Responding to the international COVID-19 pandemic, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and the OER Foundation (OERF) in New Zealand, which coordinates the OERu, have joined forces to establish an Open Educational Resources for Covid (OER4Covid) community. The goal is to assist educational institutions around the world to transition to online learning.

Currently, 80% of the world’s student population are affected by the school closures and many countries are in lockdown to reduce transmission. Online learning is a key strategy for governments and educational institutions to ensure continuity of learning during the crisis.

“OER is a renewable and sustainable resource which can save valuable time in transitioning to online learning” said Dr Wayne Mackintosh, Managing Director of the OERF and UNESCO / ICDE Chair in OER. “Working together, we can respond to this crisis more effectively than if we each work alone.”

“COVID-19 has resulted in a learning crisis that needs our collective support” said Professor Asha Kanwar, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth of Learning. “The principles of openness, sharing, and collaboration that characterise the OER movement will guide us in our collective response to this crisis.”

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The initiative is supported by the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE), the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), the World Bank Group Open Learning Campus, and Open Education Global widening access to relevant global expertise.

“Open education and OER have been a priority focus at ICDE for many years. Our activities span from global policy, through our official consultative partnership with UNESCO, to the practical level, through our global membership community of educational institutions, associations, and individual experts across all world regions” said Torunn Gjelsvik, Secretary General, ICDE. “We are pleased to support this timely initiative as an important response to the COVID-19 pandemic where many educators have been challenged to shift to online and distance learning modalities. This initiative goes hand in hand with ICDE’s taskforce and #learningtogether campaign it is more important than ever before to join forces for inclusive and accessible education.”

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO has provided funding support for the OER Foundation to provide web-conferencing capabilities – using BigBlueButton – allowing educators under lockdown to communicate synchronously while working on local OER4Covid actions.

The OER4Covid initiative will host a series of synchronous sessions and online training initiatives to build capacity among educators to design and develop OER-enabled online courses. The first online consultation will be convened in early April 2020 to determine the next steps.

Dr. Sanjaya Mishra, Education Specialist: eLearning, COL, said “COL is a pioneer in online learning and OER. The OER Foundation has a network of partners beyond the Commonwealth and has contributed significantly to promote the use of OER and open technologies in education. With this collaboration, we are also expecting to establish an open, online community support group to curate openly licensed resources to assist educators and learners transitioning to online learning.”

Image credit

Coronavirus by Alachua County dedicated to the public domain using CC0

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