UNESCO supports Open MOOCs in Africa

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.

OpenupEd is the world’s first MOOC Initiative that offers learners several unique innovations:

  • Courses are to be made immediately/progressively available as OERs with at least CC BY SA licenses
  • The university partners will offer full recognition, and additional credit for fees;
  • Some courses are to offer cohort-independence

Coordinated by the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) with an obvious 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:

Presentations on proposed African OER MOOCs were presented by:

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 very large number of questions and comments on the relevance and adaptation of OERs, MOOCs, and the OpenupEd OER-MOOC Initiative. We now have a hugely 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 clear resolution for UNESCO and the ACDE Secretariat to present a viable Implementation Plan at the next ACDE Executive Board Meeting in July, 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya.

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.