations and institutions both relevant and of high quality and so quite helpful in course writing and instructional design as well as in their teaching. The use of OER created by others also opened NOUN faculty up to sharing their content. As a side benefit, the open access journals found by faculty were very helpful in supporting their research efforts and in ensuring staff development.
Interestingly, although there were always three versions of the courses available, the ePUB version was found to be the most interesting by staff and students, because it is the most portable. The ePUB format can be navigated using a wide variety of mobile devices. The podcasts that came with many OER packages made listening to courses while on the move very interesting and convenient. Students responded positively to this.
Challenges While some faculty immediately embraced the concept of OER, many others were hesitant about it, especially sharing their courses with other instructors both within NOUN and externally. As a result, many faculty remained hesitant about participating. However, many faculty were able to overcome these feelings in favour of sharing knowledge for the common good as being not only altruistic but also sensible.
The initial mistrust was compounded by the limited understanding of open licences. Interpreting Creative Commons proved to be quite confusing, especially to new entrants who were attempting to create and re-use OER. Moreover, faculty were not sure how to properly attribute altered content. This was a cause of much hesitation.
Accessing and evaluating OER presented another major challenge for faculty. Many available OER are found to be inadequate in terms of information and of low quality..
Potential NOUN is now convinced the OER movement should be embraced and sustained. To accomplish this, faculty members are encouraged to maximize their use of OER to ensure their courses are current and their students receive a quality teaching and learning experience. This includes sensitizing student to make them fully aware of the benefits of online learning using OER.
NOUN plans on sharing its OER and its OER implementation experience with other universities in Africa and on other continents. NOUN policy makers continue to uphold the ideals of OER and promote sustainable approaches to ensure the continuation of the process. This includes working with government to promote OER for the common good and insisting government-funded educational materials are released using open licences.
Contact Jane Agbu ICDE Chair in OER National Open University of Nigeria Email: email@example.com
References Agbu, Jane F., (2015, February 5) Embracing the Philosophy of Open Educational Resources. Retrieved from [https://europa.eu/capacity4dev/unesco/blog/nigeria-embracing-philosophy-open-educational-resources] (https://europa.eu/capacity4dev/unesco/blog/nigeria-embracing-philosophy-open-educational-resources)
Resources National Open University of Nigeria commissions a unit for Open Educational Resources http://www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/single-view/news/nationalopenuniversityofnigeriacommissionsaunitfor_o/
OER Popularization and Adoption in Higher Education Institutions in Nigeria [http://nouedu.net/news/retridal-collaborates-noun-oer-open-educational-resources-modalities] (http://nouedu.net/news/retridal-collaborates-noun-oer-open-educational-resources-modalities)
OER and MOOCs at the National Open University of Nigeria (CC-BY)