Symposium report

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38 Participants from 9 Commonwealth member states including Bangladesh, Botswana, Canada, India, Ghana, Kenya, Namibiam New Zealand, Tanzania and Zambia convened for the Kenya National Symposium on Open Education.

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry of Education convened a national and regional symposium on open education on 6 and 7 June 2013 in Nairobi with funding support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The symposium included representatives from ten countries covering both post-secondary and secondary education levels of education with special emphasis on open policy development and adoption at open schools in Africa and South Asia.

Frances Ferreira, Education Specialist for Open Schooling, |welcomes participants and summarises the goals for the symposium
Frances Ferreira, the symposium chair, welcomed participants on behalf of the COL. In her welcome address, Frances reminded delegates that 61 million children of primary school age and 71 million children of lower secondary school age were out of school in 2010. She also confirmed that Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) has the highest drop-out rates of any region in the world and most early school leaving occurred between grades 1 and 2 with one in six learners leaving school before grade 2.

Education is a basic human right. Denying children the right to education or giving up on strategies to address this challenge is not acceptable when there are solutions. ... Open Educational Resources (OER) is definitely one strategy that can assist in dealing with this challenge.

—Frances Ferreira
Commonwealth of Learning

Goals of the symposium

Quicklinks to resources
Welcome address, Frances Ferreira
Official opening address, Enos Oyaya
Results of the fair and reasonable practice survey (Slideshow)
OERs for Open Schools (Slideshow)
Health OER Case Study (Slideshow)
Frances summarised the goals of the symposium, namely to:
  1. consider strategic opportunities and barriers for OER in Kenya and the region taking into account our COMOSA members from Asia;
  2. explore policy enablers and practices for harnessing the potential of open education approaches for the benefit of the formal education sector in Kenya and the region; and
  3. commence work on proposals for action, building on existing foundations and achievements to planning the way forward for a sector wide response to open education in Kenya and the Region with specific plans for OER institutional policy development and implementation.

Opening addresses

Jaco du Toit, Adviser in Communication and Information, UNESCO stresses the importance of OER for knowledge societies.
Welcome from the Commonwealth of Learning
Professor Asha Kanwar, President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning welcomes KEOpenEd participants.
Professor Asha Kanwar, President and Chief Executive of the COL welcomed participants and explained COL's perspective on open education:
COL believes that knowledge is the common wealth of humankind and that all education content developed from public funds must be made available under open licenses so that more people are able to benefit from the initial investment.

—Professor Asha Kanwar
President and CEO, Commonwealth of Learning

Margaret Murage delivering the official opening address on behalf of the Ministry of Education.
Jaco du Toit, Adviser in Communication and Information, UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa stressed the importance of OER as an enabler for realising the four pillars of knowledge societies:
  1. Access to information: Open licensing enhances access to information
  2. Education for all: OER removes barriers of access and cost to quality learning materials
  3. Cultural and linguistic diversity: The inherent permissions to adapt and reuse OER facilitates freedom to express cultural and linguistic diversity.
  4. Freedom of expression: OER enables and facilitates freedom of expression.

In the spirit of reuse, Jaco affirmed that the outputs of this symposium will be fed into the UNESCO's National Policy initiative to be convened in Nairobi, Kenya on 19-20 June 2013 following up on implementation activities for the 2012 Paris OER Declaration.

Download a copy of the UNESCO 2012 Paris OER Declaration
Margaret Murage delivered the official opening address on behalf of Education Secretary for the Ministry of Education. The Ministry underscored the power of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to transform the significant challenges of access, quality, relevance and equity faced by all nations world wide. In particular, the Education Secretary highlighted the obligations of UNESCO member states to progress the implementation of the 2012 Paris OER Declaration.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology looks forward to a stronger partnership with all the Member States in an effort to promote Open Education Resources as we place ourselves on a competitive edge on the global niche market.

—Enos Oyaya
Acting Education Secretary, Ministry of Education.

The Government ensured participants that they will continue to provide an environment that lays emphasis on importance of free content to meet the needs of learners. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology thanked the COL for choosing to host the event in Nairobi and formerly opened the symposium.

Session 1: International context comparison of participant views, perceptions and expectations

Slideshow summarising results of the fair and reasonable practice survey.
Symposium participants were invited to complete the fair and reasonable practice survey to gauge regional opinion among African and South Asian participants on sharing educational materials which was compared to international data collected from +800 educators worldwide. Survey participants were invited to respond anonymously in their individual capacities. The pre-symposium survey achieved a 50% response rate. A summary of the survey data was compared with international averages.

The overwhelming majority of respondents (94%) agree that educational content funded by taxpayer revenue should be released freely for use by everyone in accordance with the principles of the 2012 Paris OER Declaration. Moreover, 87% of the respondents from Africa and South Asia do not think that education institutions who give away teaching materials will loose competitive advantage through reduced student enrolment. However, while 86% of participants indicated that they were aware of the concept of OER, the overwhelming majority of respondents (86%) reported that they had not applied a Creative Commons license to their own work before. This highlights the need for capability development in open content licensing in the region.

During the introduction session, each participant was invited to share the most important objective the symposium should address. Deserving particular mention is that the majority of listed objectives focused on implementation issues. This suggests that the conversation has shifted from why should we engage in OER? to how we will implement OER? signalling progress in the maturation of the open education concept in the region.

Session 2: Selected national, regional and international case study examples

Favouring pragmatism above pretence, the symposium agenda chose to focus on open education in practice. Regional and international case studies demonstrating open education in the real world world were selected for the symposium. The case studies covered both school and tertiary education sectors. Each of these international case studies included African and/or South Asian institutional partners. The purpose of these case studies was showcase regional progress and to serve as a catalyst for participants to identify opportunities, barriers and policy issues for Africa and South Asia.

OERs for Open Schools

Frances Ferreira presenting on the OERs for Open Schools international collaboration. (See slideshow.)

Frances Ferreira shared experiences from the OERs for Open Schooling initiative which developed independent study courses in 20 secondary school subjects with generous funding support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. This multinational project involved open schools from Botswana, India, Lesotho, Namibia, Seychelles and Trinidad & Tobago.

The project highlighted that capability development for OER and related technologies is key to achieving success. Drawing on experiences from this development, it is mission critical to establish an enabling environment which: addresses ignorance in open education practices and open content licenses; promotes project processes where OER development is integrated into daily activities rather than additional workload; and adopts appropriate solutions for lack of reliable connectivity and bandwidth, for example strategies for working offline. Motivating leadership, building community and robust monitoring and evaluation were identified as critical elements of success.

Health OER case study

Catherine Ngugi sharing a health OER case study with flip chart of KEOpenEd objectives identified by participants in view. (See Slideshow.)
Catherine Ngugi from OER Africa commented on the dependence on the traditional lecture method due to the lack of affordable learning resources for learners and lecturers in African universities and limited access to reliable and affordable ICT infrastructure. Within this context, the African Health OER Network was launched in 2009 incorporating a consortium of African medical schools and co-ordinated by OER Africa and the University of Michigan. Supported by several grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the network facilitates the creation and sharing of open educational resources in the health sciences - both on the Continent and globally.

Catherine shared a number of inspirational OER examples illustrating case based studies using video, supporting print materials and recorded clinical skills demonstrations including: Video and text-based resources for examining pregnant patients, conducting caesarian sections and the regional Buruli ulcer decease from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana. There are compelling examples of South-North information sharing and collaboration as a result of these published OERs. Catherine underscored the importance for developing enabling OER policies at institutions of higher education in Africa. She highlighted Africa's opportunity to leverage OER taking into account the interplay among improved connectivity infrastructure on the Continent, mobile devices and growing inventory of open access digital resources.

OER university international partnership

The OER university international network
OER Foundation logo-small.png

OP shield bw.gif


Wayne Mackintosh, COL Chair in OER at Otago Polytechnic, summarised developments and plans for the OER university (OERu) collaboration. The OERu collaboration has also received funding support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to supplement the main revenue stream from institutional membership contributions.

The OERu is an international collaboration currently numbering 25 institutions from all continents. To date, the University of South Africa is the only African partner in the network. The OERu is using OER to provide more affordable access to post-secondary education especially learners who are currently excluded from the formal sector.

The OERu aims to provide free learning to all students worldwide using OER learning materials with pathways to gain credible qualifications from recognised education institutions. It is based on the community service and outreach mission to develop a parallel learning universe to augment and add value to traditional delivery systems in post-secondary education. Through the community service mission of participating OERu institutions the network will open pathways for OER learners to earn formal academic credit and pay reduced fees for assessment and credit. The OERu provides a sustainable and scalable example of how OER could further support African institutions in widening access to post-secondary education.

African showcase and sharing

Participants recording opportunities, barriers and policy issues on sticky notes.


Alex Gakuru
Participants were invited to share examples of local practice. Many campus-based, post-secondary institutions reported notable expansion of access to learning using distance- and e-learning alternatives. However, the majority of these initiatives do not currently use open content licenses thus highlighting the need for OER advocacy and open policy reform to support open education. A number of participants stressed the urgent need for OER to serve nomadic, out-of-school and informal learners.

Creative Commons is the air that OER breathes. Alex Gakuru, Regional Co-ordinator for Creative Commons Africa and representatives from the affiliate institutions of Creative Commons Kenya, namely the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology law (CIPIT) at Strathmore Law School and the National Council for Law Reporting were also in attendance. Alex shared feedback on the uptake of the School of Open Kenya Initiative where high school students from Kasyoka Mutunga Precious Blood Secondary School are providing peer mentorship, learning through the use of open educational resources, and using the Internet to achieve their goals while actively solving issues in their communities young girls.

Clearly, the OER and Creative Commons partnership is the vehicle for realising open policy, namely that publicly funded resources must be openly licensed resources.

Small group reviewing and classifying the opportunities identified by participants

Session 3: Identifying and classifying opportunities, barriers and policy issues for open education

Small group recording outputs of the classification of policy issues.
Drawing on ideas generated from the three case studies and discussions during the African showcase, each participant was asked to identify the most important opportunity, barrier and policy issue taking their own context into account. Participants were divided into three groups to review and classify the submissions and identify any missing issues of importance.

These contributions have been recorded in the wiki.

Policy issues

Session 4: OER legal and policy context

Creative Commons means only some rights are reserved.
Wanna work together?

A Creative Commons video which pays tribute to the people around the world using CC licenses to build a better, more vibrant creative culture.

The service shut down in August, 2015,
so this copy of the video is no longer available.
Cc-by new1.svg

Creative Commons.

During this session, participants explored the legal framework and free licensing tools provided by Creative Commons used to refine copyright to provide the necessary permissions needed for OER. During this introduction the mechanics of copyright, requirements for a definition of OER and the six licenses were discussed.

Participants expressed the need to learn more about OERs and Creative Commons. The UNESCO-COL OER Chair network will be facilitating a Open Content Licensing Course from 4-8 September 2013 and participants were invited to join the workshop and they agreed to distribute information about the workshop through their networks to increase levels of participation from Africa and South Asia in this free capability development initiative coordinated by the OER Foundation with support from the COL.

Open policy exemplars including a national, school and tertiary education example were distributed. Participants reviewed the:

Interview on OER and the background to adopting an open policy intellectual property policy at Otago Polytechnic

The service shut down in August, 2015,
so this copy of the video is no longer available.

Otago Polytechnic.

Interview with Robin Day, Chair of the OERF Board and former Deputy Chief Executive, Otago Polytechnic and Wayne Mackintosh, Director, OER Foundation.

Participants observed that each of the policy examples are openly licensed and therefore the text can be copied and modified for local institutional policy developments. The symposium noted that only relatively small changes would be required to change the existing intellectual property policies from the default position of all rights reserved to a default using open Creative Commons licenses because ownership of intellectual property would remain unchanged and institutions will still be able to protect the cost of their investment in the development of teaching materials. Options for closed licensing alternatives can still be accommodated as exceptions where commercial interests are warranted. Moreover, the cost of implementing an amendment to existing policy for open licensing would not require "new money" and could be adopted using normal policy ammendment procedures. The OER Government Policy Development Template hosted by the COL was distributed as a resource for national policy development.

Session 5: Developing proposals for action

The majority of time during Day 2 of the symposium was allocated to commencing work on proposals for action. Participants divided into three groups as determined by interest and institutional affiliation to work on proposals for action. The symposium decided to focus on the institutional policy level as UNESCO will be convening a session for national OER policy development. The group identified three proposals for action and initial drafts have been posted in the wiki for ongoing refinement and implementation:

  1. Open policies for open schools
  2. Higher education and capability development
  3. Kenya Ministry of Education proposal for action