Access2OER:Solutions Discussion

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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 A page for recording quotes from week 2 of the discussion

Snippets from the discussion: [Add quotes from the mailing list by clicking here.]

2 Training

Training was very widely discussed in the first half of the 2nd week of the discussion. Based on this the OER training proposal was put together, and the discussion that led to the proposal has been moved here: Access2OER_talk:OER training proposal.

3 Other threads

3.1 Foster the willingness to share

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However, in my experience so far it would seem that the key enabler of using and producing is a social one in short the willingness to share in a society where the opposite has become the norm. It would seem to me that the critical change is a change in vision – an alternative view to the entrenched view of withholding resources for economic or reputational gain. In this sense the pivotal disruptive change is a social one, not only a technical, financial or legal one (although these can be barriers). This notion of sharing is often at odds with the current systems in higher education that have been undergoing a form of commercialisation where teaching materials are considered as an institution’s ‘competitive edge’.

3.2 OER and FLOSS in schools

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OER is a good group to try to find positive and probable solutions to the above problem - Open Source for what you feel are apparent drawbacks is an appropriate solution as the development is free for anyone to develop - hosting is not; unless you have your own server. But the solution that CMS systems can provide such as Moodle, JoomlaLMS, or Blackboard and the available LMS applications such as SCORM, or Sakai, or Claroline, or LAMS, with Moodle's ability to scale up to a 200,000 end-user web application can assist if hosted properly - several of these Moodle, Joomla, or Blackboard CMS and LMS applications put together could at least try to assist more impoverished areas of developing countries in their educational endeavors ... add Cloud Computing and Networks or Grid Hosting as a cheaper hosting alternative ...

3.3 Where do we start?

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Perhaps it might be instructive to look at the developed countries first. Since much of the open accesseducational materials originate there, one would believe that these are in extensive use in those countries. It might be interesting to discuss how such knowledge is propagated through systems, such as corporations, or amongst groups with special interests. We treat OER like knowledge objects that are picked off the shelf when the issue of knowledge transfer is very different. And that is not considering the social/political/technical issues that are unique to educational communities. And this will differ, for example, between self-schooled persons (home schooled, non-credit/degree seeking learners, on the job learning, etc)

Thus, I suggest looking at an easy case, that which should have the lowest barriers to adoption. And, more interestingly, has there been a change? Does it depend, at the university level, on the model of education? For example, the old Oxbridge model where one studied with a tutor and then read for a degree or the current tendency to adopt a degree by obtaining packages called course credits? Does it make a difference if education is "free" as in some European countries?

3.4 Resource by post?

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If connectivity is a pervasive barrier and solutions (electricity, bandwidth) are not anticipated in the near future, perhaps we should incorporate the cost and timeliness of postal service in the exploration of solutions for access.

If there are computers, but limited connectivity, material can be distributed by CDs DVDs or on key-drive sticks that just require a USB port. I just checked on Canada Post’s website ( ) to get an estimate of shipping costs. A 500 gram small package costs $8.98 Canadian (about USD 7.20) to ship surface mail to Eritrea. Air Parcel would cost $60.81 Canadian. A great deal of material can be included in a 500 gram package of DVDs.

The challenge would be that the material would have to be designed, organized and compiled beforehand. That raises the question discussed in this forum about the censorship aspect of others deciding what is desirable material. And of course, surface shipping around the globe precludes using material that may be time-bound in terms of relevance. Of course, the DVD production and shipment could be located at a center closer to the areas that do not have regular connectivity. Is this approach not being implemented? If not, what are the barriers to such an approach?

Despite the limitations of distributing digital material by physical delivery, I suspect more material would reach its target audience if solutions incorporated current realities.

4 A project in Guatemala: What are the motivational elements?

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For my part, I read the posts seeking specific information which will better equip me to assist with a project in Guatemala where rural teachers need to learn English online and gain certified educator training online. This is where access and engagement diverge. Literature brings out that provision of access to free or low-cost Internet services within, for example, a computer technology center, does not guarantee usage. What are the elements which will motivate a rural teacher in a remote, developing-nation setting to take time from schedule to travel (perhaps 1/2 to an hour or more) on rocky roads, with limited funds for transportation by bus or truck, to attend a CTC? Some barriers, found through interviews of 20 teachers offered free use of OER, included

  • A. double and triple teacher work shifts because teachers are paid 200 dollars a month (one I found was paid the equivalent of 35 dollars a month). Second or third jobs may include working in field labor.
  • B. distance impedes getting in and out of a town with free services we offered- i.e. teacher could jump on the back of a truck and get into town, but might miss the last truck out of town and be stuck with no where to sleep for the night, and arrive late at job in morning
  • C. prospect of ridicule or prohibitions from family members for wanting to leave home duties if a women, because parents expect the single female to go to teaching job and then come home to cook and clean so brothers can study, and/or watch the house while they are out to guard against break-ins

These are just some ef the barriers that came out. The positive factors included connecting with peers to mutually motivate for attending CTC and participating in OER, presence of a consistently involved and caring IT mentor to resolve numerous concerns about using the Internet, entering information, locating Internet resources, etc.

4.1 A response

Quote image You asked “What are the elements which will motivate a rural teacher in a remote, developing-nation setting to take time from schedule to travel (perhaps 1/2 to an hour or more) on rocky roads, with limited funds for transportation by bus or truck, to attend a CTC?”

Your question and the responses you got from your interview of the 20 teachers arouse my interest. I had first-hand experience of the teachers situation. I was an elementary teacher for four years and a high school teacher for one year in a remote community school in a part of Nigeria. Most married teachers do not come with their family. The family stayed back in the state capital city. We travel down every weekend, except the last weekend to the pay day because many would have ran out of pocket by the end of the month. And there are very few commercial transportation on the road. Twice a day, morning and evening. It must not be missed on Friday evenings. Perhaps, I would have responded the same way as the 20 teachers if I had been part of your interview too. But today, moving beyond that situation and reflecting back my response will be different.

The issues with such teachers today is not accessibility problem but awareness issue. If they know how much easier their teaching job could be after CTC training they will go for it. This is where OER again plays a vital role.

As a school teacher, one of the things we disliked most is writing lesson plan and submitting to the school head for review in the morning for validation. Some teachers only find time a few hours to the class to jot down something for the school head. But that was before the internet.

Today, taeching could be the most enjoyable thing for the teachers who are well informed. Do a google search for lesson plan on any teaching subjects and you will get pages of valuable and well structured materials with recommended assignments and practices. If I had that advantage at that time, I will spend hours at internet café to source lesson plan for at least one full week. And once you have a good lesson plan in your hand and learning resources, teaching becomes very exciting.

Once an appropriate accessibility solution is found for a given situation, the OER can be used to make the teachers’ job much easier. You don’t have to spend much time writing, instead you study existing lesson plans and adapt to your situation. If you have hand-head digital player or mobile phone capable of multimedia, you can use it to bring content to your classroom.

So, their situation is more of an awareness issue.

4.2 Another response

Quote image once taught at a rural high school back in 1995 and we used to walk for hours to neighbouring schools for sports ,..., and to specific forest areas for field practicals and everyone just loved it. I guess the percieved benefits are a determining factor. Most people growing up in the developing world are used to the rough and toughness the environment requires for one to survive so all that is required is a well development, sustainable and community supported project.

4.3 Another response

Quote image Anthropologist Thomas A. Offit published a very interesting study of the children working on the streets of Guatemala City, Conquistadores de la Calle, which not only deals with the youth who work hard to earn a living on the streets but, also, have little chance to learn, though in the largest city in the country. To these individuals, education comes to them through the efforts of a volunteer organization. Here, learning is the basics including Spanish since many come to the City only speaking one of more than 20 indigenous languages. There are many barriers to basic "schooling" on both sides and access to the internet or even computers may not be the principle barrier.

Guatemala is an interesting country where there are over 20 indigenous languages and many in these regions do not have command of the national language, Spanish. Additionally, there are tensions between the central government, including the Ministry of Education, and the indigenous, and the national teachers union which permeates all aspect of government services. The situation, as it is in other developing countries, is very complex. Many of the issues, though, are similar to what I have seen in other parts of the world including Asia, Central and South America.

I am working with public school teacher in Australia whose Ph.D. work is to determine how one keeps well educated teachers from leaving remote schools in Australia's vast areas where they do have good connectivity and access to the internet. Again, there are many issues where technology may only be a part of the solution. ICT's are only a limited tool in the education armamentarium. We must not forget that one who has a hammer may try to make every problem into a nail.

Many years ago, colleagues were building biogas plants in one poor village to bring the gas, produced from animal wastes, into the homes to replace wood. They hooked up the pipes and ran water through them to test for leaks. The women were so pleased with having water that they did not want it changed to obtain gas. Computers, while established under the idea of a program for education may find that the community or individuals may choose to repurpose them. For example, when one community put in generators to have lights to study in the evening, they found that the village bought TV sets to watch Dallas and other shows.

In one remote Guatemalan community, the students saw little relevance for ANY education since there was no connection seen between school and the few Quetzales they needed for survival. The issue is more complex than this abstracted example but it says that barriers to education are not just access. and we must think carefully about what it is that we are doing. In the United States, it is known that 80% of jobs requiring a post secondary degree may be filled by persons with only a two year certificate and could possibly be filled by a basic secondary degree. Medical doctors is some countries make a living driving a taxi. The shoeshine boys in Guatemala City, where street knowledge and entreprenueral spirit are the critical skills, may earn more money than their parents in rural communities.

4.4 A response to the response

Quote image It has been said in this forum that there is no one user, and no one solution that can fit all. Situations and needs varied from one end to another, and are better analyzed and addressed according to their degree of variation and complexity. The way to the solution for some of the issues may be slow and rough but it can be done by careful planning and implementation. In some situations, the solution lays in the problem itself “uneducated”. Remove “un” and we are left with “educated” which is the goal of OER. Open Education, a borderless classroom for all in formal, informal and non-formal settings.

Tom’s observations and stories took me on a memory lane back to my first challenge as a fresh grade 2 teacher posted to a small village elementary school about 30 years ago. The school was two years old when I joined, and had only one classroom building. The head teacher was the only teacher until I joined. The community was very small that the head teacher could only get 10 pupils to start the school. None to register in the second year and here come I in the third year with only 3 pupils, hardly of school age, to register. There are several other smaller communities within about 10-15 kilometers radius to the school, and luckily, my head teacher had a motor bike that we could use to scout for pupils from the surrounding villages but for reason that Tom already described as “… the students saw little relevance for ANY education since there was no connection seen between school and the few Quetzales they needed for survival.” Which in our case were the parents who would not release their children because they were useful on the farm and in taking care of cattle especially in Nomadic areas.

We had several repeated trips to the villages trying to convince the parents without success until one evening in a livestock farmer’s house that has more than one wife and about 9 children. He has several Almanacs hung on the mold walls of his sitting room that contain photos of popular politicians as far as 10 years back. Unintentionally, I took interest in photos of some of the old politicians which the farmer then used to change the subject of our discussion and began to tell stories of likes and dislikes of some of the people. Among the almanacs are also posters of some cattle diseases and their treatment which judging by the coloration of the paper is about 5 years old. We then asked him if his animals have any of the diseases shown in the poster pictures, he said yes. Has he been treating the animals as described in the poster? He said no. Why? He cannot read he said. At that point we began to read and interpret the poster and educate him on the need to send his children to school to be able to help him read more of such materials that could improve the health of his animals and get good value for them in the market.

Reluctantly, he accepted but only for 3 of 5 male children since there is no school fees to be paid, and the head teacher took it upon himself to bring the 3 boys on the motor bike every morning and return them after school. About 15 minutes ride each way. We worked very hard on the 8 pupils to make them able to read and write, at least in local language fluently in the first year. Convinced, in the year that followed, the farmer did not only release his children as a proud father of school children, he became our advocate to others in the village to the extent that we register 15 pupils in that year and no need for the head teacher to taxi the children to and fro, the children happily trek down and back home. One of the pupils was even older than I, got married before finishing elementary and went to learn welding and iron bending after graduating. I left the school after teaching for four years for University education and my head teacher left a year before me but life becomes easier for subsequent teachers posted after us. The welder and I remain good friends till today.

Connecting this to Tom’s stories, first with “…The women were so pleased with having water that they did not want it changed to obtain gas.” The solution here is in education, “educate.” 30 years ago, that may be hard work, today, solution is in access to OER such as gigabytes of videos clips on YouTube or IFAD videos on “Rural Biogas Development in China.” Show the women how their women counterpart in China are using biogas for cooking and lighting. The light provides lighting for children at night to read and complete homework. Beside, the men take the decomposed waste to fertilize crops on the farm, that led to higher yields thus increasing farmers income. The video evidences are there today. The educating can be done either by the biogas engineer or through a collaborative effort of an OE resource person.

Let us assume, the women are from the “… when one community put in generators to have lights to study in the evening, they found that the village bought TV sets to watch Dallas and other shows.” Good, opportunity creates other opportunities, since electricity is available, create a community learning center with screen to show videos of ways people in the community could improve their leaving standard. They can learn from example of best practices in other community.

4.5 A response

Quote image The American poet, T.S. Eliot wrote:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

We have to remember that the solutions that we find are not only space dependent, for a particular location, country, etc, but also time dependent. The solution fits into a four dimensional matrix. That space and time window of opportunity may have a long half-life or short And the sense of that window will depend on the individuals. A Galapagos tortoise sees time passing differently than the Mayfly with a life measured in hours.

The solutions we propose have to do with our sense of both space and time.

I have seen dedicated field workers, on the ground for years get promoted into development agencies and operating on the ideas of a past that never was (as they remember it) and for a future that may never be. On the other hand there is the reverse. Art conservationists are reluctant to repair objects with permanent materials because they know that better materials will be available in the future.

Moyo's experiences tell us that we do need to seriously consider the dimension of time in thinking through OER. And while, as Tom Friedman writes, the world is getting flat, we can not expect to use the same techniques to build transport across changing landscapes today, or tomorrow. It took the US less than 200 years to go from paths and corduroy roads to concrete highways and international air travel. On the other hand, the current western university has been relatively unchanged for over four centuries. What is considered an antique in the United States, may be seen as barely used when seen through the eyes of Chinese history.

4.6 Another response

Quote image Thank you so much for this contribution. I honestly believe most of the barriers on the effective use of ICTs are attitudinal. I am presently working on a project and a product that (I hope) would help change the thought processes of school communities. my main arguments are that, it is not necessarily what these tools and resources do or are designed to do, its really about what we can make them to do. and they are clear and simple.

5 OLPC related discussion

5.1 One child per laptop

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Another method of getting "1 child 1 laptop" is to go to a Manufacturer of such computer / laptop products as small portable notebooks and purchase products at cost with appropriate business licensing or try to create as low as cost possible via a plea to charity or the MDG aspect .. Of course that takes money

With this response:

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Forget about possibiity of having a compputr programme for every primary school child. It may not be possible to have every child in school by 2015. Even if nations provide mid day meals, other compelling reasons do not allow many children to be in schools.OER shall be helpful for self education of educators and children of rich parents. It is also a fact that in many countries, teacher educators may not afford to have a PC or Lap top not to speak of OER.

and this

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I understand. Do you think that access to education and educational materials might be provided in an informal setting by a person trained to use OER materials? For instance, a group of students living in proximity to one another might be visited once or twice a week by an itinerant teacher who has access - ideally a laptop loaded with OER content - who can then teach in someone's home. Such a teacher may be able to reach several communities per week. A team of teachers, providing support and sharing information might do more. It's not perfect, but it does strike me as better than nothing. Further, in this situation, only the teacher must have internet access or, as has been suggested, must receive the content by jump drive or hard drive.

and this

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if its not possible to outfit a child with a working laptop or PC .. I do understand that it is becoming possible to have lessons available by cell phone .. I am seeing it all over the Open source and other sites that developers are making it possible to integrate their LMS or CMS into cellular phones - is that affordable enough or possible for every child to have a cell plan or most children to have a cell plan for their assignments to be posted into .. I am not very knowledgeable of this information but I have seen and heard of it being done ...

5.2 Further OLPC discussion sparked off by "Ending the Internet Obsession: identifying hybrid information delivery solutions to serve the poor"

In response to this paragraph in this post:

Quote image The thing that aggravates me most: organizations, like the One Laptop Per

Child folks, who 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.

the following comment was made

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I apreciate the very interesting observations about the need to look beyond mere Internet access and think about other kinds of networking also. But as I understand it, the OLPC folks are the wrong people to pick on: their mesh networking ideas and the pervasive philosophy of their sugar OS that all activities should be able to be shared with neigbors are atually more innovative and far-reaching than the (also very interesting) examples that you describe further on in your text.

All your points are well put, but rprsonally I would not emphasise the Internet - local networking distinction. Instead, I would focus on the difference between the view that "education is just transfer of information and all we need is to make good content available" versus the view that "knowledge is constructed and we need active student and educators collaborating via networks".

5.2.1 Cliff responds

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I agree that the OLPC people are doing some good with their programs, especially with an emphasis on local networking, but I think they -- as well as a host of others who are rushing to sell similar computers to the "bottom of the pyramid" -- need to be careful about representing a computer as an Internet connection. They play fast and loose with the idea, on their Web site, in their John Lennon commercial, in their public presentations, without addressing the enormous cost of actually providing ADEQUATE Internet connections to their kids.

Someone who doesn't deeply understand the technology is easily be convinced that XO users would be experiencing the Internet just like they were in a well-connected country. My experience is that most of my friends, students, and colleagues are startled to learn this distinction after veiwing OLPC marketing.

My students did some calculations to determine that Internet costs -- adequate connections at today's prices in Africa -- would, over the three year expected lifespan of a XO, be twice the cost of the computer itself.

I've actually talked with government ministers and other decision makers (in Africa and elsewhere) who did not understand the distinction and were disappointed to learn that the OLPC people had not coached them on the connectivity cost issues.

Neither do these hardware vendors coach their partners about the support, maintainance, staffing and training costs. All of these vendors know full well about Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) research that plainly shows that 70% of the cost of ANY ICT enterprise has nothing to do with the hardware. To be honest, I would expect to find this sort of information on their Web sites. I haven't see it yet.

It's like selling people printers without toner. As soon as they unbox it, they have to go back to the store and spend even more money before they can print their first page.

Today's OLCP demonstration projects are heavily underwritten by external donors. The question remains: what does it REALLY cost to field an XO (or any other low-powered computer) if the buyers were to provide all the logisitics? These are the considerations that swayed decision makers in India and Brazil, who decided to build their own devices.

Many African governments and schools are "first time buyers" when it comes to deploying ICTs. They are easily convinced by the "800 pound gorillas" who show up in suits and ties to sell their wares or their Internet obsessions (which would have described me perfectly only a few years back!)

I've learned that it's up to the rest of us to provide caring coaching and support to our colleagues so they understand the true costs and implications of the technologies they are about to embrace. To help make them "second time" buyers the first time around.

I run into this conundrum everytime someone asks me what it would cost to get an eGranary Digital Library. The drive itself is $750, but cost of installation, training users to master the digital paradigm, and changing the information access and dissemination habits of their organization could take years of effort and many times the cost of the drive.

None of these conundrums are easily solved and we need to be honest about the overall costs before we lead our colleagues down a very expensive path.

5.3 OLPC discussion: A contribution from Cuba

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I fully agree with Cliff Missen or the University of Iowa about the fact that having access to a computer is not even remotely equivalent to having access to the Internet.

Living in a country where the Internet access for the whole nation is only by means of very expensive satellite links, the terms connectivity, bandwidth and access are surely very well understood by us here in Cuba.

At this moment Cuba has around 600,000 computers, with a very large percentage of them of the desktop type * laptops and notebooks are very rare here * but only a very small number of them can be connected to the Internet, due to the very limited bandwidth available for the whole country.

The fastly developing national fiber optic backbone has helped to increase the availability of connecting to the national backbone, and if and when access to a one or more submarine fiber optic cables becomes available, and the United States of America government removes the prohibition to the telecommunications services providers to connect Cuba to the Internet via the wide bandwidth submarine fiber optic cables then many more Cuban institutions and individuals may then have access to the Internet.

In the meantime, we are developing local access to the computer social networks like the Youth Computer Clubs , that have at this moment 605 access points known to have at least 10 computers and a server each.

Joven Club de Computacion y Electronica , the name in Spanish of the Youth Computer Club have provided computer literacy to about two million people all over the Cuban archipelago. Of the 605 installations, 5 are mobile units aboard converted large city buses.

We are now involved in the first steps toward a low cost portable computer that can be assembled locally at lower cost than importing the equipment

5.4 OLPC discussion continues: What to spend $100,000,000 on?

Quote image I like to harken back to the message that Dr. Paul Farmer preaches about

medicine in developing countries -- that good medicine heals both the rich and poor.

I wouldn't send MY children to a school that promised to give my kid a laptop so he could be taught by his classmates -- I want skilled, well-paid, and enthusiastic teachers (who may or may not need computers to convey their ideas) because that's what has been proven to work. I could not, in good conscience, recommend something different for my friends in developing countries.

My hope would be that access to computers and digital information would enhance the schools' and teachers' capacity to train the kids, but there's no evidence that the computers can play much more of a role.

One of my early observations about the OLPC endeavor...

The OLPC folks asked potential partners to pay $100,000,000 to purchase 1,000,000 cheap laptops. Now, if they had asked 100 of the that country's best educators and concerned parents (and there are plenty to chose from) to sit around a table and decide the best use of $100,000,000 to improve education in their country, my guess is that none of them would have said, "Let's purchase a boat load of new, unproven devices that use a new, untested software and forces us to subscribe to an educational theory that has had only marginal impact on education elsewhere."

Despite all the hyperbole, a laptop computer in the hands of school kids is NOT a pedogical revolution. (In fact, many U.S. schools have abandoned early experiments because the laptops proved mostly to be distractions.) In the world's poorest regions, access to information -- digital or analog -- is.

Teachers of any stripe, teaching of any style, can benefit from access to a broader array of information.

I don't like the idea of pushing a technology that proscribes teaching techniques that my colleagues have yet to embrace. I'd rather have them in the driver's seat.