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Incorporating online communities, wikis and OERs into distance education practice

(responding to CFP - Open Ed 2010, Barcelona) -

Problem identification What was the problem? e.g.need to educate large numbers of cmty media professionals, too few being trained, low quality of curricular materials, little resources for in-country training, need to address HIV/AIDS curriculum devt. cost-effectively and sustainably.


e.g we read widely on OERs, wikis, and online communities, as well as critiques of workshops and courses in changing behaviour/improving practice or in effectively producing desired outcomes because of limited learning theories. We understood the challenges of developing OERs online and at distance.

Recommendations for an action plan We decided to digitize aspects of our capacity building to incorporate OER and wikis based on our reading of the literature. We made OER design on wikis, alongside online communities, a requirement when participants around the world were re-representing curricular knowledge from their experience.

Implementation of the action plan

  1. Moved aspects of the curriculum online (pp/facilitator co-design of a portal, teaching through the wiki and forum, etc..).
  2. Moved from paper portfolios to digital portfolios.
  3. Chose a variety of resources to use in teaching a unit on HIV AIDS, invited partners to contribute e.g. treatment literacy from IAS.
  4. Chose a variety of resources pp. would be required to produce to demonstrate competence - learning programme outline.
  5. Developed collaboratively the learning programmes to teach treatment literacy around the resources used using cmty media outlets.
  6. Described the processes pp. would need to engage in to demonstrate their learning how to design radio learning programmes.
  7. Considered social cultural understandings around the resources we included in a unit to allow for adaptation to suit local contexts.
    • speak about the in-country component
    • some theoretical framing e.g distributed cognition, social and informal learning, practice change lens.


  1. Pp gained proficiency slowly in the design of OERs. The Google forum shifted the teacher/student relationship where facilitators began to learn alongside and with/from students, and seeded the cultivation of an online learning community.
  2. Pp were more capable (imaginative, creative and literate) than we had previously imagined, and willing to share resources between HIV and media groups.
  3. Pp reported and increased engagement (they loved having the opportunity to teach the teacher and make their designs public) with learning - any validation from the in-country evaluation?

Lessons learnt and new questions

  1. We realised we overestimated my students and their digital literacy abilities, this made me us question some of our assumptions about online capacity building, and how to make online teaching relevant to pp lifeworlds.
  2. We realised students’ literacy practices, often digital, where complex and simplistic, traditional, based on passive rather than active learning, and this led us to redesign my original action plan to create more opportunities for students to be able to express what they knew through OER design,and through in-country f2f workshops.
  3. We redesigned my action plan to more critically engage with my students on their own terms so that teaching and learning better reflected who they were and the community they lived in within countries.
  4. The changes we made in the curriculum made it difficult for some students who were not as competent with digital literacies, and we knew for the future that we would need to consider this and strategize ways to make sure they had additional support during the L4C training.
  5. The next problem identification forced us to work on our pp. limited digital literacy prior to starting OER development.
  6. Online communities are effective and have potential to reduce curriculum costs. More attention needs to be paid to the mechanics of online peer-peer mentoring, and the social processes by which online learning can result in practice change at the cmty media workplace.