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Wawasan Open University – Developing a Fully OER-based Course


This case study focuses upon work at Wawasan Open University describing the development of focussed courses, for promoting and pursuing academic quality and outstanding graduate outcomes.

Wawasan Open University is a relatively young and small university established in 2007, by a charitable foundation, to provide low cost, flexible access to higher education for Malaysian adults. Over the last five years it has embarked on a series of innovative and cost effective approaches to providing educational services to the Malaysian public. It uses flexible modalities to make higher education accessible to all – anytime, anywhere – and to create a lifelong learning community for aspiring individuals regardless of their previous educational, ethnic or socioeconomic background.

Through a model of open distance learning, self-paced learning and flexible study pathways, WOU enables adults in the workforce to pursue their educational dreams without much disruption to their professional and personal commitments. WOU is an institution that aims to equip the contemporary workforce with industry-relevant knowledge and skills through its quality, market-driven programmes, while they continue in their jobs (WOU, 2013).

Currently, WOU offers over 40 programmes ranging from the sub-degree to postgraduate levels in the fields of business, technology, education and liberal studies, three MBA and Ph.D programmes. WOU produced its first batch of MBA graduates in 2010, and its pioneer batch of Bachelor’s degree students in 2011. All its programmes are fully approved by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) and the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA). On top of that, 13 programmes – i.e. CeMBA, CeMPA, as well as 6 business and 5 technology degrees – have received recognition from the Public Service Department (JPA) following the graduation of its inaugural batch of students.

This case study shows how a young and innovative university such as WOU has been able to transform its course development processes from a ‘wrap-around textbook based’ model using courses it bought from the Open University of Hong Kong to an Open Educational Resource (OER) based course development model, and as a result achieving three positive outcomes in one stroke. These were substantial cost reduction in course development and delivery, quality enhancement from the use of a variety of multimedia OER and increased internal capacity building for innovative course design and development. The two models for Course Development, namely the ‘wrap-around model’ using OER, and the ‘stand-alone model’ based on copyrighted books nevertheless, exists at the University, side-by-side.

This case study describes the experience of developing and delivering one of WOU’s courses based almost entirely on available Open Educational Resources as part of adoption and implementation of an OER policy and Open Educational Practices in the university. This was one of the pioneer courses which sought to adopt a new course development policy eliminating the use of copyrighted material. Schools of Studies were urged to use, reuse or repurpose available OER or create their own OER and the University is now in the process of revising all its copyrighted textbook based courses as well as courses bought from other universities.

OER Integration Initiative at WOU

Wawasan Open University has been a pioneer institution in the region to respond to the global advocacy for the OER movement. The OER-Asia initiative started in 2010 was carried out under the auspices of the University for advocating and disseminating relevant information about OER as well as developing training materials and conducting research in this area. OER-Asia as well as the University made concrete contributions to the drafting of the World OER Declaration jointly by the Commonwealth of Learning and UNESCO. Wawasan Open University in spite of being a new organisation took the bold decision to join the OER movement.

In December 2010, the Council of the Wawasan Open University asked the University to consider and develop a proposal for possible adoption of OER and bring out a detailed implementation plan in order to transform the existing course development process with an aim to increase the quality and efficiency of developing course materials.

The Management of WOU responded promptly to the directive of the WOU Council by initiating actions to systematically plan and implement the use and integration of OER in course development in the University. The University procured services of a senior professional with expertise in ODL and OER to kick start OER adoption activities in the University and lead the university in institutionalising the innovation and making it an entirely e-Learning university.

A group comprising new staff and existing champions in the university took the lead in supporting the process of OER adoption. An OER Steering Committee was constituted with participation of all schools of studies and academic support departments to plan and monitor the process.

A part of this transformation comprised rethinking various pros and cons of OER development. A discussion paper titled ‘OER Integration in WOUPolicy Directions, Strategic Outputs and Action Plan’ was drafted and this was discussed in several forums including the OER Steering Committee which was constituted for the purpose of formulating further plan of action (see Menon, 2012). After lengthy and extensive deliberations an OER Policy for WOU was drafted for consideration and approval of all governing bodies of the University. The OER Policy for WOU with implementation strategies has been adopted by the OER Steering Committee, Senate, and Management Board, and endorsed by the Board of Governors of the University.

The broad OER Policy declaration is that “WOU will promote and implement the creation, reuse, remix, repurpose and redistribution of Open Educational Resources (OER) within an Open Licensing framework” (WOU-OER Policy, 2012). Based on this OER Policy the University also formulated an Open Licence Policy (2012) with CC-BYNC-SA as the license for all selected course ware. It will also develop guidelines for using and mixing OER with varied open licences to make sure that legally accepted norms and standards are uniformly practiced in the University.

In the past one and half years WOU has made substantial progress in this area. One of the initiatives is the use of Open Educational Resources in the construction of its learning materials for a course on ‘ICT in Education’ (2012) which is part of the M.Ed. Programme. This case study offers a summary of this experience in the development of this course by reusing and repurposing OER materials.

The full case study can be downloaded from: https://oerknowledgecloud.org/sites/oerknowledgecloud.org/files/CaseStudies_OER-based_eLearning.pdf

This is an extract from Wawasan Open University – Developing a Fully OER-based Course which is licensed under a Creative Commons License 4.0 International license. Adapted from https://oerknowledgecloud.org/sites/oerknowledgecloud.org/files/CaseStudies_OER-based_eLearning.pdf under a CC-BY license.