Otago Polytechnic will tomorrow launch the Open Educational Resource university (OERu), an independent not-for-profit network that will offer free online university courses for students worldwide.
The new initiative means that people all over the world will have access to world-class courses for free and count them towards real qualifications.
The OERu is coordinated by the Open Education Resource Foundation (OER), founded and headquartered at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, and is an independent, not-for-profit network that offers free online university courses for students worldwide. The implementation of the OERu is a designated project of the UNESCO-Commonwealth of Learning OER Chair network.
“The OERu makes affordable education accessible to everyone,” says OER Foundation director Wayne Mackintosh. “All you need is an internet connection and you can study independently from home, with access to world-class courses from recognised institutions around the world. It’s about sharing knowledge and the sustainability of education.”
The launch coincides with the second meeting of the OERu anchor partners from around the world, coming together at the Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada, to formally launch the university to the world and engage in an intensive two-day seminar.
Former UNESCO Assistant Director General of Education and open learning visionary, Sir John Daniel, will be the guest of honour at the event, and will officially launch the OERu website, which will go live at 6am New Zealand time.
“The OERu will reduce the cost of higher education dramatically,” says Sir John Daniel. “I believe that radical innovations in higher education must be accompanied by particularly robust frameworks of accreditation and credentialing in order to reassure the public. It's all very well for evangelists to promote do-it-yourself accreditation from the personal safety of CVs replete with reputable qualifications, but ordinary people want the 'beef' of proper recognition too.”
For Mackintosh, having Sir John Daniel attend the launch is a major coup. “In the world of open learning, Sir John is renowned. It will be a great honour to host him and he has his wealth of experience in the online learning sector. I’m sure we will all learn a great deal," he says. “This event is also a wonderful opportunity for like-minded professionals to network and explore new business opportunities open education could potentially generate.”
OERu’s primary point of difference is that students study for free, anywhere in the world using courses based on OER, with pathways to gain credible credentials. Users can pay reduced fees if they want to get academic credit, and only pay for assessment if and when they’re ready.
“All the course material is taught online, based on open educational resources and openly accessible materials on the internet. This means you won’t need to buy any textbooks,” explains Mackintosh.
Designed for independent study, users will get peer-support from fellow learners, while in some OERu courses users will study with full-time registered students at one or more of OERu’s anchor partners - a network of academic institutions in five continents.
Courses on offer through the OERu include ‘Resourcing a Small Enterprise’, ‘Understanding Culture in Asia and the Pacific’, ‘Tourism in Asia and the Pacific’, ‘Developing a Business Plan’, and ‘Regional Economics in Asia and the Pacific’.
Programmes can be distinguished between a Full Course and a micro Open Online Course (mOOC). “A micro-Course allows the user flexibility to manage learning around their personal commitments and learning interests,” says Mackintosh. “It represents a sub-component of a full course and is usually offered over a two to three week period. This can qualify individuals to gain full course credits through ‘recognition of prior learning’ systems available at a number of OERu partners.”
A Full Course can be anywhere between ten to 15 weeks in duration.
New Zealand anchor partners include Otago Polytechnic, Lincoln University, Ako Aotearoa, Wintec, Unitec Institute of Technology, University of Canterbury, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, Open Polytechnic, and NorthTec.