:sync: Opening Up as the World Shuts Down: Empowering Students to Advocate for Equitable Access and Social Justice by Becoming Open Education Influencers (BOEI)

Authors: Gino Fransman, Sarah Hutton, Anne Olsen, Koshala Terreblanche, Theresa Dooley, Matilda Smith, Carol Will, Annette Vadnais
Institutions: Nelson Mandela University, University of Massachusets Amherst
Countries: South Africa, United States

Topic: Global Collaboration, Strategies, & Policies in Open Education
Sector: Higher Education
UNESCO Area of Focus: Building capacity
Session Format: Panel


In this panel discussion, stakeholders share insights, reflections, lessons and challenges of collaborating under lockdown, meeting and connecting for Open, from multiple spaces around the world. Becoming an Open Education Influencer (BOEI) is an Open, online empowerment course started through the Open Education Influencers (OEIs) (http://openedinfluencers.mandela.ac.za) project at Nelson Mandela University (South Africa). BOEI aims to support pathways for individuals and groups wishing to influence decision-makers, and those who want to affect decision-making and challenge practices through direct actions and advocacy. BOEI is part of the Open Education for a Better World programme’s project cohort, engaging across the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2020 with the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown across the globe, an international collaboration was born, with BOEI opening up as the world was shutting down. Stakeholders include the University of Massachusetts Amherst, The Open University UK, ProductionHauss, and the OEIs from MandelaUni.

Starting as a conversation at OEGlobal 2019 in Milano, Italy, MandelaUni and UMass Amherst explored possibilities for collaboration between institutions. Open education initiatives at UMass Amherst had been strengthening since 2011, with programs focused on faculty transitioning to open publishing, and providing low or no-cost textbooks (www.library.umass.edu/oer/open-education-initiative/). Understanding that students outside of official student governance had little notion of what OER was or how to bring it to their classes, the BOEI program presented itself as an opportunity to educate and empower learners to advocate for themselves. The original intent was to start with engaging the library peer leaders with BOEI, then broaden to other institutions. The plan seemed clear and initial conversations went well, and then the world came to a screeching halt.

The collaboration moved forward despite the pandemic, and designing the curriculum for BOEI took on a life of its own, enabling opportunity for professional development and engagement with Open Education. The collaborative nature of the curriculum design and development process combined unique, global skills that could translate content from paper to the digital realm, ultimately bringing it to life. While the future of learning is still so uncertain for many, the case for OE has been elevated. Teachers from all over the world are leveraging online resources to make equitable access to education achievable for global learners.

Facets that are important when designing for Online, specifically for Open:
Backward design to address learning outcomes: What do I want my engagers to achieve?
Designing curriculum with accessibility as priority, using UDL principles.
Creating a learning environment with engaging content and meaningful feedback from instructors.
Allowing learning to be self-paced.
Setting clear expectations.
Setting up activities that use peer feedback for exchange of perspectives and to increase interaction and engagement.
Developing relationships and strong online learning communities.

We learned that all of these facets applied beyond the context of creating an open, online modularized course; they also applied to our own learning process during the lockdown.

The Made During Lockdown project: an Open Praxis media showcase: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ZNvNd6L1zTfCNXLbZAn9a95eez4kXLp3/view


Open Education Influencers (OEIs) Student Advocacy, Becoming an Open Education Influencer, #BOEI, Nelson Mandela University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, @UMassAmherst, @UMassLibraries, Student advocacy, Social Justice, Equitable Access, OER, Empowerment, Open Moodle, Online Global Collaboration, Collaborative Curriculum Development

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Opening Up as the World Shuts Down_ Empowering Students to Advocate for Equitable Access and Social Justice by Becoming Open Education Influencers.pdf (5.6 MB)


Video of the session:

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Thank you, @jure
Hope you are well.

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