Cross-Cultural Learning with OER Exchange Program

At ISKME’s headquarters in Half Moon Bay, California, four Professional Fellows on a U.S. Department of State Open Educational Resources (OER) Exchange Program– education leaders forging new open education initiatives and policies in their home countries of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Lebanon as well as across the Middle East and North African (MENA) region – spent the week with us as part of the Open Book Project, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, to expand access to OER in Arabic, with a focus on science and technology.
For the past three years, ISKME has been working in the MENA region to train educators how to use OER resources as a strategy for curriculum improvement. Last year, we launched OER Commons Arabic, a curated collection of education resources in both English and Arabic.
As part of the mini-internships in Half Moon Bay, our team shared what we have learned from our OER research and practice and also to learn from the hands-on experience of our Fellows how OER efforts are taking hold in their region. The desire of the Fellows was to gain exposure to OER developments in the U.S. and to expand their network of potential collaborators.
As one of the organizers of the weeklong exchange, I interviewed two of the fellows. Reem Bsaiso, an independent consultant and former CEO of World Links Arab Region, hails from Jordan. With an extensive background leading large OER projects, she is now working on a proposal to scale up OER projects across the MENA region. She said the project now needed the tools and content for creating new OER in Arabic. “I came because I wanted to make my own content and was right in the middle of trying to start that effort.”
Based on what Reem learned in OER workshops with ISKME team members, she said she could “use the tools to create my content, or at least the structure of it, so when I present it to the Ministry of Education I can receive feedback and determine how to proceed.” She stressed the importance of public-private partnerships in the MENA region, and how, in order to take off, projects must engage the buy-in of both public and private partners.
Rania Edrees Adam, a lecturer at the Open University of Sudan, Khartoum, recently joined OER Africa and plans to expand its reach to rural areas through OER. Because students in rural areas do not have consistent internet access, her university has created a TV and a radio station to broadcast open educational content throughout Sudan and seven neighboring countries. Like Reem, Rania came to ISKME to learn more about OER – and to see how our OER Commons platform enabled search, authoring features, and prototype mapping of OER space – that could help her make the case for OER on a broader scale back home.
Our team is currently working on building a mapping project with the goal of displaying OER services and resources globally, and the Fellows’ provided invaluable input. For example, the Fellows explained what types of metadata they and their partners could share to fill in the map, how our mapping project could better serve educators in the developing world by matching OER projects to where there is high demand for distance-learning resources, particularly in places where internet access is spotty.
We also took advantage of the excellent weather in Half Moon Bay that week, so were able to introduce them to our coastal paths for walks and dinner at local restaurants. The exchange not only inspired and informed the ISKME team but also increased our awareness of the demand for OER globally and solidified our commitment to engaging in new partnerships throughout the MENA region in the near future.
March 20, 2014