Proposal: AgriOER Learning Infrastructure Support Project

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The anticipated outcomes of the AgriOER Learning Infrastructure Support Project are to:
  • Provide the learning infrastructure support for the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) projects in building a sustainable Open Educational Resource (OER) ecosystem for agricultural faculties, colleges and communities in Africa.
  • Expand opportunities for reuse and remixing of OER content assets among leading Open Education projects by improving technical interoperability between open collaborative authoring models (WikiEducator) and producer-consumer models (Connexions) building on the strengths of both approaches;
  • Create more flexibility and freedom of choice for OER projects developed by African faculties, colleges and consortia for managing workflow and peer review processes associated with OER;
  • Build capability among African educators in Agriculture to design, develop and produce OER in response to local educational needs and priorities;
  • Provide community building expertise and support to foster, support and grow a successful OER initiative in Agriculture for Africa.

Background and gap analysis

Building a sustainable and thriving OER community for agriculture in Africa will necessitate a strategic focus on the three "C"'s:
  • Building capacity among African educators to engage and participate in the design and development of OER using leading OER platforms;
  • Developing OER content assets for use by African faculties, colleges and consortia engaged in agriculture education;
  • Ensuring smart connections between strategic networks in existing international OER communities and the technologies which enable them;

Dan Atkins, John Seely Brown and Allen Hammond advocate that OER must now "be leveraged within a broader initiative — an international Open Participatory Learning Infrastructure (OPLI) initiative for building a culture of learning" [1]. These author's emphasise that the participatory learning infrastructure will develop "only when social, organizational, and cultural issues are resolved in tandem [our emphasis] with creating technology-based services". In this regard this sub-project stresses the requirement for designing, developing and implementing a sustainable ecosystem. This project requires:

  • Content to be developed by African educators for real-use applications within the RUFORUM OER intiative;
  • That a participatory learning infrastructure is fostered not built, hence our emphasis on collaboration, networking and generating opportunities for replication, scalability and self-organisation[2].

Drawing on experience at the Commonwealth of Learning who work in education with 49 developing countries, at present, the promise of eLearning lies less in the online delivery of materials than in the design and development of those materials through international online collaboration. We recommend that this OER project focuses on building capacity among educators in using digital technologies for the development of high quality learning materials which can be taught using print-based materials so as to widen access for students in Agriculture.

Currently the OER movement is challenged by lack of technical interoperability between OER repositories thus restricting the potential of reuse and remixing of content resources between project platforms. This project proposes to develop the technology to facilitate remixing of content between WikiEducator and the Connexions authoring platforms. This new technology would enable Connexions to interoperate with all projects using Mediawiki software including for instance Wikipedia which host the largest free content repository in the world. There are distinct advantages in developing these interoperability capabilities:

  • We combine the best of both OER worlds associated with peer collaboration approaches and producer-consumer development models enabling educators to choose their preferred methods;
  • Enhanced capabilities for managing the workflow of OER development processes and creating lenses for individual institutions or consortia to oversee and control their own peer review processes;
  • Both technologies (WikiEducator and Connexions) provide capabilities for generating print collections for producing, for instance open text books or print-based study guides;
  • Enabling African educators to contribute and benefit from the networks of established international OER communities.

This sub-project is dependant on collaborations with the content development priorities selected by the RUFORUM OER initiative. Possible examples could include the design and development of an open textbook for one or more of the envisaged OER courses.

Reflective questions

What is the unique capability that you bring to the collaboration?

Connexions and WikiEducator have a proven track record in OER development and implementation. Collectively we provide access to a large international network of like-minded educators, including proven track records in Sub-Saharan Africa. Community is the cornerstone for building sustainable OER ecosystems and we have extensive experience in supporting and promoting the development of autonomous community nodes.

Connexions and WikiEducator are the world's leading educational OER initiatives working in the formal sector which subscribe to licenses which meet the requirements of the free cultural works definition. Sadly, many so-called OER projects use restrictive licensing regimes which limit opportunities for collaboration and reuse. Connexions and WikiEducator respect freedom of choice including the rights of all educators to earn a living from OER. In this way it is possible to provide a catalyst for local income generation -- a key component of building sustainable OER ecosystems.

We have extensive experience in building capacity in OER development at scale using low cost models. We have the capability of training thousands of African educators in using collaboration technologies for OER development.

What are the potential synergies with other efforts in the collaboration?

We see potential synergies in the following areas:

  • Supporting and hosting content development initiatives, for example:
    • Open text books / print-based study guides
    • Supporting the design and development of an ICT literacy course, for example the Agricultural Information and Communication Management (AICM) --- Depending on the specified curriculum outcomes within WikiEducator and Connections we should have OER assets which can be reconfigured for components of this curriculum;
  • Collaborating with CC-Learn in developing a resource kit on Creative Commons Licensing in support of policy and intellectual property interventions within African institutions.
  • Depending on needs and methodology train up to 1500 educators in using OER development tools over the three-year period
  • Provide services for a dedicated community builder / facilitator.
  • Extending and supporting access to large global network of OER educators.

How you will achieve the primary objectives using OER?

Connexions and WikiEducator are both OER projects. All content resources and training materials are available under OER content licenses and we encourage reuse and remixing of all our materials. Furthermore, we support open file formats which ensures that all are OER resources are editable without restriction.

How you will measure success - quantitative and qualitative metrics?

We use results based management frameworks for gauging progress on specified outputs. We keep detailed statistics on activity on our respective sites and can benchmark progress of the African initiative against our international projects. We propose developing a logic model in collaboration with African partners to monitor and evaluate progress on the project.

How your effort is driven by the demands/needs of African universities and faculty?

Curriculum and content priorities must be developed by African educators for Africa. Our role is that of enabler assisting African colleagues in achieving their objectives.

In what ways you are working directly with constituents (faculty, farmers, stakeholders, etc.)?

How you will demonstrate replicability and scalability of your efforts?

How you will demonstrate the sustainability of your efforts?

How you will demonstrate building social capital?

How you will demonstrate unintended positive impacts?

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