An online course developed by Otago Polytechnic for the OERu international network headquartered in Dunedin was presented the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) Award for Excellence in Distance Education Materials.
The ‘Learning in a Digital Age’ course was recognised in the Open Educational Resources (OER) category and was announced at the ninth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 11 September 2019.
The Pan-Commonwealth Forum is a triennial gathering organised by COL for the 53 member states of the Commonwealth, to increase the capacity of developing nations to meet the demand for access to quality education and training. This year’s forum, co-hosted by the UK’s Open University, a founding OERu partner, has attracted over 600 delegates from more than 60 countries.
The Excellence in Distance Education Awards are a highlight of the Forum, recognising institutional achievement and excellence in open distance education.
“OER-enabled online courses, which learners can study for free, provide unprecedented access to educational opportunities around the world,” says Dr Wayne Mackintosh, New Zealand’s UNESCO Chair in OER at Otago Polytechnic.
“We are proud that OERu’s rigorous planning and commitment to the design of innovative and high quality OER courses has been recognised through this award by an intergovernmental organisation of COL’s stature.”
Ms Andy Brown, Head of Academic Development at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland, accepted the award on behalf of the OERu international network. The ‘Learning in a Digital Age’ course is recognised for academic credit towards the Certificate of Higher Education in Business conferred by the University, and is the OERu’s first UK-based qualification gained exclusively through OER online courses.
Headquartered at Otago Polytechnic, the OERu is an exemplar of sustainable philanthropy by promoting the creation and unrestricted re-use of free educational resources.
Recently, Otago Polytechnic approved ‘Learning in a Digital Age’ for inclusion as an elective course in some of its own degree programmes. In this way, Otago Polytechnic learners will benefit directly from the OERu’s international development work, while having the unique opportunity to interact with learners across five continents.
The OERu is committed to utilising open education approaches to support learning for development. This year, the OERu has established an Outreach Partnership Programme whereby qualifying institutions in the developing world can join this international network for free, and assist in promoting uptake of the ‘Learning in a Digital Age’ micro-courses for learners. The August 2019 cohort offering of the course enrolled 800 learners from 66 different countries, with 70% of participants residing in developing countries.
“The OERu’s core mission is to widen access to more affordable education with pathways to achieve credible credentials, especially for learners currently excluded from the privilege of a tertiary education,” says Emeritus Professor Jim Taylor, member of the OER Foundation Board and Honorary Fellow of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL).
“Many educators believe in expanding affordable access to higher education, but what may be difficult for institutions to deliver individually becomes possible through active participation in the OERu international innovation partnership.”