By Dayo Adesulu
FOR the first time in the history of higher education in Nigeria, a Draft National Policy on Open Educational Resources, OER, has been validated to address the dearth of learning resources in quality, quantity and currency in higher education in the country. No fewer than 340 participants at a one-day Stakeholders’ Validation Symposium at the National Universities Commission, NUC, Abuja, considered, finalised and adopted the policy document, following a motion by a member and Advisor of the National Steering Committee on Open Educational Resources (NSC-OER), Professor Peter Okebukola, OFR.
The participants included Vice Chancellors, Rectors, Provosts, Librarians and Directors of ICT of Nigerian Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, representatives of national and international non-governmental organisations, embassies and tertiary education regulatory agencies in Nigeria, NUC, National Board for Technical Education, NBTE, and National Commission for Colleges of Education, NCCE, among others, who had earlier received copies of the draft document for their inputs. With this validation, the document is ready for the approval of the National Council on Education (NCE) and Nigeria, hitherto missing from the world map of OER, can now take its place.
The concept of OER was first coined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, at a meeting on ‘the impact of open courseware for higher education in developing countries’ held in July, 2002. The term, OER, refers to education resources and other materials that have been designed for use in teaching and learning, that are openly available for use by educators and students, without the accompanying need to pay royalties or licence fees. The main attribute of OER is the ability to use educational resources for free.
Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Anwukah, who declared the symposium open, recalled that the OER movement gained considerable visibility in 2001, when Charles Vest, the then President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), announced the Institute’s intention to put all of its course materials online for the benefit of all.
This decision resulted in the Open Course Ware (OCW) Project, which, four years after, included over a thousand courses. As a result of the MIT’s initiative, Open Content Consortia are being formed by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the world.
The Minister, who was represented by the Director, Education Support Services, Mrs. Justina Ibe, challenged participants to come up with beneficial, cutting-edge inputs, which would add value to the Policy saying, “your contributions here will go down in history as the contributions that will help in charting a path for greatness for present and future Nigerians. I stand assured, that with this special core of very experienced men and women that have distinguished themselves in various positions, we will together chart a course for sustainable educational development using OER as an instrument.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the Convener of NSC-OER and Executive Secretary, NUC, Professor Abubakar A. Rasheed, disclosed that Nigeria currently had about 585 tertiary institutions (Universities, Polytechnics, Monotechnics, Colleges of Education, Federal Colleges of Agriculture, Colleges of Health Technology and Vocational Educational Institutions) to serve a population of over 180 million.
According to him, “It is crystal clear from the above that the problem of access to higher education in Nigeria continues to be a serious challenge and the need to redouble our efforts to address same cannot be over-emphasised. Inadequate access to tertiary education and enrolment of students in excess of the carrying capacity of the higher institutions has consequently remained a recurring decimal at the tertiary level.”
Professor Rasheed added: “the National Policy on Open Educational Resources for higher education in Nigeria is government’s effort at ensuring a planned and deliberate approach in the development and improvement of quality teaching and learning materials, curricula, programmes, and course design, as well as planning effective contact with students. With the development of this policy, Government hopes to address the issues of access to quality higher education and enrolment of students in excess of the carrying capacity by existing higher institutions in Nigeria.”
The Convener explained that “the Draft National Policy on OER for Higher Education in Nigeria is a concise document comprising the key elements of mission, vision, goals, OER definition and scope, intellectual property rights and licences, curriculum design and material development. It also includes OER in teaching and learning, capacity- building, infrastructure and connectivity, quality assurance, implementation strategies and institutional arrangements.”
UNESCO, in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and with financial support from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, had organised the First World OER Congress at the UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France, in June, 2012, which was attended by more than 250 delegates from 70 countries. The meeting formally adopted a 10-point declaration (also known as the OER Paris Declaration) calling on states to realise the benefits of open education.
The meeting was followed by six consultative discussions held in different parts of the world. That of Africa took place in the Republic of Mauritius, from March to 3, 2017, where governments and citizens were challenged to move away from commitment to concrete action. In his contribution, Professor Rasheed had advocated for the immediate creation of a National Steering Committee with the core mandate of adopting and adapting OER in respective African countries. Following the approval of the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, the NSC-OER, was constituted with Prof. Rasheed as the Convener. The 15-Man Committee comprises 11 members, three Advisors and One Lead Consultant appointed by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL).
Members of the NSC-OER are as follows: Professor Abubakar A. Rasheed-Convener, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Member; Director, Tertiary, Federal Ministry of Education, Member, Executive Secretary, NBTE, Member; Executive Secretary, NCCE, Member, Director, NTI, Member, Vice-Chancellor, NOUN, Member; Secretary-General, CVC, Member, Director, Research, Innovation & IT, NUC, Member and Director;
Open & Distance Education, NUC, Member; Others include, Ambassador Mariam Y. Katagum, Nigeria’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Advisor; Professor Peter A. Okebukola, OFR, Former Executive Secretary, NUC, Advisor; Professor (Emeritus) Olugbemiro Jegede, former, Vice-Chancellor, NOUN, Advisor; Dr. Jane-Frances Agbu, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology & ICDE Chair in OER, NOUN, COL, Appointed Consultant, Member; Prof. Olu Obafemi, President, Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL), Member, Mr. C. J. Maiyaki, Director, Directorate of the Executive Secretary’s Office, NUC, Member/ Secretary.