The text below was originally taken from the Kimolo report. It is dynamic and refinements and improvements are welcomed from the community. Please note that we strongly support a consensus model on this wiki page:
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The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) sponsored Mr. Nicholas Kimolo, an eLearning Consultant, to investigate opportunities for African Collaboration in the development of Open Education Resources (OER’s). Several fact finding travel missions were made to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Nigeria, seeking to interview and liaise with several educational practioners in the continent on the various pertinent issues affecting the use of Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) in the field of Education. Based on the results of these fact finding initiatives, several key observations and recommendations were noted. This report seeks to outline this observations and recommendations as part of the requirements of this initiative.
This assignment had the following objectives:
- To seek to identify possible areas of collaboration by various African FLOSS for Education representatives in the development of Open Educational Resources
- Suggest a plan of action and make recommendations on possible initiatives that can be undertaken towards the achievement of the above objectives
The scope of work included:
- To carry out interviews and meetings with a selected set of African FLOSS for Education Practioners and educational institutions
- Prepare a brief evaluation report on findings and lessons learned
- Develop a joint plan of action that can involve African Stakeholders in the development of educational solutions using FLOSS and especially Open Educational Resources. This plan will be in the form of recommendations to the Commonwealth of Learning (COL)
As per the requirements of this assignment, several interviews and discussions were held with various representatives of FLOSS in Education organizations in the mentioned countries. These organizations include:
- The University of Namibia (eLearning Centre)- Namibia Mr. K. Ramananandan ( Representative - Mr. K. Ramananandan, Chairman – eLearning Centre)
- CSIR - Meraka Institute (African Advanced Institute for Information and Communications Technology)- South Africa (Representative – Nhlanhla Mabaso – Manager, Open Source Centre/ Kim Tucker - ICT in Education)
- The University of Western Cape (Free Software Development Unit) – South Africa (Representative – Prof. Derek Keats – Executive Director)
- Egerton University – Kenya (Representative –Dr. Jason Githeko, Head of ICT Department)
- The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) – Kenya (Representative – Dr. Ronald Waweru – Director – Instititute of Computer Science and Information Technology)
In addition to the above mentioned persons, several other initiatives were included in these assignment discussions. They include:
- The Education in a Box Project
- MobileEd Project
- EduBuntu and Open Lab Projects
- The Digital Doorway Project
- Nepad eSchool Initiative
These FLOSS For Education Practioners provided very valuable contributions towards the following:
- The identification of obstacles facing the implementation of FLOSS based solutions for Education
- The development of the suggested plan of action outlining actions to be taken in ensuring that FLOSS based educational software is available to education institutions in Africa
- The formulation of a collaboration plan that revolves around achieving the collective objective of supporting education through the use of FLOSS technologies.
Key observation common in all discussions
After carrying out detailed discussions with all parties mentioned, some common observations were made. They have been summarized below:
- Absence of Free and Open Educational Content for African Schools: This was identified as one of the key requirements by African educational institutions. Available proprietary solutions are costly, far beyond the reach of many African educational institutions. It is of utmost importance that this need is collaboratively addressed through the use of open standards that shall ensure interoperability and wider content access. All the educational institutions mentioned showed willingness to participate in joint content development if they can be involved.
- The lack of valuable skills and knowledge to use FLOSS technologies: It was identified that though FLOSS solutions are available, skills are rare and expensive. Important skill sets identified include the ability to install and configure Linux applications and specialized skills for eLearning environments including the ability to manage learning management systems and content management systems. Content production skills were also identified as lacking. Awareness on existing FLOSS tools and applications was also observed to be low. There is need to carry out promotional activities to promote the use of FLOSS in Education.
- Lack of access to existing FLOSS resources caused by high bandwidth costs and the absence of alternative FLOSS distributions channels: It is important that the educational institutions have alternative access to FLOSS solutions through mobile technologies, Offline services and access to alternative FLOSS delivery channels.
- The lack of easy to use FLOSS solutions: Most of the FLOSS solutions require a good grasp of technical details and thus cut out users with minimal or no technical skills. It is important to package FLOSS solutions in an easy to use manner thus necessitating wide usage and sharing.
Proposed Plan of Action
In order to address the above limitations, members of this group were asked to propose a joint plan of action that will address these key issues. These led to the creation of a project dubbed “FLOSS4Edu” to act as the overall strategic plan to address the identified obstacles. Though FLOSS4Edu will seek to define a comprehensive strategy, it will define small scale action items which can be taken to kick start the implementation of this project. The FLOSS4Edu strategy is comprised of six (6) pillars intended to address the critical issues identified above. These pillars are:
- Build a strong community around FLOSS4Edu project.
- Carry out promotional activities to improve awareness of FLOSS for Education solutions
- Support capacity building initiatives and develop relevant OER’s for installation and pedagogical support
- Collaboratively work together towards the development of wiki based open educational content while packaging existing software applications in an easy to use manner
- Establish alternative FLOSS distribution channels bearing in mind that there is an evident lack of sufficient bandwidth resources in the region.
- Establish effective sustainability processes to ensure the FLOSS4Edu project remain sustainable after a period of initial two (2) years.
In addition to the six strategy pillars, the overall vision of the FLOSS4Edu project was defined as follows
“By 2009 make available appropriate educational content and a set of easy to use FLOSS tools to 100 educational institutions while building the largest community of educational practioners collaborating on the development of Free and Open Educational Resources”
This vision is achievable if implementation of the FLOSS4Edu project begins this year (2006). In order to achieve this, the following action items need to be effected:
- Develop an initial set of open educational content in the wikieducator that will create a critical mass for further development of the same. This should involve using educational practioners in higher education institutions to engage them to start producing content. There is a need to organize a three(3) day workshops inviting educational practioners from across Africa to build capacity for wiki based content production.
- To establish a network with higher education institutions across the region by appointing FLOSS4Edu contact persons in all these institutions who can be the Champions for producing free and open educational content and resources. This can be modeled around the AVOIR network.
- Carry out FLOSS4Edu promotion campaigns through partnering with the African Developer Roadshow Initiative (Meraka).
- Invite selected technical representatives from African Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning for a Linux course to equip them with the necessary skills to provide the necessary technical support required to the educational practioners within their institutions. They will also be required to participate in the development of Open Educational Resources for training other support professionals and interested educational practioners
- Work towards the establishment of a technical infrastructure to ensure collaborative development of content and generate a set of well packaged and comprehensive suite of educational software and base content for educational institutions
- Establish a network with existing community centers and Tele-centers to provide alternative means of delivering the FLOSS components developed under the FLOSS4Edu project. Several freedom toasters can be donated to this community centers for use in reproducing the FLOSS components and the educational content.
The chat overleaf summarizes the FLOSS4Edu high level objectives and immediate short-term objectives. Since the FLOSS4Edu project relies on the existing of a community. It is important that this emphasis is placed from the start.
The chat below summarizes the above action items in terms of their maturity growth expectations illustrating the input effort required for each phase of the project growth.
FLOSS4Edu KickOff Workshops
The establishment of a successful FLOSS4Edu community is one of the success factors for this project. In order to begin the process of creating a community, there should exist a critical mass resource that the community can begin working/participating on. In order to create this critical mass, the FLOSS4Edu project will invite collaboration from educational practioners to a workshop to participate in the first stage of developing Free and Open Educational Resources. More specifically this will involve inviting 24 Educational Practioners from several Universities including the University of Western Cape, University of Namibia and The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology/ Egerton University to a workshop to be held (preferably) in Nairobi. This workshop will achieve the following objectives:
- Bring together educational practioners and FLOSS4Edu stakeholders to be trained on content production using the wiki framework.
- Discuss modalities of content production for at least 6 educational subjects including English, Mathematics, Business Studies, Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Physical Sciences (Physics) for secondary level of education for a period of six (6) months. The content produced in this initial six(6) months will form the basis of a community based open educational resource project where all other teachers and educational practioners can participate in the enhancement of the content based on wiki.
- Together with the educational practioners, produce requirement specifications for FLOSS based educational applications that can be packaged and installed out of the box. This will be useful in obtaining consensus on useful base components
- Define modalities for the promotion and distribution components of the FLOSS4Edu project
- Gather regional support for the FLOSS4Edu project
The selected 24 Educational Practioners will work for an initial period of six (6) months developing Open Educational Resources (OER’s) related to their subjects of interest. They will be paid a retainer from the initial funding from the project for this period and will be under contract to deliver the required content upon the completion of six (6) months. The content so generated will form the initial content for the wikieducator website. On completion of six(6) months, the educational practioners will be invited for a closing workshop where the content produced will be integrated and hosted in the wikieducator website. The general community for FLOSS for education practioners will be invited to start contributing into the wikieducator. This will kick start the other phases of the FLOSS4Edu project.
The overall project plan for the FLOSS4Edu project has been summarized by the chart below.
The FLOSS4Edu project implementation period is two (2) years after which the project is expected to be sufficient and capable of generating its own income and meet its operating costs. In line with this, several sources of revenue have been identified for this project. They are all based on the FOSS Business model where revenues are not generated from licenses but from the services that are provided in support of the Software developed or bundled. They include the following:
- Training and Consultancy Services: We do believe that corporate clients will find this solution of interest to them and will seek training and consultancy services from our community members to implement eLearning in their organisations. Consultancy services will include development of eLearning policies, system selections, and user requirements analysis among others. Community members can contribute to the project in such instances
- Implementation and Customisations: We do believe that some of the clients will require the community members’ services in doing further customisations and providing seamless integration to their existing applications. This is a source of revenue for the community members who will in turn contribute back to the project
- Distribution CD’s orders: With the prevailing bandwidth problem, we do believe that most of our clients/users will order for the supply of distribution CDs through the website. This will be an extra source of revenue for the wikieducator and thus the FLOSS4Edu project.