:sync: Becoming an Open Education Influencer: The Nelson Mandela University Student Advocates’ Experience of Opening Up in Collaboration

Authors: Kelly Liberty, Mlungisi Mhlongo, Gino Fransman
Institution: Nelson Mandela University
Country: South Africa

Topic: Applications of Open Education Practices/Open Pedagogy/Open Education Research
Sector: Higher Education
UNESCO Area of Focus: Building capacity
Session Format: Presentation


“‘Becoming an Open Education Influencer’ (BOEI) is an informative and practical, fully online training course that supports influencers of and for Open Education. The aims of the BOEI course are to support pathways for individuals and groups wishing to influence decision-makers, and who want to affect decision-making and practices through direct actions in Open Education” (OpenEdInfluencers@MandelaUni, 2020).

Who are the OpenEdInfluencers (OEIs) at Nelson Mandela University?
OpenEdInfluencers are trained and strategically deployed student advocates in Open Education, active across multiple campuses at Nelson Mandela University in South Africa. OEIs conduct research into student experiences with textbooks and with OER, as well as assisting educators with the finding of Open materials to use in teaching and learning.

Before lockdown 2020, the OEIs had a list of tasks and activities planned, including:
• Writing media scripts for the BOEI Made During Lockdown project
• Language creation and multilingual translation in multiple South African languages, to support wider access and support partner initiatives
• Updates to the OEI website (http://openedinfluencers.mandela.ac.za)
• Conducting surveys on students’ textbook experience, amongst others.

When the national, and global lockdown began, work practices changed. With this change, many challenges manifested, and demanded new ways of doing. Listed below are some of the challenges experienced:
• Remote working online
• Filming videos from home
• Connectivity challenges, data, access, and exploring innovative practices.

In this session, participants will be introduced to Nelson Mandela University’s #OpenEdInfluencers (OEIs), who will share their experience of contributing to course development during the global Covid-19 pandemic. As co-creators of knowledge, the OEIs partook in the BOEI project despite the national lockdown, and share their often unique challenges as contributors.

Two of the 2020 OEI cohort share their experiences working with a team of national and international contributors. International collaboration in research teams allows for the maximum utilisation of resources and creates the opportunity for contributors to learn from each other through the experience of working together (Oelke, 2014). A key objective of an OEI is to increase awareness of Open Educational Resources (OpenEdInfluencers@MandelaUni, 2020). Although the OEIs were challenged to improve their skills and increase their knowledge of and through media creation, they received an abundance of support from a supportive team of national and international contributors. Participants can expect to learn more about the BOEI project’s international collaboration as the OEIs share reflections about their challenges and experiences working through lockdown to complete an imperative phase of the BOEI project, included in the OE4BW 2020 programme.

In this session, sharing media, images and reflections, the OEIs platform the plans that were made for the project, how the global pandemic and national lockdown affected these plans, and how the completion of the media creation aspect of the BOEI project was successfully completed regardless of the challenges and setbacks.

Oelke, N., 2014. The benefits of international university partnerships: the perspectives of a Canadian faculty member. Scielo, 35(1).
OpenEdInfluencers@MandelaUni, 2020. How Do OEIs Influence?. [Online]
Available at: openedinfluencers.mandela.ac.za
[Accessed 08 July 2020].


BOEI, OEIs, Lockdown, Collaboration


I am so proud of our #OpenEdInfluencers who under the leadership of @GinoFransman are pioneering Open Education in South Africa, and especially the Eastern Cape Province, a historically impoverished part of the country where Open Education is critical.

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About OEI from MandelaUni at OEGlobal20 (1).pdf (1.6 MB)

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Session recording: