During 2022, the OER Foundation supported capacity development of staff at the Samoan Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (MESC) to establish and maintain their own instance of the OER Foundation’s award winning Free and Open Source (FOSS) Digital Learning Ecosystem (FOSSDLE) which was showcased at the launch of the MESC innovative Lifelong Learning Lab (MiLLL), the Soifua A’oa’oina, on 30 June 2022 at the MESC Headquarters.
Working under the auspices of the Samoan Knowledge Society Initiative (a joint programme of the United Nations under its agencies, UNOSSC and UNESCO, and financed by the Indian-UN Development Fund) the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (MESC) launched its innovative Lifelong Learning Lab (MiLLL) – Soifua A’oa’oina on 30 June 2022.
The MiLLL is a physical facility deploying a broad range of technologies for learning delivery to provide a multimodal hub for training and collaboration. Building on the country’s stated Development Strategy outcome of achieving universal access to reliable and affordable ICT services, the MiLLL initiative is aligned with Samoa’s vision of becoming a knowledge hub in the Pacific.
In his opening remarks, the Minister of Education, Sports, and Culture, Hon. Seuula Ioane, noted that the launch marks another milestone in developing digital citizenship skills by improving access to online information and associated knowledge development opportunities through the deployment of Open Educational Resources (OER). The MiLLL also provides an innovation space for the training and mentoring of learners to quickly develop new digital skills that are relevant and sustainable.
Over the past few months, the OER Foundation has been working closely with MESC and the UNESCO Office for the Pacific States to select and support free and open source software (FOSS) tools for adoption by Soifua A’oa’oina, while building the capacity of MESC staff to self-host this open infrastructure. MESC selected and deployed a number of FOSS applications for their customised version of FOSSDLE, including:
- BigBlueButton – an open web conferencing system used to support communication, collaborative project planning and implementation
- WordPress Multisite – FOSS for hosting OER-enabled online courses and providing each school in Samona with the opportunity to create its own customisable “sub-site” to publish their school information and to celebrate student and community activities in a digital form, with stories and pictures and other media
- Mastodon – a federated social media site so that citizens can build knowledge and experience in social media without the corresponding risks of surveillance capitalism
- Discourse – the leading online forum application will be used as a mailing list, forum, and long-form chat room to support learning and collaborative project planning and implementation
- Moodle – the well-established and popular FOSS Learning Management System (LMS) will be self-hosted by MESC to save significant costs compared with a commercially managed hosting service
- Vaultwarden – a cloud-based password manager enabling users to manage unique strong passwords for all websites that they access
Based on actual cost data from the project, the Samoan FOSSDLE installation can be operated by MESC for under $2,000 per annum, and can easily scale to support 150 open online courses for 10,000 learners.
Through a series of training sessions, the OER Foundation has been helping to build the capability of local ICT staff to deploy and manage their FOSS digital learning ecosystem. The training system includes a virtual server upon which to practise system administration skills, and the OERF has developed a range of technical instructions and supporting tutorials for setting up and hosting these cloud-based services. Published as OER, these technical training resources are available for reuse by any Pacific Ministry of Education.
A key advantage of the FOSSDLE is the ability to publish local versions of OER-enabled online courses. For example, the MESC has already published two short courses:
- Digital Skills for OER Sharing (DS4OERS)
- Communication Skills for Open Distance and Flexible Learning (CS4ODFL)
These OER courses were originally developed under the Pacific Partnership for Open Distance and Flexible Learning led by the Commonwealth of Learning in partnership with PACFOLD with funding support from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
About the Samoa Knowledge Society Initiative
The Samoa Knowledge Society Initiative is financed by the India-UN Development Partnership Fund, which is administered by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation. UNESCO developed this initiative in close cooperation with Simona Marinescu, PhD, UN Resident Coordinator for the Samoa Multi-Country Offices’ cluster, and a range of national stakeholders. The OER Foundation was contracted to provide capacity building for MESC in hosting their own cloud-based instance of FOSSDLE.
Lab images by Ministry of Education Sports and Culture used with permission,.