Open Education allows university to be relevant, to remain relevant
On December 6-7 2016, Cadi Ayyad University hosted the OpenMed Open Education Day in Marrakesh, Morocco. We spent two great days with the OpenMed colleagues and educators in Morocco, sharing the richness of Open Education initiatives in the country, and discussing strategies for further OER adoption, which may lead to an Open Education Declaration for the country, to help building a network of institutions and harness support from the government, under the Marrakesh-motto “Yes We Can Inchallah“.
The opening and welcoming messages by the President of Cadi Ayyad University, Abdellatif Miraoui, and the President of UNIMED, Wail Benjelloun, were also very inspiring, as their focus was Open Education as a human right and a social duty.
I think you have listened very carefully to what the President Miraoui [President of Cadi Ayyad University] has said about all that this university has accomplished in the field of digital and of Open Resources. And it’s fitting that we are here today so that we can discuss the Moroccan Strategy in the field of Open Educational Resources.
I’m not going to repeat what Professor Miraoui has said, because he has said it very well. I want to stay perhaps at another level, and I think I’m not exaggerating by saying that Open Education Resources, Open Education as such, is really part of Human Rights. In other words the right to information, and the right to education are best served around the world by Open Educational Resources, in the sense that populations that are excluded from the developmental advances in the world, can access information and can access education only through this kind of training.
Having said that, I think it’s also important to say that we are not that far behind. I’ve read the Compendium very carefully. I found it on the Internet, and I read it before coming today, and I compared it to OECD reports that were published 10 years ago, and many of the same problems that are raised in the Compendium today are very similar to those that were raised in the OECD study, which was done essentially in Europe. What it takes for Open Education, it takes strong administrative will.
In the university there has to be an administration that wants to push the agenda forward. If that administration is not there, then there will be no Open Resources on campus. It takes faculty that are willing to change, and for faculty to be willing to change, there has to be incentives.
Whether it be in Europe or it be in Africa or the Mediterranean North, Mediterranean, or South Mediterranean, whatever, there has to be a built-in incentive system for faculty to be able to change. And that incentive can be an increase in success rates, as it can be a material encouragement for those faculties. What I think comes through the Compendium and came very clearly through the OECD Report, was that access to the tools is probably not the major problem.
What is the major problem is the skills that are necessary to use those tools appropriately, and I think these three points should really govern our thinking during this session. One is the access, the capacity building, the skills that are necessary for Open Educational Resources to be applied. The other is the will of the University, the decision-making process in the University to support them. And third is for faculty to become fully involved in the process. I think if we have those three, we have something that works.
There has been a lot of Ministry policy built around this Open Education Resources, but it still hasn’t taken. The French says that the […]. It behooves us now to concentrate on these three issues to try and get the process moving forward. When you look at what’s happening in Europe, and I think the President has talked about this, even in the United States, it’s MIT has the lion’s share of Open Education Resources, and it’s increasing, but the steeper increases now happening with other languages than English. The increases in Open Education Resources now that are happening in Arabic, French, Spanish, German, maybe as number are not as important, but the slope of the increase is much more important. And this opens up doors for our Moroccan universities, because I think we can become providers of this type of service through universities around the Mediterranean, whether they be Arab universities or they’d be European universities interested in a curriculum in Arabic.
UNIMED has worked around the Mediterranean for the past 25 years. It’s a federation of about 100 universities now, and growing. And these universities have shared in the capacity building process over the 25 years. There’s been a faithful adherence or membership of these universities over 25 years, so we’re doing something right to keep members, paying members, for 25 years.
So, not to take up a lot of your time, because I think the discussions this morning are going to be very interesting, now the other issue that I think is very important with Open Educational Resources is that they are Open Educational Resources until we start talking about degrees, and then they become paying educational resources. I think that’s another crucial issue, because when we’re talking about students who don’t have the direct access to faculty, who don’t have direct access to courses, and so forth, if the alternative to get the degree is to go outside and pay for it, then I don’t think we’re solving the problem in a coherent fashion.
I want to end with something that the President said. In fact, whether we like it or not, the university is changing and the University maybe in fact disappearing as such. Students don’t have the time to get on a bus for an hour and a half to arrive here, take a course for an hour, then get on the bus again for an hour and a half to go home. That’s half the morning, half a day, that is lost to a student who is used now to his smartphone, and who does not want to lose time. Knowledge is moving at a fast pace, but we are also becoming much more impatient as citizens of this world. So I think if the university doesn’t want to be shunted aside (knowledge is now available outside, I don’t need the university, knowledge can be obtained outside of the university), University has to make a special effort to remain relevant, and I think Open Educational Resources and the management of Open Educational Resources allow the university that opportunity to be relevant, to remain relevant, and to remain a serious player in the educational process around the world.
Thank you very much.”
Wail Benjelloun, President of UNIMED and former Rector of Université Mohammed V de Rabat (Morocco)
Marrakech, 6 December 2016