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The birth of open education resources policy

By Gabriel Dike

Nigeria’s higher education recorded landmark feat as a draft National Policy on Open Education Resources (OER) was recently validated.

This document is to address the dearth of learning resources in quality, quantity and currency in tertiary education.

A statement signed by the Director, Directorate of Executive Secretary’s office, National Universities Commission, Mr. Chris Maiyaki, said about 340 participants at a one-day Stakeholders’ Validation Symposium, held on Tuesday, September 12, at NUC, Abuja, considered, finalized and adopted the policy document, following a motion by a member and Adviser of the National Steering Committee on Open Educational Resources (NSC-OER), Prof. Peter Okebukola.

The participants included Vice Chancellors, Rectors, Provosts, Librarians and Directors of ICT of Nigerian Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, representatives of national and international non-governmental organisations, embassies and tertiary education regulatory agencies in Nigeria [NUC, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), among others, who had earlier received copies of the draft document for their inputs. With this validation, the document is ready for the approval of the National Council on Education (NCE) and Nigeria, hitherto missing from the World map of OER, can now take its place.

The concept of OER was first by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) at a meeting on ‘the impact of open courseware for higher education in developing countries’ held in July, 2002. The term OER refers to education resources and other materials that have been designed for use in teaching and learning, that are openly available for use by educators and students, without the accompanying need to pay royalties or license fees. The main attribute of OER is the ability to use educational resources for free.

Minister of State for Education, Prof Anthony Anwukah, who declared the symposium open, recalled that the OER movement gained visibility in 2001, when Charles Vest, the then President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), announced the Institute’s intention to put all of its course materials online for the benefit of all. This decision resulted in the Open Course Ware (OCW) project, which, four years after, included over a thousand courses. As a result of the MIT’s initiative, Open Content Consortia are formed by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the world.

The minister, who was represented by the Director, Education Support Services, Mrs. Justina Ibe, challenged participants to come up with beneficial, cutting-edge inputs, which would add value to the policy saying, “your contributions here will go down in history as the contributions that will help in charting a path for greatness for present and future Nigerians. I stand assured, that with this special core of very experienced men and women that have distinguished themselves in various positions, we will together chart a course for sustainable educational development using OER as an instrument.”

In his welcome address, the convener of NSC-OER and Executive Secretary, NUC, Prof Abubakar Rasheed, disclosed that Nigeria currently had about 585 tertiary institutions (universities, polytechnics, monotechnics, colleges of education, federal colleges of agriculture, colleges of health technology and vocational educational institutions) to serve a population of over 180 million. According to him, “From the above, the problem of access to higher education in Nigeria continues to be a serious challenge and the need to redouble our efforts to address same cannot be over-emphasized. Inadequate access to tertiary education and enrolment of students in excess of the carrying capacity of the higher institutions has consequently remained a recurring decimal at the tertiary level.”

Rasheed noted that, “the NSC-OER for higher education in Nigeria is government’s effort at ensuring a planned and deliberate approach in the development and improvement of quality teaching and learning materials, curricula, programmes, and course design, as well as planning effective contact with students. With the development of this policy, government hopes to address the issues of access to quality higher education and enrolment of students in excess of the carrying capacity by existing higher institutions in Nigeria.”

He explained that “the draft National Policy on OER for higher education in Nigeria is a concise document comprising the key elements of mission, vision, goals, OER definition and scope, intellectual property rights and licences, curriculum design and material development. It also includes OER in teaching and learning, capacity building, infrastructure and connectivity, quality assurance, implementation strategies and institutional arrangements.”

UNESCO, in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and with financial support from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, had organised the first World OER congress at the UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France, in June, 2012, attended by over 250 participants from 70 countries. The meeting formally adopted a 10-point declaration known as the OER Paris Declaration calling on state parties to realise the benefits of open education.

This meeting was followed by six consultative discussions, held in different parts of the world. That of Africa took place in the Republic of Mauritius, from March1-3, 2017, where governments and citizens were challenged to move away from commitment to concrete action. In his contribution, Prof. Rasheed had advocated for the immediate creation of a National Steering Committee with the core mandate of adopting and adapting OER in respective African countries. Following the approval of Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, the NSC-OER, was constituted with the NUC boss as the convener. The 15-man committee comprises 11-members, three-advisors and one lead consultant appointed by COL.

Mr. Maiyaki, disclosed that members of the NSC-OER includes: Prof Rasheed, convener, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Director, Tertiary, Federal Ministry of Education, Executive Secretary, NBTE, Executive Secretary, NCCE, Director, NTI, Vice-Chancellor of NOUN, Secretary-General, CVC, Director, Research, Innovation & IT, NUC, Director, Open & Distance Education, NUC, Ambassador Mariam Y. Katagum, Nigeria’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Advisor, Prof Okebukola, Former Executive Secretary, NUC, Advisor, Prof (Emeritus) Olugbemiro Jegede, former VC of NOUN, Advisor, Dr. Jane-Frances Agbu, ICDE chair in OER, NOUN, COL-appointed consultant, Prof. Olu Obafemi, President, Nigerian Academy of Letters, Mr. Maiyaki, Director, Directorate of the Executive Secretary’s office, NUC, Secretary

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