13.06.2014 - Communication & Information Sector

UNESCO supports Open MOOCs in Africa

Prof Tolly Mbwette – President ACDE opening the OpenupEd Workshop - CC BY SA UNESCO\Abel Caine

UNESCO and the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) organized a high-level 1-day Workshop on the Globalizing OpenupEd Project on Saturday 7 June, 2014 within the 4th Conference of the African Council for Distance Education (ACDE) held at the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe from 6 – 9 June, 2014.The purpose of the Workshop was to introduce the innovative concept of openly-licensed Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to the gathering of Vice Chancellors and senior open university officials, and to obtain a commitment to forming the Africa OpenupEd Project.

Defined as any type of educational materials in the public domain, or released with an open license allowing free use, adaptation, and distribution, Open Educational Resources (OERs) present Ministries of Education and educational institutions with a strategic opportunity to increase the quality of educational materials and using ICT to increase access to education especially for disadvantaged groups.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are characterized as free-of-cost, openly-accessible, online courses offered mostly by globally prestigious, traditional universities attracting ‘massive’ numbers of students. Like OERs, MOOCs also offer students, particularly those from developing countries with unprecedented easy access to high-quality, higher education.

The overall goal of the Globalizing OpenupEd Project is to reach out from the European OpenupEd MOOCs initiative to primarily open universities and their associations in other parts of the world, in order to inspire, explore and support them to establish similar partnerships working in a global network of linked initiatives.

This Africa Workshop is the first activity in Africa, a similar Asia Workshop will be held in October at the annual conference of the Asian Association for Open Universities (AAOU) in Hong Kong.

OpenupEd is the first and currently the only pan-European MOOC Initiative that has a number of distinctive features:

  1. Embracing the ‘classical’ openness of the Open Universities world
  2. Adopting an open licensing policy (which, however, is not yet in its full implementation)
  3. Offering a self-paced instead of scheduled approach for part of its courses
  4. Offering the option of formal credit for part of its courses (to be obtained from the providing university, and to be paid for)
  5. Reflecting diversity in terms of language and cultural context (the current partnership spectrum is covering 11 countries and 12 languages)
  6. Dedicated to high quality based on a long-standing record on open and online education.

Coordinated by the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) with an obvious starting focus on European Member States, OpenupEd is being led by Professor Fred Mulder, UNESCO OER Chair.

With support from the European Commission, UNESCO is Globalizing OpenupEd in Africa working with the Africa Council for Distance Education (ACDE), and in Asia working with the Asian Association for Open Universities (AAOU).

The UNESCO Africa OpenupEd Workshop was co-chaired by Prof Mulder and Professor Tolly Mbwette, President of the ACDE and Vice-Chancellor of the Open University of Tanzania (OUT).

Over 30 very high-level delegates including 8 Vice Chancellors and Deputies, 2 of the ACDE Conference Keynote Speakers, and 25 senior officials representing over 20 institutions attended the Workshop. Background information on the OpenupEd Initiative was provided by:

  1. Fred Mulder, UNESCO OER Chair - Globalizing OpenupEd
  2. Abel Caine, UNESCO - UNESCO Global OER Programme

Presentations on the current state of OER and MOOCs in Africa were made by:

  1. Dr. (Mr) Kassimu Nihuka, Open University of Tanzania – The Status of the new OER Course on “Academic Digital Fluency” at OUT
  2. Prof. (Mr) Temba C. Bassoppo Moyo, Zimbabwe Open University –  MOOCs and OpenEd at the ZOU
  3. Prof. (Mr)  Mohamed Abo Mohamed Emam, Open University of Sudan – OER at the Open University of Sudan
  4. Dr Jane-Frances Agbu, National Open University of Nigeria – Course Portal at the National Open University of Nigeria
  5. Prof. (Ms) Mpine Elisabeth Makoe, University of South Africa –

Africa’s Journey to Open Education

Mr Abel Caine, UNESCO Programme Specialist for OERs was very pleased with the Workshop, “Demonstrating the immeasurable wealth of intellectual and professional expertise in the room, the delegates raised a large number of relevant questions and comments on the relevance and adaptation of OERs, MOOCs, and the OpenupEd OER-MOOC Initiative. We now have a refined Project Plan that is directly aligned to existing education priorities and education goals.”

The Workshop was live-streamed on Zimbabwe Technomag website, and concluded with a positive response for UNESCO and the ACDE Secretariat to present a first draft Work Plan at the ACDE Technical Coordination Committee on 13 July in Nairobi, Kenya, in order to provide input for the ACDE Executive Board Meeting the following day.

The medium term goal is to launch the Africa OpenupEd Initiative with at least 3 African universities offering fully open-licensed MOOCs by the seminal World Education Forum in Incheon, South Korea in May 2015.




<- Back to: News articles
Back to top