Friday, May 28, 2010

Official OER's

While reading the material for this week I was particularly intrueged by the inhibiting factors for reuse. As you know I also come from a third world- or developing country, South Africa. I can totaly identify with these factors as we deal with them every day.

The factor that is most prominent in my country is probably the one of access, and by this I mean internet and computer access. Looking at the teacher profile in our country you will find that the large majority of teachers teach in rural areas. Now you can imagine that teaching in a rural area in a third world country, you'd more than likely never seen a computer before, much less surfed the internet. This by extention relates to the average student coming to study at our University. This factor then obviously relates back to the issue of computer literacy. In my estimation Id say that les than 15% of South African people are computer literate. If you cannot operate a PC and the internet you are never going to be able to make use of OER's. It is also important to point out that teaching traditions in South Africa has for the most part remained the same. Teachers (even at higher education institutions) have remained very faithfull to the textbook. Many many courses are tought out of a textbook and there are only a few course utilising OER's to a very small degree.

In conclusion Ill have to say that OER's in third world countries will not work untill these problems are adressed. We at the dividion E-Learning at the Unversity Of The Free State are trying to adress these issues. A wonderfull oppertunity has come our way, where we are going to start a community service program in conjuction with the department of education, to start giving computer literacy classes to teachers of disadvantaged communities. The idea is that we provide them with the skills to teach their students in turn. Our goal here is to indirectly influence the quality of students that will attend our University.


  1. Hi Schalk,

    Here in N.E. Alberta we have people knowing about the net, relatively decent internet distribution for such a sparse population (2 people per sq km) and a government claiming commitment to e-learning and equitable distribution of communication devices. But all of this is laid cultural differences, past damage and mistrust of public institutions that mimics the alienations caused by colonialism elsewhere in the world.

    Reaching people is fairly easy, holding their attention is difficult. As much as the department I work in prides itself in producing well designed learning materials, the courses don’t serve everyone:
    • The practical problem of media-rich material downloading too slow for students on dial up net
    • Resistance by older instructors to see any value in adapting to new models
    • Significant indifference to the value of education among large portions of the population for cultural and social reasons—different than illiteracy, more like valuing their own style of knowing
    • World-view that accepts illiteracy—highest rate in Canada

    Overcoming resistance to education in any form is a barrier to our instructors and instructional designers that, sadly, consumes a lot of their time. Fortunately it also fires their desire to make a difference where others have given up which is part of the reason talented people stay here.

    Areas I think might have potential are podcasts; one of our designers is developing Conversational Cree, a widespread northern Native language. We’re looking forward to making content for mobile receivers if we can find someone on the crew to take it on. Producing and distributing videos featuring Native storytellers as a way of bringing an underserviced population back into the system.

    A lot of media need not be distributed on the internet. Any form of storage and retrieval would be fine. Here, virtually every home has a TV and a DVD player to view or listen with. Electronic books will be coming down in price and cheap notebook computers are available everywhere (as should be the millions of barely used computers tossed away in the West that could be repurposed in the third world instead of scrapped out producing toxic waste—having worked in computer recycling for a brief period, the scope of the waste flow is almost beyond belief).

    Yes, infrastructure and unfamiliarity with technology are a problem. Lots of restrictions and limitations built into a system (the internet) that’s so embedded in and dependant on complex technologies and expensive infrastructures. All humans are ingenious fixers and fiddlers though, good at making almost the impossible happen, and curious enough to stay at it(at least as children). We are drawn to each other for learning and companionship and that’s a soft technology that can overcome the hard tech of internet delivery. Maybe learning objects will creep into the pirate media market where there’s no net service and become a local option to an infrastructure that’s still years away?

    I see playback of OERs the least important barrier. Culturally appropriate, where do the text books come from? The reality of local needs will encourage local, appropriate content production and portable, battery operated players substitute for net distribution. WE spend way too much time worrying about things being just right when 95% of what we use is a “good enough” substitution.


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