Inaugural meeting

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From left to right: Jim Tittsler, OER Foundation; Phil Ker, Otago Polytechnic, Wayne Mackintosh, OER Foundation; Robin Day, OER Foundation; Letuimanu'asina, Dr Emma Kruse Va'ai, National University of Samoa; Rachel Simpson, Tertiary Education Commission; Justin Sampson, AKO Aotearoa; Peter Guiney, New Zealand Ministry of Education; Jim Taylor, University of Southern Queensland; Jenny McDonald, University of Otago; Siaosi Sovaleni, Secretariat of the Pacific Community; Richard Schwier, University of Saskatchewan.

The OER Foundation hosted a strategic international planning meeting for the OER for assessment and credit for students project at Otago Polytechnic on 23 February 2011 in Dunedin. New Zealand. The project aims to provide flexible pathways for learners from across the globe who have accessed open education courses to be assessed and earn credible qualifications for their work on a fee-for-service basis. Athabasca University, Otago Polytechnic and the University of Southern Queensland are collaborating as anchor partners in building an OERu. As an open project, all interested post-secondary institutions may join the initiative as anchor partners.

If you are interested in joining the OER university as an anchor partner, email Wayne Mackintosh, Director of the OER Foundation.

The OER university concept. Adapted from Taylor 2007[1]
UNESCO provided financial support to stream the meeting from Dunedin on the Internet to allow participation from education leaders and interested persons from around the globe. BCcampus in British Columbia Canada, hosted a pre-meeting SCoPE online seminar to generate
for the planning meeting. The meeting attracted 202 registered virtual participants from 46 different countries. Representatives from, Australia, Canada, Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa attended the meeting in Dunedin including representatives from the university and polytechnic sectors, Ako Aotearoa, the New Zealand Ministry of Education, and the Tertiary Education Commission of New Zealand. Virtual participants were encouraged to provide input and feedback using the OER university microblog stream on, the online proposal for action forms, and relevant wiki pages set up for the meeting in WikiEducator.

Figure 1: High-level framework providing a systemic perspective of main initiatives for building a participatory OER ecosystem that aims to provide free learning to all students worldwide with pathways for credible academic qualifications
Dr Visesio Pongi, Director of the UNESCO Office for the Pacific States stressed the importance of OER in realising the mission of education for all in his welcome address. Sir John Daniel, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth of Learning commended the project's focus on providing pathways for credible qualifications. Phil Ker, Chief Executive of Otago Polytechnic remarked that the OER university is history in the making. Professor Jim Taylor, from the University of Southern Queensland – a founding gold member of the OER Foundation – led discussions on the OER university concept and introduced a logic model for planning the OERu. Key issues and appropriate responses were discussed at the meeting. The meeting stressed the importance for new pedagogies and corresponding digital literacies that will be required to scale the OER university concept in a sustainable and effective way.

The meeting has commenced work on developing proposals for action relating to open business models, open pedagogy, open curriculum and open student support. An online follow-up meeting is planned to refine the draft proposals for action generated at the meeting including outputs, key performance indicators, milestones and budgets for securing external funding. This meeting will be conducted asynchronously. The follow-up meeting will most likely be hosted on the UNESCO OER community platform.

We envisage that the OER university will commence with two qualifications. First, foundation courses leading to a "Diploma of Arts" which will carry credit for Bachelor Degree qualifications thus focusing on the Community Service mission to widen access to degree study. Second, a Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Learning and Teaching, which will include an elective for OER. These qualifications will serve as pilot initiatives to refine and develop the model. The OER university welcomes the addition of more qualifications and OER materials to build a comprehensive spectrum of curriculum offerings.

Meeting highlights


Meeting highlights

Dr Visesio Pongi, UNESCO


Realising the potential of OER

A free content video streamed from Vimeo

UNESCO Office for the Pacific States.

Dr Visesio Pongi, Director of the UNESCO Apia Office for the Pacific States welcomed virtual meeting participants and attendees in Dunedin. "The concept of free learning for all students is well aligned with UNESCO's global mission to provide education for all which now seems imminently more doable with the mainstream adoption of OER in our formal education institutions." said Dr Pongi.

UNESCO asks planners of the OER university to find sustainable and scalable solutions to these key questions:

  1. How can OER be best harnessed to train the millions of teachers needed?
  2. What partnerships and interventions are necessary to support OER quality assurance and acceptance?
  3. What specific types of OER content should we prioritise?
  4. A wealth of content exists. How can an effective "clearing house" function that supports quality, cataloguing, information dissemination and other key tasks be operationalised?

Sir John Daniel, Commonwealth of Learning


Open but tough
Transcript of the video available on the COL website

A free content video streamed from Vimeo

Sir John Daniel.

Sir John Daniel, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth of learning provides well-founded advice for the planning of the OER university, drawing on the international experience of open distance learning. "Students seek flexible study opportunities, but they also want their achievements recognised in credible credentials." said John Daniel. "This important meeting should tackle the challenges of combining flexibility with rigour, which requires clarity in conception and quality in execution."

Sir John highlights two strategic questions for the planning of the OER university:

  1. How can the "OER university" give students every element of possibility to draw on the rich environment of knowledge in their learning?
  2. How can the "OER university" provide routes to credible certification so that learners and society can have confidence in the robustness in their knowledge and skills?

Dr Robin Day, OER Foundation


Formal welcome to participants

A free content video streamed from Vimeo

Dr Robin Day.

Dr Robin Day, Chair of the Board of the OER Foundation and Deputy Chief Executive of Otago Polytechnic welcomes participants to the inaugural planning meeting for the OER university. "We extend an open invitation to all post-secondary institutions that care about sharing knowledge as a core value of education to join us in planning these sustainable learning futures." said Dr Day. In this video, Robin:

  • Extends a formal welcome to the University of Queensland who have joined the OER Foundation as a founding gold member.
  • Acknowledges the support from UNESCO in facilitating global access to this important meeting.
  • Acknowledges the contributions of Rory McGreal, member of the Board of Directors and Athabasca University as founding member of the OER Foundation.
  • Extends thanks to BCcampus who hosted the pre-meeting SCoPe seminar
  • Highlights the significance of sustainable education as a key driver for the future of post-secondary education and the role which the OER university can play in fostering international collaboration in widening access to learning and credible qualifications.

Phil Ker, Otago Polytechnic


We are making history today

A free content video streamed from Vimeo

Phil Ker.

Phil Ker, Chief Executive Officer of Otago Polytechnic outlines the leadership rationale for engagement in the OER university concept. Otago Polytechnic was the world's first higher education institution to adopt a default Creative Commons Attribution intellectual property policy. Phil highlights his reflections on a path which is aspirational but achievable:

  • The dichotomy between management and leadership, namely doing things right versus doing the right thing.
  • That institutions must stop reinventing wheels by sharing OER.
  • That OER is the vehicle to improving quality in education.
  • The commitment from Otago Polytechnic to bring the "Moodle wall" down opening access to all courses.
  • That OER is the platform for sustainable education practice.
  • That credible, accessible assessment can be provided for a fraction of the cost of traditional delivery approaches.

Prof Jim Taylor, AM. University of Southern Queensland


The OER university: From logic model to action plan.

A free content video streamed from Vimeo

Jim Taylor.

Professor Jim Taylor, from the University of Southern Queensland, points out that the OER university will create a parallel learning universe to augment and add value to traditional models of delivery through open collaboration networks. "This is not theoretical speculation, it is entirely viable." said Jim Taylor. In this keynote address, Jim:

  • Refers to the "gales of creative destruction" associated with technological change where old industry can be swept away and replaced by new ones. However, the OER university concept provides opportunities for "creative construction" for universities in a digital age.
  • Demonstrates that conventional supply of education using traditional delivery methods will not the meet the demands for access to higher education. Consider, for example:
    • the need for 18 million new teachers
    • the doubling of post-secondary students in the next decade
    • the need to build roughly one new university per week in India alone to meet the future demand for learning.
  • Points out that we already have a critical mass of open access materials, but we don't have open curriculum, open student support, open assessment and open accreditation.
  • Indicates that the OER university concept will provide a stairway to credible credentials based soley on OER.

Paul Stacey, BCcampus


Inputs from the SCoPE pre-meeting seminar hosted by BCcampus

A free content video streamed from

Paul Stacey.

BCcampus in Canada hosted a pre-meeting SCoPE seminar in preparation for the OER university meeting. The seminar was intended to generate discussion and input on the context, problem, concept, partners, and objectives of an OER university.

Paul Stacey, who facilitated the online seminar prepared a for the meeting.

The meeting connected with Paul in Canada via audio link and streamed the teleconference via the Ustream broadcast for the meeting. These inputs will be transferred to the issues and possible solutions for each of the initiatives of the logic model for the OER university.

Meet the participants


Introductions from the face-to-face participants in Dunedin

A free content video streamed from Vimeo

OER Foundation.

On February 22, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand causing extensive damage. Our hearts and thoughts go out the residents of Christchurch who are dealing with the anguish, devastation and loss of life resulting from the earthquake.

We have noted the apologies from the following attendees who due to flight cancellations across New Zealand were unable to make the meeting in Dunedin: Associate Professor Mark Brown, Director, Teaching, Learning & Distance Education, Massey University, New Zealand; Associate Professor Richard K. Coll, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Teaching & Learning. University of Waikato, New Zealand; Dr Herbert Thomas, Electronic Learning Media Team Leader, Digital Media Group, University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Vasi Doncheva, Flexible Learning Manager, Northtec, New Zealand; Lynda Mathey, Director Educational Services NorthTec, New Zealand; Darren Harkness, Athabasca University, Canada; Annabel Schuler, Education Support Services Manager, Tai Poutini Polytechnic, New Zealand; and Professor Niki Davis, Professor of e-Learning, University of Canterbury and President of DEANZ, New Zealand.

We invite you to meet the +200 participants from +45 countries who registered as virtual participants.

Alana Harrington, Saylor Foundation


Building the OER ecosystem for free online degrees

A free content video streamed from

Saylor Foundation.

The Saylor Foundation shares the vision of the OER university that "everyone, everywhere should have access to a college education. The Saylor Foundation are building a web site which will serve as a zero-cost alternative to those that lack the resources to attend traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. Alana Harrington, Program Director of The Free Education Initiative explains the model highlighting the challenge of formal accreditation. The Saylor Foundation:

  • is aggregating existing OERs into degree structures and filling the gaps where no OER learning materials exist.
  • has prioritised high enrolment entry courses in the United States
  • is exploring alternatives for credentialing services
  • keen to find solutions for identity verification of unproctured online examinations.

We were unable to stream this video during the meeting. A hgher resolution version of video available on YouTube


  1. Taylor, J.C. 2007. Open courseware futures: Creating a parallel universe. e-Journal of Instructional Science and Technology (e-JIST), Vol 10, No. 1. Online: Retrieved 16 January 2011.

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