Open Education Around the World: Speaks with the University of Cape Town

In the pursuit of increasing access to education, has recently launched an interview series with OpenCourseWare (OCW) providers around the world. These institutions are at the forefront of the blossoming open education movement, which provides free educational resources to any student or self learner with an Internet connection. Read on to learn about OCW opportunities at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa from project lead Glenda Cox and her team.

By Megan Driscoll

OCW Team at the University of Cape Town When did the University of Cape Town begin offering course materials online, and what inspired you to join the OCW Consortium?

Glenda Cox: The UCT OpenContent directory was launched on February 12, 2010. We joined the OCW Consortium for several reasons:

  1. Community: We wanted to learn more from an experienced community and be a part of it.
  2. Research: To find out more about current OCW research and form collaborations where possible.
  3. Visibility: So that UCT materials could be accessed from an international repository. Is there a particular educational philosophy that drives your participation in open education?

GC: From an altruistic perspective, we feel very strongly that our role in OCW supports the idea of 'knowledge as a collective social product and the desirability of making it a social property' (Prasad and Ambedkar cited in Downes 2007:1). UCT is a signatory on the Cape Town Open Education Declaration. Can you tell our readers more about this declaration?

GC: The Cape Town Open Education Declaration (CTOED) is one of a number of global declarations committed to accelerating efforts to promote open resources, technology and teaching practices in education. Taking the approach of open education as a living idea, the CTOED aims to foster a movement driven by individual interest and contribution. What percentage of the UCT's course materials have made it onto your OCW website, and what types of materials do you offer - course syllabi, exams, video or audio lectures. . . ?

GC: We have not tried to calculate a percentage at this early stage. We feel we have done well so far considering that we haven't had any funding since September of last year and we are a small group doing this work alongside various other projects.

At present we have 109 resources, including 673 downloadable resources. The downloadable items range from entire courses to textbooks, podcasts, lecture notes and presentations. We are also expecting a series of video lectures and architectural building designs to be added in the coming weeks. What are the demographics of your primary users? Do you track their countries of origin, age group or other information, and can you share this data?

GC: We use Google Analytics to track where our users are from and how they found us.

The majority of users come from South Africa: In the last month we had 5,768 visits from 103 countries, and 4,165 were from South Africa. The remaining 603 visits came from across the world, primarily the U.S., U.K., Canada, Sweden, India and Brazil. We do not have age group data. Are there any other current or in-development initiatives at UCT to promote open education?

GC: There are a number of initiatives. Many of them are backed up with funding, so the results of their work should be visible in the next year or two. These include an initiative to build an enterprise content management system that will ultimately form a digital repository (open UCT?). There are also several separate groups that are looking at open access, open community and open theses and special collections. The challenge will be to bring all these initiatives together. Finally, I'd like to offer you the opportunity to share anything you'd like about UCT's open content program.

GC: We'd like to highlight three of our resources to illustrate how we have supported the OER development process through the project.

The first example is a series provided by the Physics Department. In early December 2010, the Physics Department added nine physics resources to UCT OpenContent, including entire courses, lecture demonstrations and Python scripts, as well as worksheets and detailed manuals used in practical Physics Laboratory activities. We have entered this group of materials into the OpenCourseWare Consortium's inaugural Awards for OpenCourseWare Excellence (ACE). The first OCW ACEs will be presented at the OCW Consortium Global 2011 Meeting.

Our second example is a lecture from the series on the conceptual frameworks underpinning occupational therapy developed by Matumo Ramafikeng and her colleagues in the Department of Occupational Therapy. The unexpected use of this resource came from the editors of an open access Spanish journal, the Journal of Occupational Therapy of Galicia. They translated the article into Spanish and published it in the September 2010 edition of the journal. According to the journal editors, this article is the first on 'The Model of Creative Ability' published in Spain and available to other Spanish-speaking countries. We have also entered this resource for consideration in the OCWC's Awards for OpenCourseWare Excellence (ACE).

Our third example is the booklet Studying at University: A Guide for First Year Students. In 2009, we offered to assist the Academic Development Program to make their paper-based guide available to students electronically. The booklet provides new students with the knowledge and skills required for coping with their studies and academic assignments at the university. Key ideas are provided in three languages, English, Xhosa and Afrikaans. After careful scrutiny of the existing booklet, we realized that a great deal of work was going to be required to deal with the embedded copyright of text and cartoons. Catherine Hutchings and her team reworked the text in collaboration with graphic artist Stacey Stent, who developed new graphics - in cartoon style - for the entire booklet. The booklet and each graphic in the booklet are available under a Creative Commons license, and it is already being used at the University of Venda and University of the Western Cape.

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