The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) commissioned the OER Foundation (OERF) to deploy its open digital infrastructure to host a growing inventory of OER-enabled online courses for the Pacific Partnership for Open, Distance and Flexible Learning, thereby providing an innovative and low-cost solution to widening access to the professional development of thousands of teachers.
The Pacific Partnership for Open, Distance and Flexible Learning (PPODFL) is a 5-year project (2020 – 2025) funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to enhance the capacity and efficiency of education sectors in the Pacific through greater use of innovative delivery mechanisms and technology. The Commonwealth of Learning (COL), together with the Pacific Centre for Flexible and Open Learning for Development (PACFOLD) are implementing the initiative.
Building resilience in Pacific education systems is a key work stream that focuses on cloud-based services and open online courses to build capacity in online distance and flexible learning. The COL commissioned the OER Foundation (OERF) to deploy its Free and Open Source Software Digital Learning Ecosystem (FOSSDLE) for these courses. The OERF’s FOSSDLE (used for the design, development and delivery of OER-enabled open online courses) has achieved international recognition through the Open Infrastructure Award for Excellence conferred by Open Education Global.
Over the past few months, the OERF has hosted the following growing inventory of open online professional development courses:
- Digital skills for OER Sharing (DS4OERS) – which supports teachers to improve digital skills using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) to develop teaching materials for the classroom and to publish these as Open Educational Resources (OER)
- Communication skills for Open, Distance and Flexible Learning (CS4ODFL) – which assists teachers to improve their communication skills in ODFL contexts
- Assessment skills for open, distance and flexible learning (AS4ODFL) – which helps teachers to design online activity-based assessment in support of teaching and learning
- Empowered digital teacher for online learning (EDT4OL) – is an intermediate level course for educators to develop digital skills for designing and developing online materials using the FOSS digital learning ecosystem.
To date, these courses have provided free online capability development to more than 3,500 educators from Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Using cloud hosting services (at a cost of only US$46 per month) the server performance metrics derived from the first courses indicated that for the duration of the cohort sessions, the virtual server was operating well below its potential capacity. For example, the CPU percentage typically averaged below 2%, with machine memory at around 11%. These metrics confirm that there is considerable scope for growth; this infrastructure could readily scale up to accommodate 150 courses serving up to 10,000 learners at no extra cost.
As demonstrated in the PPODFL initiative, the potential deployment of shared open infrastructure and the associated reuse of OER-enabled courses in all Pacific SIDS will:
- enable Ministries of Education and institutions to host their own customised FOSSDLE installations, each with the capacity to support up to 10,0000 learners for less than US$50 per month,
- provide teachers in the Pacific region with ready access to online publishing tools,
- scale-up significantly the number of educators capable of developing and sharing context-appropriate local content for online learning.