Turning tomorrow's OER promise into today's reality for New Zealand
The global OER initiative shows significant promise to reduce cost, enhance quality and widen access to educational opportunities. Moreover, OERs provide a cost-effective vehicle to build and facilitate a "network of provision" for the tertiary sector in New Zealand. Community is the cornerstone of success -- hence our preference for distributed, peer-collaboration models for OER design, development and delivery.
In this regard, New Zealand has a unique opportunity to play a global leadership role in establishing national models for OER collaborations.
New Zealand's potential for leading national OER collaborations is both unique and distinctive. This is the result of the interplay among a number of enabling factors:
- The foresight demonstrated in the report: Highways and Pathways: Exploring New Zealand's e-Learning Opportunities, commissioned by Steve Maharey, Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) in 2001;
- The establishment of the e-Learning Capability Fund (eCDF) by Government and administered by the Tertiary Education Commission most notably the strategic collaboration networks that were established as a consequence of eCDF and the large number of open source software projects and open capability initiatives made possible through the fund. (A number of these open source projects have won international awards -- a testament to New Zealand's leadership in building national capability in eLearning across the sector.);
- The proactive and responsive disposition of the Ministry of Education in establishing a "e-Learning friendly" policy framework. Significant examples include:
- Leading the development of an Interim Tertiary e-Learning Framework which has steered capability development in the sector;
- Promoting leadership in e-Learning through stakeholder engagement through the Tertiary e-Learning Reference Group and continued sponsorship of eLearning communities, for instance eFest;
- Establishing the Tertiary e-Learning Research Fund which has contributed to the development of valuable assets for the OER movement, for example the e-Learning Maturity Model;
- implementing eLearn, New Zealand's tertiary education eLearning portal.
- New Zealand's strategic policy emphasis on building a "network of provision" as articulated in the Tertiary Education Strategy 2007/12 -- OERs generate scalable opportunities for tertiary education institutions to collaborate on teaching resources. By saving time and cost on developing OERs collaboratively, individual institutions can focus more effectively on their distinctive contributions in response to stakeholders and the teaching of their respective learners;
- Otago Polytechnic's global leadership in open education through the implementation of a new intellectual property policy, thus becoming the first tertiary education institution in the world to adopt a default Creative Commons Attribution license for creative works and teaching resources.
The combination of these factors when added to the mix of our Kiwi innovation culture as exemplified by the No.8 Wire philosophy, increases the plausibility of New Zealand establishing a sustainable national OER collaboration.
My vision statement for Heywire8
I would like the Heywire8 Think Tank to:
- Articulate the anticipated benefits of a national OER initiative and the corresponding indicators for success. How will we know when we're successful?
- Specify how the WikiEducator community can support and promote the success of a national Kiwi OER collaboration;
- Identify possible demonstrator projects for laying the foundations of a New Zealand equivalent of the best first year concept for the ITP sector. This OER initiative aims to build the best first year foundation courses in 12 university subjects through international collaboration using private and institutional funds. The concept is that total course redesign in foundation year subjects would have the largest impact on reducing cost, improving quality and enhancing student retention. This is an opportunity for New Zealand to lead an international ITP collaboration.
- Develop a collaborative advocacy strategy for institutional buy-in and support of OER initiatives. For example, the University of Athabasca commits 1% of its annual budget to open source related projects. One percent may not sound like much -- but this approach scales as more institutions participate and the outputs can be shared collectively.
- Evolve into a strategic model for establishing national OER collaborations that can be replicated across the 53 countries of the Commonwealth and the rest of the world;
- Progress collaboration on funding proposals for the development of OER "infrastructure" and strategic networks. That is, "capital" and "capability" infrastructure because utilizing external grants for operations mitigates against long-term sustainability.
- Most of all -- to think big and smart. You can't lead from behind :-). In the words of another Kiwi and Nobel laureate, Sir Ernest Rutherford "We don’t have the money, so we have to think."