By Eric Garneau
Education's OCW movement is all about sharing and collaboration. The OCW Consortium takes that notion one step further. They coordinate OCW efforts around the globe, helping institutions of higher learning become involved in the open movement at all levels, from promoting major OCW efforts to getting schools started on the path to hosting accessible material. Consortium membership coordinator Igor Lesko helped detail that process for us.
Q. You had a busy week at the conference! Can you tell our readers about your role during the week?
A. I helped out with everything and anything related to ensuring a smooth-functioning OCWC Global. The conference is one of the rare opportunities for the staff of the Consortium to interact face to face with existing Consortium members with whom we otherwise communicate only via e-mail or Skype for the rest of the year. Therefore, we make sure to spend time with our members, talking to them about their projects, connecting them with other individuals or organizations or just generally catching up. Every year during OCWC Global we interact with a fair amount of 'newcomers' to the OCW/OER (Open Educational Resources) field, providing information on how to participate in the movement or how to start their OCW projects.
Q. You're one of two Member Services Coordinators for the OCW Consortium. What does that job involve?
A. We promote the idea of OCW and the value of Consortium membership to institutions and organizations around the world. For potential members, we screen membership applications and prepare applicant profiles for the Membership Committee. For new members, we provide support for starting their OCW projects, for instance by advising them on suitable publishing platforms, copyright clearance and more.
With organizations that aren't necessarily planning to produce their own OCW materials, we negotiate ways in which they could become meaningful contributors to the OCW movement, either through translations of existing OCW materials produced elsewhere or through provisions of certain services to the community.
For existing members of the Consortium, we provide support throughout their full cycle of membership by responding to their queries, promoting their OCW projects, connecting them with relevant stakeholders in the community and the like. We also support emerging constituencies within the OCW movement, such as associate consortia.
Q. The OCW Consortium is unique in that the staff lives in four different countries. How do you coordinate projects over such long distances?
A. Actually, having a globally dispersed staff is one of the strengths of the Consortium. With one member in South Korea, myself in South Africa, one member in Mexico and three situated across multiple locations in the United States there's at least one staff member on duty at all times. Each one of us is responsible for dealing with institutions and organizations in or around 'our' time zones, but we all work across multiple time zones as well. As a team we coordinate our efforts during online staff meetings, which are set at mutually agreed days/times. Working for the Consortium is not a typical 9-5 job.
Q. You're involved in the Free CourseWare project at the University of Western Cape (UWC). What is this project and what's your role in it?
A. The Free CourseWare project at UWC supports publishing their course materials under open content licenses. I was specifically involved in coordinating its Rip-Mix-Learn (RML) project in 2007-2008. RML was a hands-on research intervention investigating what happens when students use Web 2.0 applications to become producers of knowledge instead of consumers. We worked with a small group of academics, helping them with the implementation of various Web 2.0 technologies in their courses and assisting them with carrying out research projects with students in their classes.
Q. Your master's degrees in Social Development and Development Management sound really interesting. What did these programs involve?
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A. I completed my first M.A. degree in Development Studies at UWC in Cape Town, South Africa in 2005. The degree focused on understanding and addressing social and economic challenges various developing countries face. I completed my second M.A. degree in Development Management through Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany in 2007. This program covered any practical skills required to effectively run projects such as financial management and evaluation. As a requirement for successful completion of this program I completed a 2-month internship with InWent Capacity Building International in Bonn, Germany.
Q. You've studied and lived in multiple countries and on three continents! How have these travels and experiences shaped you?
A. All of the experiences and people I met have been invaluable, contributing to and shaping who I am today. At the very least, I'm a lot more culturally aware and perceptive of global issues. I also learnt that as human beings we do not exist in isolation from one another and from issues affecting the rest of the world. Directly or indirectly, events happening around the world affect us all.
Q. How would you recommend our readers get started in using OCW?
A. As a first step, I would recommend visiting the Consortium's website. It contains lots of useful information about OCW, and readers can search for OCW courses by specific keyword, language, source or by our members' OCW websites. In addition, we recently launched a beta version of our Course Catalog that organizes courses according to specific disciplines. Our members have collectively produced over 18,000 courses, including translations. There's a lot to choose from.
Readers can also learn more about OCW through the Consortium's Communities of Interests, discussion forums proposed by members and organized according to particular topics of interest within the OCW movement. Participation in the discussion forums is open to anyone.
Q. What's coming next for you and the OCW Consortium?
A. For me, to continue advocacy for production and sharing of educational resources under open content licenses. Education is key to unlocking one's potential and personal growth. Having access to free and open educational resources helps create opportunities to learn and advance in life for those who otherwise would not be able to do so.
For the Consortium, to demonstrate the impact of OCW. This year marked the tenth anniversary of the movement. With thousands of courses having been produced under open licenses thus far, it's becoming increasingly important to understand how OCW materials are being used and with what impact. In order to do this, we've recently launched a survey on our website collecting user feedback. Various organizations around the world (such as Study.com) are supporting those efforts through placing surveys on their websites as well.
Furthermore, we're working on issues such as discoverability, accessibility and certification opportunities. The Consortium, in partnership with various organizations, has submitted several funding proposals to start new and exciting projects. Watch our usual communications channels for more information in the future.