Innovative education system to revolutionise tertiary learning
You can study world-class courses for free and count them towards real qualifications. This is the future of tertiary learning with the launch of the Open Education Resource university (OERu), due to be unveiled on November 1, 2013.
The OERu will provide more affordable ways for learners to gain academic credit towards qualifications from recognised institutions.Coordinated by the Open Education Resource Foundation, headquartered in New Zealand, the OERu is an independent, not-for-profit network that offers free online university courses for students worldwide using Open Educational Resources (OER). The implementation of the OERu is a designated project of the UNESCO-Commonwealth of Learning OER Chair network.
“The OERu makes affordable education accessible to everyone,” says Open Education Resource Foundation (OERF) Director, Dr Wayne Mackintosh. “All you need is an internet connection and you can study independently from home, with access to world-class courses from recognised institutions around the world. It’s about sharing knowledge and the sustainability of education.”
The launch coincides with the second meeting of the OERu anchor partners from around the world, coming together at the Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada, to formally launch the university to the world and engage in an intensive two-day implementation planning meeting.
OERu Presidents, Vice Chancellors, and Deputy Vice Chancellors will convene to discuss the OERu’s key performance indicators for the next three years and plan the implementation of further open online courses and credentials.
Former UNESCO Assistant Director General of Education and open learning visionary, Sir John Daniel, will be the guest of honour at the event, and will officially launch the OERu website.
“The OERu will reduce the cost of higher education dramatically,” says Sir John Daniel. “I believe that radical innovations in higher education must be accompanied by particularly robust frameworks of accreditation and credentialing in order to reassure the public. It’s all very well for evangelists to promote do-it-yourself accreditation from the personal safety of CVs replete with reputable qualifications, but ordinary people want the ‘beef’ of proper recognition too.”
Dr Mackintosh says the attendance of Sir John Daniel is a major coup. “In the world of open learning, Sir John is renowned. It will be a great honour to host him and he has his wealth of experience in the online learning sector. I’m sure we will all learn a great deal.
“This event is also a wonderful opportunity for like-minded professionals to network and explore new business opportunities open education could potentially generate.”
OERu’s primary point of difference is that students study for free, anywhere in the world using courses based on OER, with pathways to gain credible credentials. Users can pay reduced fees if they want to get academic credit, and only pay for assessment if and when they’re ready.
“All the course material is taught online, based on OER and openly accessible materials on the internet. This means you won’t need to buy any textbooks,” explains Dr Mackintosh.
Designed for independent study, users will get peer-support from fellow learners, while in some OERu courses users will study with full-time registered students at one or more of OERu’s anchor partners – a network of academic institutions in five continents.
Home to the OER Foundation and anchoring partner to the OERu, New Zealand tertiary institution Otago Polytechnic has embraced the philosophy of sharing knowledge. It was the first tertiary institution in the world to adopt a creative commons open content intellectual property policy.
“The OERu is the means by which education at all levels can be more accessible, more affordable and more efficient,” says Otago Polytechnic Chief Executive, Phil Ker. “It’s no longer about building learning facilities and expecting students to come to us. We are taking it out to the world and investing in the sharing of knowledge on a global scale.”
Courses on offer through the OERu include ‘Resourcing a Small Enterprise’, ‘Understanding Culture in Asia and the Pacific’, ‘Tourism in Asia and the Pacific’, ‘Developing a Business Plan’, and ‘Regional Economics in Asia and the Pacific’. The OERu will also support the UNESCO Paris 2012 OER Declaration, with courses focusing on building capacity in open educational practices.
Programmes can be distinguished between a Full Course and a micro Open Online Course (mOOC). “A micro-Course allows the user flexibility to manage learning around their personal commitments and learning interests,” says Dr Mackintosh.
“It represents a sub-component of a full course and is usually offered over a two to three week period. This can qualify individuals to gain full course credits through ‘recognition of prior learning’ systems available at a number of OERu partners.”
A Full Course can be anywhere between ten to 15 weeks in duration.
The OERu is a consortium of more than thirty universities, polytechnics and community colleges from five continents committed to widening access to educational opportunity.