SADC-CDE FLOSS4Edu Southern African Chapter
Following a request from the Commonwealth of Learning (Prof. Wayne Mackintosh), Mr. Nicholas Kimolo (A COL Consultant) visited the Southern African Development Community Centre for Distance Education (SADC-CDE) located within the Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL) in Gaborone, Botswana on the 11-13th of June, 2007 to:
- Establish the possibilities of using the SADC-CDE to co-ordinate the activities of FLOSS4Edu Southern African Chapter and help in the promotion of OER Development activities within the Southern Africa region; and
- To help BOCODOL in the implementation of the necessary infrastructure and capacity building initiatives required for the successful development of OER’s and their integration to existing eLearning activities.
This report will outline the activities that were carried out and highlight some of the outcomes of this visit.
The SADC-CDE is an Open and Distance Learning Centre for Excellence in the Southern Africa established for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region following the recommendations made by the Special Board Meeting held in Johannesburg in January, 2006. It is an initiative of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and SADC Ministries of Education hosted within the Ministry of Education Botswana and housed at BOCODOL. It provides capacity building programmes for efficient management of ODL institutions within the SADC countries and acts as a repository for institutions’ information, materials and expertise. This it achieves through:
- Responsive and relevant training
- Collecting and dissemination of ODL information and materials
- Facilitation of collaboration amongst ODL Institutions
- Maintaining of up to date database of research and expertise information
- Establishing and maintaining SARDEC Website
Because of its role in the Southern African region, SADC-CDE is placed in a very strategic position to act as a South African FLOSS4Edu Chapter Co-ordination centre as it is possible to leverage on existing institutional networks to hasten the development of OERs within member institutions inline with the FLOSS4Edu Vision.
BOCODOL on the other hand has been involved in the provision of Open and Distance Education since its establishment in December, 1998. BOCODOL has established the necessary organizational structures to serve it role in Botswana and is keen on the implementation and the development of OERs in partnership with other institutions within the region.
In order to achieve the objectives outlined above, the following was done:
- The Consultant, in conjunction with the SADC-CDE Director had Consultative meetings with the Executive Director of BOCODOL to map out support for OER development within the region and to receive his blessing on the establishment of a Southern African FLOSS4Edu Chapter hosted within SADC-CDE
- Held two and half day, group discussions and consultative meetings with senior BOCODOL management to map out a possible strategy on the development of OER whilst using alternative Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) applications
Following the above mentioned activities, the Consultant obtained an understanding of current eLearning initiatives within BOCODOL and the SADC-CDE. Key activities performed by the SADC-CDE include:
- Performance of an OER in ODL needs assessment within SADC-CDE member institutions and development of a plan of action
- Established a good working relationship with COMESA and the SADC Secretariat and would be willing to use this as an opportunity to use existing frameworks and/or platforms to advocate for the adoption of OER’s within the Southern African Region
- Has carried out OER Instructional Design Methodology training workshops in Malawi and in Zambia
- Has established and created a website and has carried out a variety of training research especially to researchers contributing to the SADC journal
On the other hand, BOCODOL, the institution hosting SADC-CDE
- Has began content conversion efforts for Small Scale Business Management Course with work going on in a proprietary Learning Management System though the Moodle Learning Management System is also being used. Other courses like English for Professional Purposes (EPP) and ICI are in the conversation pipeline. The choice to use moodle is based on the national development that aggravate towards this Open Source Platform
- Has acquired 512Kbps bandwidth at the BOCODOL head office while interconnected study centers are on a bandwidth of 128Kbps
- Has acquired a proprietary Learning Management System but is also using Moodle Learning Management System which is an Open Source Software.
The BOCODOL and SADC- CDE team held consultative meetings to discuss the following:
- The role of OER’s in BOCODOL and how developing content as OER will provide intrinsic benefits to BOCODOL and the SADC-CDE membership. The Consultant explained what OER’s are and the role they can play. (See enclosed presentation)
- The role of WikiEducator and the FLOSS4Edu Initiative in promoting the development of OER’s and how BOCODOL and SADC-CDE membership can benefit through these initiatives (See enclosed presentation)
- A possible strategy to acquire the skills needed to kickstart the development of OERs within BOCODOL. This required the development of an eLearning framework and the identification of appropriate technological and process requirements to be met in the implementation of the eLearning framework. The framework outlined the learning processes (Student Application, Selection, Teaching, Examination and Graduation), eLearning Process (Communication Platform, Content Production, Content Storage and Content Dissemination) and an appropriate technology platform
- The possibility of the SADC-CDE becoming the FLOSS4Edu Co-ordination point for the Southern African region. On discussion, it is important that SADC-CDE has sufficient capacity to be in a position to offer structured OER Content Development support to the region
- The various licensing schemes that can be applied on OER with emphasis on CC-BY-SA license. Other copyleft licenses were also discussed.
The following were the outcomes of this meeting:
- The identification of training needs to build capacity on the development of OERs. The team identified the need to be:
- A two day policy workshop to develop relevant OER and OSS policies
- A two week Wiki Content development workshop inclusive of a three (3) day WikiEducator training workshop coupled with content development skills using Open Source Software
- A two week technical training on Linux covering Linux Fundamentals, Networking and System Administration
- The development of an OSS applications framework to achieve generic eLearning and OER Development objectives. Relevant OSS applications were identified that would meet majority of the BOCODOL and the SADC-CDE requirements
- It was agreed that the SADC-CDE would be the FLOSS4Edu coordination point for the Southern African Chapter and SADC-CDE would appoint an interim coordinator before a collective decision is reached by all the members.