Reflection on Creative Commons and OER: Namibia

My first introduction to the use of Creative Commons (CC) licenses and the development of Open Educational Resources (OER) was with the involvement of the Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) and Commonwealth of Learning’s OER4Os Project in 2009. As a programme developer, responsible for the development of distance learning material for Secondary Education, I realised the benefits of using the CC-licensed work in my course development and have enrolled myself in several free short online courses to learn more about the CC license tools.

I enrolled in the CC Certificate course for professional growth and development. I’ve gained new knowledge through this course, especially on the use of CC licenses which I will incorporate in the training provided to our subject matter experts/teachers responsible for the development of the OER. I am the Programme Developer at NAMCOL, responsible for coordinating the development of online OER on the Notesmaster Namibia platform. The core vision of the/my institution is to:

  • create a National repository of locally authored open educational resources freely accessible by all secondary school learners and teachers.
  • empower subject matter experts/teachers not only to use the materials in their classroom teaching but also to create and share their own digital content into subject hubs.
  • to ‘provide teachers and learners with an open space where they can share resources, interact and collaborate to enhance their teaching and learning.

Creating a national repository of locally authored high-quality content that is relevant and freely accessible to all Namibian teachers and learners is in line with the CC values of sharing and increasing access to quality education. The value of open access is further supported by the fact that the institution share OER on the Notesmaster platform which is open and free for anyone to join at zero cost. All you need to register is a valid email address and internet connectivity. Although we are promoting the availability of the interactive online OER to learners and teachers from both NAMCOL and the formal schools, we find that these resources are underutilized. At the same time, we received several requests from schools and educators to also offer the content offline which will increase the open access even more. I guess this raised a question of “how open the OER is for teacher and learners?”

The Notesmaster platform enables subject matter experts to collaborate in the development of learning resources, to share these resources amongst themselves and with the learners in a common online space which really simplify the whole process of interaction, sharing and learning. By default, all the Notesmaster OER will carry the CC-BY SA copyright license and can, therefore, be used, adapted and shared by teachers and learners.

There are several important factors to consider before content is published as legally sound Creative Commons licensed OER. These considerations include:

  • the way in which we have used and combined the different CC-licensed works to create a note – not all the CC-licensed works used are compatible with the CC BY SA license.
  • the use of copyrighted material available on the web. For example, while fair use exemptions may allow the use of images, videos, full webpage content found online through a Google search the misconception is that everything that can be accessed for free on the web, are OERs or suitable to be included in the development of OERs.
  • correctly attributing the original author/creator of the work that went into the derivative work is a requirement for all CC licenses.
  • the CC license notification for each of the resources created.

Following my successful completion of the CC Certificate course, I will continue to use my knowledge and experience to train/guide course developers at my institution and beyond. This includes how to use existing OERs to develop study material and also how to create new OERs. I have facilitated several training interventions on OERs and the use of Creative Commons licenses for my colleagues at NAMCOL. The training interventions include advocating the use of open source software to create multimedia resources, which will make it easy for others to use, remix and redistribute. My training interventions stretch beyond my own institution: staff involved in course material development for distance education from the Ministry of Education and form the two universities here in Windhoek, Namibia.

Throughout my previous training interventions, I noticed that participants had gaps in their knowledge of the use of CC licenses. This further motivated me to do this course to ensure that I gain the required knowledge to assist staff to gain a better understanding.

NAMCOL currently publishes print-based study guides under, ‘All rights reserved’ copyright and the online OER under CC BY SA license. The College is the only educational institution in Namibia that has an approved OER Policy to guide the development of its Open Educational Resources.

This article was originally contributed by Wilhelmina Louw, Programme Developer at NAMCOL.

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