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One Mongolia: Building an open network for education in Mongolia

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Since the transition from a planned economy to a market‐based democracy in the early 1990s, Mongolian higher education has experienced rapid expansion. Between 1992 and 2007, the number of tertiary education institutions has increased more than four‐fold and enrollment more than six‐fold.But despite this growth, many Mongolians believe the quality of education remains poor, although the costs of higher education are increasing. Introducing and adapting open educational resources (OER) for the Mongolian higher education sector could help reverse these trends.

One possible strategy that the Ministry of Education could consider is the adoption of a learning technology‐based pedagogy that might enable a fairly rapid transformative process while at the same time improve on the quality of content as well as create a population of instructors, teachers and learners familiar and comfortable with using web‐based open educational resources.

The International Development Research Center (IDRC) Canada, through the DREAM IT project has supported the development of an emerging open education strategy for Mongolia. The ONE Mongolia initiative, discussed in this paper,will become the successor to DREAM IT project with the goal of supporting Mongolia’s emergence as a learning nation with a knowledge economy based on open development principles.

The International Development Research Centre of Canada (IDRC) has been active in Mongolia for over 20 years and has invested in information and communication technology (ICT) research through its IT for Development (IT4D) program and more recently through its Information Networks (IN) program. The IDRC research program in Mongolia is coordinated by a project team responsible for Development Research to Empower All Mongolians through Information and Communications Technologies(DREAMIT – http://dreamit.mn).

Over the past two years, the DREAMIT project has been active in capacity‐building initiatives to introduce and demonstrate a range of open practices, including open government, open data and open access publishing. Most recently DREAMIT has focused some of its research activities specifically at demonstrating open practices in the government, research and education sectors. Some example projects are discussed in the sections that follow.

Open government

One focus of IDRC‐funded research has been open governmentinitiatives through a project called Engaging citizen e‐participation in the Parliamentary legislative process.The Mongolian Parliament opened its website in 1998. The website www.parliament.mn contained a range of information on the activities of Parliament, such as transcripts of the Parliament sessions, proposed bills before Parliament, archives, photo galleries, information about Parliament members, and plans about Parliament sessions and discussion about them.  

Citizens, businesses, government and non‐governmental organizations (NGOs), and international organizations have used information and resources from the website. Parliament has established“promotion centres” in 20 aimagcentres (province‐like administrative units in Mongolia) and in the 7 districts of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, to serve as access points for citizens to gain access to information and resources from Parliament. However, the Parliament website had been transferring a one‐way flow of information and communication (i.e. from Parliament to citizens), and had not been making use of new social technologies to improve bi‐directional communication flows.

The Engaging citizen e‐participation in the Parliamentary legislative process research project was implemented during 2009‐2010 by the Secretariat of the Parliament of Mongolia under the supervision of the DREAM IT project. The objective of the project was to understand the factors that motivate or inhibit citizens from using the Parliament website. The project studied the accessibility of the Parliamentary website for citizens of Mongolia regardless of gender, age, education, geography or socio‐economic status, and in particular, it focused on citizens who lived in rural parts of Mongolia and specifically those of underserved communities.

A roundtable meeting, supported by IDRC to discuss the outcomes of the project, was held on March 29, 2012 in Parliament House in Mongolia. More than 30 people attended the roundtable discussion, among them members of the Parliament of Mongolia, the director of the Mongolia Voter Education Centre, World Bank representatives and other representatives of civil society in Mongolia, as well as 10 media agencies. Interest in open government and open data practices continues to grow in Mongolia through efforts of the DREAMIT project to promote open practices at all levels of society.

Open research and open access publishing

DREAMIT has supported research in environmental science through a number of projects including, Collaborative learning for co‐management of natural resources in Mongolia, and Reading the weather: ICTs for climate risk management and herders' livelihoods improvement in Mongolia.  

The principle researcher for the environmental science projects has made an effort to openly publish the findings from his first DREAMIT project using a Creative Commons share‐alike (CC‐BY‐SA) license that allows for download of the book and reuse of the material with appropriate attribution.

It is expected that research from the second project on climate risk management will also be openly published using CC licenses.

Open educational resources

Starting in 2010, the DREAMIT project brought consulting expertise from Canada to Mongolia to introduce models of practice associated withopen educational resources (OER). The consulting visits were also designed to stimulate local interest in OER research projects in Mongolia, with a focus on exploring and investigatingpotentially transformative education strategies for the country.   

A national seminar on Open Educational Resources sponsored by DREAM IT and IDRC was held in Ulaanbaatar in October 2010. This seminar introduced Mongolian educators and government officials to OER projects worldwide and provided opportunities for in‐depth discussion about the merits and mechanics of open education principles and practices. Information about the 2010 OER activities in Mongolia can be found at http://bit.ly/DREAMIT_OER_OCT2010. Following the seminar, DREAMIT made a call for proposals to Mongolian educational institutions and NGOs with an interest in conducting OER research projects.  Three target topic areas were identified, including:

• Research about practice changes. When integrated into an existing educational practice, the adoption of an OER strategy might lead to new forms of practice.Research in Mongolia on the impact and benefits of OER on existing practices could be studied by analyzing how an OER strategy affects the efficiency of the educational materials development process. This study could provide a side‐by‐side comparison of existing and new models of practice. • Research could also explore the capacity and ability of educational developers and teachers to quickly revise and redistribute updated or enhanced materials using network delivery technologies. Findings from such a study would benefit school operations and teacher training in Mongolia, and could be beneficial also in other developing countries. • OER may also enable qualitatively new practices and new approaches in organizing teaching and learning. These effects cold also be studied, documented and evaluated through ongoing research in schools with teachers and students.

In September 2011, a follow‐up workshop on open data, open government and OER was held (http://bit.ly/DREAMIT_OER_SEPT2011). At the 2011 workshop, research projects funded by IDRC through DREAMIT presented preliminary research results and demonstrated materials that each would make accessible as OER using CC licenses.

Davlagaa.mn (Education Wave), an NGO that was funded through DREAMIT to research the development of an open training and materials development strategy for pre‐school teachers presented its work at the national seminar, and launched a book that it had developed separately with a publisher partner. Davlagaa madethe book chapters openly available to the teachers, parents and the public through its website using a Creative Commons share‐alike, non‐commercial license (CC‐BY‐SA‐NC). The work of the Davlagaa project team can be viewed at http://www.davlagaa.mn. Davlagaa has also experimented with user‐generated videos produced by pre‐school teachers that can be viewed or downloaded from its website along with other openly licensed resources designed for pre‐school education.

Ramping up a Creative Commons (CC) Mongolia Affiliate as basic open infrastructure

As a result of the DREAMIT projects, there is growing interest across Mongolia for the use of Creative Commons licensed educational resources by instructors, institutions and government. CC licensed materials would provide a legal and technical infrastructure essential to the long‐term success of OER. In addition, confidence in moving in this direction and the development of public policy would require localized versions of the Creative Commons licenses written in Mongolian. Currently, Mongolia is not among the more than 70 CC jurisdictions worldwide with an official CC affiliate, although the CC licenses have been in use since 2011.

IDRC Canada, through the DREAM IT project has supported the roadmap development for a CC Mongolia affiliate. A Creative Commons Mongolia affiliate is expected to expand upon initial OER activities as well as help boost human capital development and lifelong learning initiatives across Mongolia by working with education providers in both the formal and informal sectors to promote knowledge and skill acquisition through the use and open licensing of learning resources.  

The specific objectives of Creative Commons Mongolia affiliate are: • Support collaborations and partnerships to maximize government investments in education, including the sustainable development and distribution of educational materials and the sharing of digital resources by the public, parents and students across Mongolia • Support government, institutions, and organizations in the open licensing of data sets, copyright works, research reports, statistics, photographic images, educational resources, and other digital resources • Complement laws pertaining to copyright and fair use by enabling creators to assert rights and communicate permissions for use, reuse and distribution • Enable innovative new business models in the public and private sectors using open data • Support the revision of policy regulating the production and use of open educational resources for general education and other public services • Contribute to raising awareness and adoption of open licensing frameworks for authors, educators, creators, and businesses • Promote creative and innovative activities that can deliver social and economic benefits for Mongolia and Mongolians

The Creative Commons Mongolia affiliate has an initial starting base in the higher education sector. Currently, the four largest Mongolian universities, the Mongolian University of Science and Technology, the National University of Mongolia, the Health Sciences University and the Mongolian State University of Education are participating in this initiative and will invite participation from other public and private universities. It is expected that memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Creative Commons and representatives of Mongolian universities will be signed in October 2012.     

One Mongolia: Building an open network for education in Mongolia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (CC BY 3.0). Adapted from https://oerknowledgecloud.org/content/one-mongolia-building-open-network-education-mongolia under a CC-BY license.