» Enhancing awareness of Open Educational Resources at the 7th Pan-Commonwealth Forum
10.12.2013 - Communication & Information Sector

Enhancing awareness of Open Educational Resources at the 7th Pan-Commonwealth Forum

Joshua Mallet (Ghana), Chair of the UNESCO OER Panel. CC BY SA UNESCO\Abel Caine

UNESCO organized a high-level panel on Open Educational Resources (OER) for the 7th Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF) held in Abuja, Nigeria. Expertly chaired by Mr Joshua Mallet, Director of the National Center for Distance Learning from Ghana, over 60 delegates attended the Panel, held during the prestigious opening ceremony plenary, to listen to three globally respected OER leaders and exchange very frank views in a highly interactive session.

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.

The UNESCO Panel was held on Tuesday, 3 December 2013 within the 7th Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF7) held at the International Conference Center in Abuja, Nigeria from 2 to 6 December 2013, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education and the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). The Forum attracted over 500 delegates and addressed "Open Learning for Development: Towards Empowerment and Transformation" through five themes:

  • Girls’ and Women’s Education,
  • Skills Development,
  • Promoting Open Educational Resources (OER),
  • Innovation and Technology, and
  • Institutional Development.

The Pan-Commonwealth Forum is held biennially. It is co-hosted with different partners in different regions of the Commonwealth each time. The 7th PCF was opened by the UNESCO Director General, Ms Irina Bokova, via video, and the opening ceremony was chaired by H. E. Mrs Mariam Y. Katagum, Permanent Delegate of Nigeria to UNESCO.

UNESCO negotiated with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) for a prime position session immediately following the opening ceremony plenary, and engaged Dr Joshua Mallet, Director of the Center Distance Learning (Ghana) to chair four globally distinguished speakers in OER:

  • Professor Rory McGreal, UNESCO OER Chair Athabasca University (Canada);
  • Dr Ishan Sudeera Abeywardena, Wawasan Open University (Malaysia);
  • Jenny Glennie, CEO of OER Africa (South Africa); and
  • Tony Coughlan, UK Open University.

The Panel was very interactive with many interventions from the delegates including significant updates from the Nigerian National Universities Commission, the African Virtual University and the COL-initiative Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC).

Dr Venkataraman Balaji, Director of ICT for Education at the Commonwealth of Learning presented on the new APTUS initiative of new technologies for massively distributing content especially to rural teachers and learners.

Mr Abel Caine, UNESCO Programme Specialist for Open Educational Resources, supported by Mr Ronald Kayanja, Adviser for Communication and Information at the UNESCO Office in Abuja, presented the UNESCO OER Programme highlighting the Paris OER Declaration and the UNESCO - Hewlett OER Project to develop national-level OER policies in five countries by 2014.

Mr Caine was very pleased with the UNESCO Panel. “The level of enthusiasm and high-quality exchanges from the 60 delegates equally balanced between international contributions and African and Nigerian interventions was very pleasing. We deliberately did not use the typical format of a rote series of academic presentations, to intense discussions on practical and relevant aspects of how to best implement OER across various learning situations,” he said.

The medium-term goal is to directly assist ministries of education and key universities to adopt OER policies, which will be highlighted at the 2015 Commonwealth Education Ministers Meeting, and the planned 2016 2nd World OER Congress.

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