Access2OER:Stories and solutions

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The original OERWIKI seems to be offline (December 2012). The Access2OER discussion pages are preserved here for reference! The final report in pdf is available here: Access2OER_Report,

The report:
Introduction to the report
Part 1 - Issues
What is access?
Issues and classification
Part 2 - Solutions
Solutions criteria
Stories and solutions
Case studies
Part 3 - Proposals
Conclusion and next steps
Additional sections:
Stories 1
Stories 2
Stories 3
Case studies v1
Access initiatives v1
OER Training proposal
Open Educational Resource Centres
OER exchange infrastructure
OER exchange infrastructure diagrams
Additional materials
Access2OER:Additional Considerations
Wiki only
Some technical notes
Discussion Log and Quotes:
Discussion Week 1
Comments on SuperOER
Overview of week 1 activities
Discussion Week 2
Discussion related to solutions put forward
Snippets from the general discussion
Overview of week 2 activities
Discussion Week 3
general discussion
OER training discussion
resource centre discussion
oer exchange discussion
stories discussion
All discussion on one page.
Additional pages
For authors:





1 Why share stories?

Kim Tucker suggested that space be made on the wiki for people to share inspirational success stories of access to knowledge and learning. The purpose was to showcase the diverse and innovative solutions invented by communities with limited access. These stories add to our understanding of access to OER and, more generally, of access to knowledge and learning. Participants were reminded that "access" is taken to mean both physical access (via a computer, print material, audio, etc.) and the ability to use a resource effectively (i.e. a resource is not truly accessible if it is in a foreign language, or pitched at a level beyond the learner's prior learning, etc.).

2 Increasing access to resources: solutions for effective resource use

For this first set of stories, the suggestion was to recount inspirational stories of access to knowledge and learning, from which we can draw lessons for facilitating access to OER.

Using teamwork to overcome language barriers

This story focussed on a group of relatively inexperienced programmers of varying levels of multi-lingualism and programming ability. They interacted and learned from each other while working on a learning task. One member of the group was bilingual and able to understand the material in an online tutorial. She explained the concepts to her co-workers in English first. The conversation switched from English to Xhosa as they became engrossed in developing and working with the code, discussing the details of the task, the content of the tutorial and the concepts required for implementing the coding solution.

In terms of access, the story is relevant to questions around localisation: when do we need to translate resources and how do we do this translation? The story illustrates that the language barrier may be mitigated in certain situations via bilingual team members or culture brokers. Although it is desirable to create localised learning resources, in some situations - such as this one - there is not the time.

Improving the accessibility of audio and video resources

This story is based on Attreman Junior's experiences of learning English in Côte d'Ivoire. Officially Côte d'Ivoire is French speaking. In the first week of their first academic year, students had problems understanding their teacher, because of the different English accents. The way teachers pronounced words in US/UK English was quite different from the way their teachers at secondary school had spoken.

The situation became worse when the "listening course" started. The task was to listen to tape recordings of native English speakers, but the experience was as if listening to an entirely foreign language. Attreman says: "We caught nothing. But when we followed it reading a text exhibit, we noticed that there was nothing strange. The conversation was really in English, and in this way we understood very well." Reading text is easy. In terms of better access to OER, it is a good idea to subtitle audio and video resources, or make transcripts available.

North-South collaboration

This story is about a North-South collaboration where materials have flowed in both directions. A faculty member in a US public health programme partnered with three east African schools to co-author content. In addition, as the university had developed a comprehensive e-learning system (based on open source software), this was shared with our southern collaborators as well.

The program has been running for about three years, on a very small budget. The program stumbled and re-started several times, and all the barriers talked about in the present discussion have played a role. However, the collaboration still stands. Some content has been created jointly, and there have been asynchronous discussions on public health topics involving students from the US, together with partners in East Africa and India. These discussion have been tremendously interesting - again not without barriers coming to play - but still a start.

Making the most of local innovation

This is a story from William Kamkwamba about finding out how to make windmills to generate electricity in rural Malawi. It is a testimony to local innovation serving local needs using global knowledge. A video about the project is available on YouTube.

We may ask how the OER community could catalyse this kind of local innovation. We need to engage communities, foster social entrepreneurship and package the types of resources, drawing on a range of resources, such as Appropedia and the Social Entrepreneurship curriculum.

3 Increasing access to resources: providing training

Story about training - Zambia Bjoern 17:31, 10 July 2009 (CEST)

No problem Bjoern 13:09, 26 August 2009 (CEST)

Can you have a read of this, and comment? Bjoern 14:15, 26 August 2009 (CEST)

In December 2009, Aptivate facilitated ICT training at a CAMFED-run summer school in Samfya province (Zambia). Because there was little infrastructure available locally, a robust low-power portable ICT lab was also set up. This was initially used for the summer school, but then moved to the newly established Samfya resource centre (for details c.f. here and links therein).

Infrastructural issues (such as equipment, connectivity, power) are of course of paramount importance. If those are not available in appropriate forms, it makes access all the more difficult. However, once that infrastructure is in place, what is the next step? For this infrastructure to be utilised to its full extent, as well as for the installation to be maintained, training is one of the key issues. Without effective training (leading to skilled users and administrators), the available infrastructure will not be used, and fall into disrepair. Effectively this means that training is a key aspect in terms of enabling access to information in general, and access to open educational resources in particular.

In total, the engagement in Samfya lasted for three weeks. There were 150 attendants at the summer school. These were young women having left school, and drawn from the CAMFED-supported programs. The majority of the students had no prior experience with computers, nor had they used a typewriter to type. However, most students did seem to have mobile phones, and a few had browsed the internet on their mobile phone.

Consider our three-week ICT intervention in rural Zambia, where students have practically no exposure to ICT. Essentially it is not possible to 'transmit anywhere near enough knowledge' to be able to deal with most ICT situations. So even if such 'content transmission' was desirable, it would just not be possible. But even if it was possible: once you've trained the students, you have a bunch of trained students, rather than a bunch of trainers, and so the model would not scale.

Thus a key element in the training was to employ a participatory approach, that does not aim to "teach students", but fosters a sense of participation and and inquiry-based learning. So rather than covering as much ground as quickly as possible, we decided to cover as much ground as we could in terms of participation, and letting co-facilitators and students discover things for themselves. In terms of 'knowledge transmission' this made for slow progress. For instance, it took a comparatively long time for everybody to work out how to switch the computers on, and how to figure how how the mouse works. However, through the students having time to explore this on their own, they deepened the understanding, and became capable of dealing with problems autonomously. Some of the students were frustrated with 'not just being told the answers' (especially when they perceived the trainers to "have ICT knowledge" and perceived themselves as "not having ICT knowledge"), but this very soon flipped over into happy hands-on engagement with ICT, followed by mastering the steep learning curve. This also very quickly led to an appreciation of a participatory approach.

During summer school, we worked on three different training activities:

  1. The four northern facilitators would work with four local faciltators to establish a skills basis for setting up and using the ICT equipment.
  2. All facilitators would jointly run one 'long course', consisting of eight 90 minute sessions for 30 students (chosen from the 150), covering email and internet.
  3. All facilitators would jointly run five 'short courses', consisting of three 90 minute sessions, for all 150 students (with 30 students per course), and only covering email.

The idea with this graded programme was to provide basic skills to all students, somewhat more skills to a smaller group of 30, as well as more in-depth skills to just four local trainers, who would then be able to run the resource centre, and would be able to continue to train students.

Generally we taught classes of 30 students in an essentially 15 seat lab. This meant teaching students in pairs. Firstly, this reduces the need for hardware, but it also works well as a pedagogical tool. It means that students are encouraged to help eachother, and further foster a sharing of skills. Of course sometimes on person within the pair would take over (just because, say, they were able to type a bit faster). However, this provided an excellent opportunity to discuss the need to swap around, to give everybody a fair chance, and to let them explore, rather than just tell them what to do, or to operate the keyboard/mouse for them. With those discussions, and encouraging the pairs to swap round, the teaching in pairs aspect worked very well. What was remarkable in the teaching was that the swapping and regrouping between facilitators (UK/Zambia) worked so well and seamlessly. This also included discussions that often involved a mix of English and the local language (Bemba).

With regard to teaching the larger groups of students, another interesting element was story telling and role play. Consider for instance the 'short course', consisting of three 90 minute sessions for 30 students per course, just covering email, but for students who have never used a computer before. While some basic concepts of course need to be covered, it would be irresponsible to not talk about issues with privacy and unsolicited emails.

Given that most of the students had never used email, how do you go from "this is a computer/keyboard/mouse, this is a web browser, this is how you log in" to "emails can be intercepted and read at each server the email passes through, so you need to be aware of privacy", when you only have three sessions? When we introduced privacy issues the first time we ran the short course, it fell completely flat. However, when we adopted a less abstract approach, and settled on a more interactive and role play based approach, it was much easier to engage everybody in the concepts. (Examples available here.)

4 Increasing access to resources: technical solutions

This section contains the second set of stories, gathered during the second week of the discussion, which had a focus on technical aspects.

4.1 Appropriate devices

Low-cost devices: Rwanda and One Laptop Per Child

Rwanda has adopted the policy of introducing cheap laptops in primary schools through the OLPC project (One Laptop Per Child). This story was contributed by a member of the OLPC Steering Committee. The governement will buy laptops for all primary school pupils so that by 2015 every child should be able to use a laptop for learning. The project began in December 2008.

This is a forward-looking decision, but one that will not be easy to implement. There are many issues to be resolved, such as: lack of electricity in most schools, lack of infrastructure in some schools, lack of connectivity, the need for teacher training, the need for maintenance - and of course the cost of purchasing millions of laptops. (In the beginning the cost per unit was USD100; now it is USD200). The contributor added that, despite these problems, "We must try to do what we can. We must be always positive and keep in mind that nothing is impossible."

Walking in Liberia: the potential of hand-held devices

Cliff Missen visited Liberia recently to install an eGranary lab at the medical school. He contributed this story about his visit:

Quote image Having lived in Liberia many years earlier, I spent my evenings wandering around the packed residential areas looking for old friends. It was dark. There was no moon and the electricity had been off for years. It was so dark that people would bump into each other even in the uncrowded streets. Every once in awhile there would be a single lit candle that would help guide us pedestrians, but more often there was the eerie blue, green glow of a cell phone. I'd stop and talk to those with cell phones. (Largely because I could see their faces and they could see mine to better understand my awkward attempts at Liberian English.) It turns out that they were not making phone calls. They didn't have credit on their handheld to make calls. But they were negoitating the menus, reading the user's manual, playing games, and making ringtones. I thought, "If only we had books, health infomation, and lectures in local languages on those things..."

There are some small eGranaries for the World Dental Federation and Ponseti International that fit onto a chip the size of a little fingernail. They contain "only" 200,000 Web pages, books, and videos, but they are remarkably portable, and there are USB flash drive versions that can hold a million documents.

Cliff comments:

Quote image There's been a lot of discussion about using cell phones for Internet. This may be a solution for some types of communication needs, but I doubt that many people are going to spend hours of their precious airtime reading a book or listening to a podcast -- even if the cost of airtime drops considerably. However, we could distribute OERs and local content on $5 chips and turn every compatible cell phone into a tiny digital library.

Cliff also contributed the short vision story used at the start and end of this section.

mLearning in Tecnológico de Monterrey

Turn into third person Bjoern 17:33, 10 July 2009 (CEST)

Done, but needs copy editing.

In this story, José Vladimir Burgos Aguilar shared some results of the "Mobile learning" initiative that was started in 2006 at the Virtual University of the Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) in México. A similar initiative may also be able to reach other educational levels providing online and offline content. Initially, one single master degree in 2007 was enriched with mobile resources and learning materials, which were available through podcasts, text alerts and educational messages to the cellphone (SMS), and access to courses with instructional content and learning resources like audio (i.e. audiolectures, audiobooks) and video (i.e. videolectures, videoconferences, videoclips). In 2008 it was grown to 14 programs through masters degree, reaching 14,593 students with 77 courses with mobile learning strategy, and delivering to 3,500 mobile devices (BlackBerry) across five of our campuses to students in face-to-face education. These students could access grade notes, lecture materials, activities and learning content.

Quote image The success was the evolution from chalk and blackboard to blended and online education has been the commitment of teachers to change and adapt with the resources available, and to improve the way that they teach others. We are exploring new initiatives through the design of mobile learning enviroments to reach new audiences with Open Educational Resources (OER) in diferent educational levels like k-12 education and social programs, empowering teachers and social leaders through the creation of educational programs and strategies for sharing best practices through social networks, using the potential of multimedia learning, Internet and other information and communication technologies through our Community Learning Centers (

The Internet connection is used to 'upgrade' courses, content and learning resources. Resources can be downloaded for “offline” access and consultation through a pocket or mobile device like a cellphone or digital mp3/mp4, exploring exploring new learning spaces and access points for learning.

4.2 Appropriate bandwidth and bandwidth management

Aptivate: the human side to bandwidth

This case study was contributed by Alan Jackson from Aptivate, an NGO focussing on the global use of ICTs and particularly bandwidth and power issues. It responds in part to an earlier comment regarding the challenges of electricity, connectivity, teacher training and maintenance. On the one hand, we must recognise that there are global disparities in access and these need to be addressed. But at the same time, we should not ignore how we can make better use of what we have available right now.

Quote image There is a human side to bandwidth. Bandwidth must be viewed as a shared, and often scarce, resource. If you cannot immediately increase your bandwidth you can think about how it is used, how it is shared, who uses it and what it is used for. Through effective bandwidth management and optimisation (BMO) the effective use of existing connections can be vastly improved.

The last ATICS report found that the majority of African universities did not have an effective "Acceptable Use Policy" (AUP). An AUP is an important part of a bandwidth management policy. For instance, is it acceptable within a university for students to be downloading copyrighted music for non-educational purposes while others are unable to download research papers because they are competing for the connection? Users must realise how their actions on-line affect the access of their colleagues.

It is useful to think of effective bandwidth management requiring three main elements which we call the "BMO triangle". These are policy, monitoring and tools. For more on this, see the Creative Commons book How To Accelerate Your Internet. The authors discuss all aspects of the BMO triangle, describing various tools, techniques and approaches.

It is useful to use a Content Delivery Chain model as a framework for thinking about bandwidth issues. We refer to this as a chain because success is dependent on the weakest link. It is a simple idea and looks likes this:

Content -> Connection -> Local Network -> User

It would be a mistake to concentrate solely on the connection and not spend equal effort considering the other links in the chain:

  • Content: content providers have their role to play. They must ensure that content is usable over existing connections. Aptivate has written web design guidelines that describe techniques for optimising on-line content.
  • Local network: BMO, which we mentioned above, is something that needs to be carried out at the local network level.
  • Users: users are also critical. User behaviour is the largest factor determining the effectiveness of any Internet connection.

As an example, using web-based email, like Hotmail or Yahoo!, can add a massive overhead to the size of an email, sometimes multiplying its size by a factor of one hundred or more. A university in the UK might typically have email take less than 5% of its Internet bandwidth. However an institution that relies solely on web-based email - and there are many - can see 25% or more of its bandwidth taken by email.

Users can empower themselves by using bandwidth optimising tools. For instance Aptivate hosts a free web-based service called Loband that reformats any web page into a text-only form that radically reduces its size. Adobe also offer a similar service for PDF files. For OER we may want to think about transcoding services for other types of media (video, audio, composite learning objects, etc), which many providers are offering.

Finally, as food for thought and as an example of effective bandwith use, one may download the entire works of Shakespeare as compressed text (only 2MB) from (or It is possible to download six average web pages only for the same bandwidth (see for web page size information).

5 Increasing access to resources: hybrid solutions

Ending the Internet obsession: identifying hybrid information delivery solutions to serve the poor

This case study was contributed by Cliff Missen, Director of the WiderNet Project, a non-profit service group based out of the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Iowa. Since 2000, WiderNet has provided IT training to over 4,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa. Volunteers have refurbished over 1,200 computers and have put in over 10,000 hours developing the off-line eGranary Digital Library. The library, now installed at 275 locations worldwide, contains over 10 million digital resources that have been copied, with permission, from the web so that the collection can be made freely available over local area networks to patrons without Internet connectivity.

Cliff's interest is in developing multi-tiered, hybrid solutions to deliver information to the poorest people on the planet. Understanding that what we sometimes call a "digital divide" is really a pernicious economic divide, WiderNet seek low-cost, high impact solutions that are locally affordable and sustainable.

Over the last ten years, there have been hundreds of demonstration projects that deliver a few computers and a smattering of Internet connectivity to a handful of people. This is nice, but having seen computers sent to Mars and Internet connectivity delivered to remote sites like the Amazon and Antarctica, we knew that this was possible. The challenge is to scale computer access, information access and IT skills to the billions of people - health care practitioners, students, policy makers, entrepreneurs - in the majority of the world.

Cliff writes:

Quote image One of the lessons learned over the years is that there is no one "user" and no single solution. In some places, for some people, electricity is adequate. For others, even for different economic classes in the same location, electricity is highly problematic. For some, Internet connectivity is available but expensive and slow. For others, adequate Internet connectivity is simply impossible without spending millions on infrastructure. (And more often than not, if such a sum were actually available, a community would probably choose to spend the money on health-giving or income-generating investments.) For some organizations, that have trained and talented technologists with ongoing salary support, open source software makes sense. For others, off-the-shelf solutions make them productive faster, using common tools with which the broader community is familiar.

It can be aggravating to see how some initiatives, like One Laptop Per Child, purposely confuse access to a computer as access to the Internet. In many communities, the cost of adequate Internet connectivity is more expensive, per person, than the computers themselves.

Cliff remains firmly convinced that the best "bang for the buck" for most communities is to build local communication and information networks. External information has its value, but, as the GSM revolution has shown us, most communication needs are local. It is critical to build capacity to share locally generated and locally stored information. For most institutions in developed countries, local network traffic is 7-9 times that of Internet traffic - and, since they own the networks, they do not pay costly "rent" to Internet bandwidth providers to access the bulk of their information. The pursuit of Internet-centric solutions automatically marginalizes those who cannot afford it. The challenge is to develop a hybrid suite of on-line and off-line solutions that meet a wide range of information needs and environmental constraints.

The ever-growing eGranary Digital Library includes dozens of OER sites and demonstrates how effectively off-line information stores can serve poorly connected communities. Last month WiderNet installed a computer lab and eGranary Digital Library at the Dalai Lama's schools in Dharamsala, India. The teachers had been struggling with a slow, unreliable, shared 1mbit Internet connection for more than a year. They were experiencing a common disconnect: all of the external "experts" were telling them that a connection to the Internet was a panacea for their information access and teacher training needs, yet they mostly experienced frustration and limitations with their tiny but expensive wireless Internet connection. With the installation of a 100mbit switch and a eGranary Digital Library in their 12-computer lab, they had over 1,200mbit of bandwidth to access millions of documents in the blink of an eye. After opening hundreds of pages within minutes the teachers said, "Ahha! Now we get it! This is what the experts were talking about!"

Recently, WiderNet has been developing a "Community Information Platform" (sponsored by Intel), which makes it easy for subscribers to set up and edit an unlimited number of local web sites, add local content, create Moodle courses, develop Drupal sites, and implement a host of Web 2.0 applications on their eGranary.

Finally, while few people paying for Internet bandwidth in developed countries would think of sharing it freely with their neighbours, several subscribers choose to share their eGranary with anyone within reach of their wired and wireless networks. For more about the concept of "eGranary Knowledgespheres", see the video on YouTube.

Combining some of the ideas presented in the discussion, there is the the potential of OER, off-line information storage, bandwidth optimization and asynchronous information updates to create an inexpensive and powerful information delivery platform for a wide variety of institutions in underserved areas all around the world - an "Internet extender". To scale up the access, mix in solar-powered systems, refurbished computers, low-powered laptops, handheld devices, kiosks and community centres. The technical solutions are at hand. Now it is a matter of finding the right mix to serve people appropriately.

Adapting a portable media player as a learning tool

At eLearning 2007 in Nairobi, Kenya, and at a Commonwealth of Learning (COL) workshop also in Nairobi, Moyomola Bolarin demonstrated to the mobile learning group how a child’s toy - a black hawk portable media player - was used to make a learning resource accessible where there was no access to a computer. It received an impressive amount of feedback from African participants.

Moyomola Bolarin is a Multimedia/Training Material Specialist at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Aleppo, Syria. He conducted an ICT resources pilot survey involving around 120 trainees from 21 countries in Central and West Asia and North Africa. The survey revealed that many respondents who did not have access to a computer or who used a shared computer in the work place owned mobile phones that were capable of recording and audio and video playback, and/or an iPod. Some had bought PlayStation Portable (PSP) or other Portable Media Player (PMP) devices for their children to play games.

That prompted Moyomola to start converting learning resources developed initially for online/CD-ROM delivery into a format that could be played on a PMP/PSP or mobile phone. Moyomola developed a keen interest in portable mobile learning devices - the different kinds that are available, their features and associated content media. Some cost as little as USD25. The disappointing aspect, as a learning specialist and instructional designer, was that there were little or no structured learning content for any of these devices. All that was available were games, movies and music. This prompted him to ask why - why is the education sector not embracing, adopting and adapting learning content for these technologies in the same way that the music, movie and gaming industries have done? Features that make one PMP a valuable potential learning tool include:

  • capability to record and playback MP3 audios and MP4 videos;
  • ability to reading e-books that are formatted as text or as a digital photo series;
  • 1GB internal storage or memory, and a memory card slot for up to 2GB additional memory;
  • AV in and out to connect the device to a TV set;
  • capability to record TV programmes directly through its AV in;
  • 3 mega pixel still camera;
  • audio and video recording capability to record real-time events;
  • USB connection to computers;
  • rechargeable battery with 3-4 hours play time.

This device had been used to play reformatted audio, video and e-books. Looking ahead, one could imagine a situation when instructional videos could be downloaded from OER repositories to be viewed on a PMP/PSP. Instructors could prepare audio and video content and provide course guidelines and assignments or discussion points in text e-books. Moyomola has used his child’s device to record educational TV programmes. He has also downloaded online learning resources (e.g. instructional videos on YouTube) and converted them into a format that could be played on the device.

Some might comment that this solution still relies on Internet access. Moyomola replies:

Quote image ...when we come to realize that technology is not an end in itself but a means to an end, we will begin to look into all options and choose the best technology for a given situation.

Effective technology-supported learning is not a matter of using the most advanced technologies. What is important is the ability of the trainer to combine and use the technologies that are available and with which people are comfortable, with minimal operational cost to the learners, to bring about meaningful learning in a given situation. For example, to develop a workable hybrid technology-based learning strategy for remote community schools that have no ready access to electricity, internet and computer resources, the use of mobile and handheld digital devices rechargeable by solar energy may be a workable solution.

Many countries have internet connectivity at least in the major cities; most have established Education Management Information Systems. This suggests that Cliff Missen’s "Community Information Platform" could be combined with handheld digital player devices. There could be education/information resource centres in the major cities where OER could be downloaded, reformatted for other digital devices and made available to users through community learning resource centres, a "Community Information Platform", or through school networks.

Finally, Moyomola suggests that UNESCO might consider initiating a study into the effectiveness of a "one PMP or PSP per child" scheme.

6 Increasing access to resources: lessons from initiatives in southern Africa

Kim Tucker presented an overview of several initiatives in southern Africa that provide learning materials (among other resources), while providing access via some medium. Some have also been designed to promote collaboration and communication.

Digital Doorway

The Digital Doorway was inspired by the Hole in the Wall project. Both employ the concept of "minimally invasive education". Providing access resulted in some children learning to use computers and even how to read via peer learning and experimentation. A few children in the community with a little knowledge, natural ability, and a lot of collective curiosity led to new opportunities for many. The Digital Doorway addresses the need for robust computers to enable access in some southern African communities and highlights unexpected learning and possible pedagogical advances. The concept is evolving continually evolving and there are a growing number of deployments in South Africa. There are anecdotes of learners queueing up daily for hours for a short time on a Digital Doorway, and curious parents walking up to 12km to find out what was keeping their children away from home (but off the streets).

Wireless Africa

Wireless Africa enables communities to set up their own wireless networks. Starting from a position of "community-owned information networks", enabling communities to empower themselves with knowledge, this project is now being extended to enable community innovation including (for example) entrepreneurial services for schools.

Freedom Toaster

A facility to enable access to CDs/DVDs of FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) and educational resources for those with limited Internet access but access to PCs (e.g. at the school computer lab or at a community centre, etc.).

SchoolNet Namibia

Quote image ... a local hands-on ICT deployment, training and support organization, ... to empower youth through the Internet and provide a sustainable low-cost technology solution for Internet to all Namibian schools.

During the course of this initiative, which has deployed computers in more than 350 schools, a variety of approaches have been used to enable Internet access. The computers are generally arranged around circular tables encouraging interaction around and across tables. The types of learning resources available are a combination of OER and non-free resources. Few are localised, but many are of great interest to the learners, most notably a local custom snapshot of Wikipedia (probably the SOS Children's edition). A general observation is that learners are exposed to parts of learning resources in English but proceed to talk about the material in more familiar language(s) - an example of constructing collective understanding.


MobilEd was designed as a research project on mobile education using the most basic phones, which are used widely in under-developed parts of the world. The first protoypes used Wikipedia as the source learning material. The process was to send a one-word query via SMS. The system would then phone the caller back and read from Wikipedia using a text-to-speech engine. The technology was designed to work in both directions (i.e. users could contribute text to Wikipedia) and could accommodate multimedia with a little extra thought and work (and a more sophisticated, more expensive - less common - phone). The concept is being extended in various directions.

Wizzy Digital Courier

A system for caching e-mails to be sent/received and internet page requests until the evening, when dial-up becomes more affordable. Alternatively, schools without access to the internet can have emails and internet pages delivered on a USB storage device by a human courier.

"Dr Math"

A service for learners to ask questions about their maths homework via SMS and receive hints from connected educators. The service could be expanded, so instead of "Dr Math" there could be a "Professor Sociology", or another subject, with mentors providing hints using access to OER that are not available to those on the SMS network. There is more on taking this forward on WikiEducator.


The original Mamelodi Broadband E-Learning Pilot Project aimed to explore educational opportunities between five schools in the Pretoria area using a Motorola Canopy Radio Network. The project is now expanding to include Dinaledi 10 schools along a radio corridor in the Mpumalanga region of Bronkhurstspruit, Witbank and Middleburg.


Quote image More and more South Africans have access to telephones, while most do not have reliable access to the Internet or even printed media. A telephone-based, speech-driven information system can build on existing infrastructure and communication methods to connect all South Africans to the benefits of information technology.

Some of the technology being developed may be available later in 2009.


Quote image [An] Open Educational Resources (OER) materials adaptation initiative that has developed and piloted a six unit maths teaching and learning module called, Teaching and Learning in Diverse Classrooms. Six higher education institutions are using the materials in a variety of teacher education programmes.

...We think that it’s important not only to produce and disseminate materials, but also to do this through sharing expertise and resources.

The project addresses the problem of a lack of local skills and knowledge for adapting and revising OER by deliberately setting up a community of educators and asking members of the community to focus on course design, rather than the nitty gritty of materials adaptation. For the latter, the project contracted a materials development and content expert.

6.1 Lessons learned

Turn into 3rd. Bjoern 17:35, 10 July 2009 (CEST)

DONE, but needs copy editing Bjoern 19:27, 26 August 2009 (CEST)

In analysis of the lessons learned, Kim Tucker suggested that most of the above mentioned projects were designed to overcome particular barriers or respond to the needs of a particular group. Looking at the initiatives overall, we may say that there is value in having access at multiple levels, for example:

  • raising awareness of technology,
  • stimulating curiosity and local discussion about the possible implications towards readiness,
  • seeing how others structure courses, even if the actual content has not been adapted for local use.

These projects can also result in unexpected community-led innovation. It needs only a few community members to succeed in using equipment and resources effectively, and then to channel some of their knowledge back into the community.

A common limitation in some of the initiatives is the degree to which participants could really engage with the resources and become user-producers. Participation in peer production of knowledge and learning resources is the next step towards participation in the global knowledge society - towards equality.

OER and libre knowledge resources are an important part of the process of enabling (physical and effective) access by virtue of the freedoms the users have to use, modify, compose, mix and share resources. More broadly, they are an important part of the process leading to effective participation in the global knowledge society.