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Support the Petition for a Mediterranean Erasmus Generation & the Manifesto for a new Mediterranean of knowledge

- January 8, 2018 in communication, developing-world, Featured

Dear Open Education Fellows
UNIMED has launched its Petition for a Mediterranean Erasmus Generation. Your support, both as individuals and as institutions, is of crucial importance.

The Petition, which you can read and endorsed here, is aimed at

Open Education Brazil – a view from eMundus

- September 25, 2015 in communication, developing-world, Featured, guestpost, mooc, oer

Our next post on Open Education from Around the World comes from Brazil. With over 204 million people, Brazil is the 5th most populous country in the world. Its territorial area covers 48% of the total area of South America and it has the 8th largest economy on the planet. The post is authored by  Vera Queiroz and edited on to the blog by Paul Bacsich. Vera Vera holds a PhD in Education from USP (University of São Paulo). At present, she is  participating in the E-mundus Project – an international collaborative Project on Open Education, funded by the European Union. Brazil is a partner in the Project. The project’s main objectives are to map the state of art of  MOOCs in higher education and contribute towards the sharing of knowledge, tools and practices of MOOC and VM developed mainly by and in Brazilian universities OUR CONTEXT IN HIGHER EDUCATION Open Education Brazil image001 Education in Brazil is controlled by the Federal Government, by means of the Ministry of Education, which defines the rules and demands for the organization of educational programs in the country. The local governments are responsible for establishing and implementing the programs which use the funding supplied by the Federal Government. The Brazilian tertiary education system is not compulsory. Higher education is offered by private, public universities, colleges, higher institutes and educational technology centers. To pursue higher education in Brazil, it is mandatory that students have secondary education. In addition, students must also pass a competitive entrance examination (Vestibular) to be able to take the course of their interest in higher education. Similarly to Vestibular, the National Examination of Secondary Education (ENEM) is another type of higher education entrance examination adopted by a number of public universities in the country. To improve equity and opportunities for tertiary education, the Government of Brazil has launched the ProUni program to help place academically qualified low income students into private education institutions. Also attempting to give underprivileged Brazilian students a chance of getting free higher education and, thus, access to better jobs, a new law was approved in 2012. The so called Lei das Cotas n. 12.711/2012] (a polemic law) guarantees 50% of the places in Brazil´s federal universities and institutes to students coming from public schools, low-income families and who are Afro or indigenous descendent. OPEN EDUCATION (SOME INITIATIVES) Due to Brazil´s territorial extension and the number of people wishing to have access to education, Distance Education was considered a feasible and interesting way of providing education to our population. In June, 2006, the Open University of Brasil System [] – which is composed of public universities – was created under Decree 5800. Through distance education methodology, it aims at expanding and democratizing access to higher education courses and programs for the population at large and in particular for primary teachers living in areas far from big urban centers. The UAB System supports researches in innovative technological higher education methodology and stimulates collaboration between the Union and its Federate members. It also encourages the creation of centers for permanent training in strategic poles located in the countryside, thus trying to curb the migratory movement towards the big centers by those seeking higher education opportunities. At present, 88 institutions (among federal and state universities, and federal education, science and technology institutions (IFETs) compose the UAB System. UAB System is the articulator between the higher education institutions and the municipal and state governments in attending to local demands for higher education. In 2008, Carolina Rossini launched the OER project in Brazil. It was the first attempt to suit the international discussion on OER and on Open Education to Brazilian reality. At present, the REA Brazil Community gathers whoever is interested in discussing about and or reflecting upon OER and Open Education. Despite the fact that Brazil still has a long way to go in its awareness of the importance of Open Education, several initiatives have popped up and are popping up in the country. To mention a few initiatives from universities, we have, for instance: Virtual University of the State of São Paulo (UNIVESP) [] is the newest and most innovative public university of the State of São Paulo. Created under Decree No. 53.536 on October 9th, 2008, the program of the Government of São Paulo aims at expanding access to free quality public higher education for the population of the State of São Paulo. To achieve the objective, the program counts on three universities – University of São Paulo (USP), Campinas State University (UNICAMP) and University of the State of São Paulo (UNESP) – and on Technological State Center Paula Souza (CEETEPs). The program receives grants from the Research Aid Foundation from the State of São Paulo (FAPESP), Paulista Administrative Development Foundation (FUNDAP) and Padre Anchieta Foundation (FPA). While the universities are responsible for the academic project itself, UNIVESP guarantees the material; financial and technological conditions for the courses and does the follow up of the students´ development and performance. Associated with face-to-face activities in the learning poles (settled in several regions of the State), the virtual learning environment includes pedagogical materials, articles, videos, forum and chats. Besides the internet, UNIVESP counts on UNIVESP TV – a digital channel from Padre Anchieta Foundation directly linked to UNIVESP courses. Also aiming at democratizing access to information and knowledge Paulista State University “Júlio de Mesquita Filho” (UNESP Aberta) [] launched the first MOOC initiative in June 2012. The courses with videoclasses, texts, activities, animation, educational software from various areas of knowledge were open, free of charge and available to anyone via Internet. There was no certification, tutoring or evaluation of the activities done along the course. To contribute to better the quality of education in Brazil and to promote access to many courses from renowned universities (both from Brazil and from abroad), edtech companies came up as a solution. In June 2013, Veduca [] – an edtech company that provides business to consumer and business to business solutions in education and professional training – in partnership with the University of São Paulo (USP) launched two MOOCs: Basic Physics, and Statistics and Probability. From then on, other renowned Brazilian universities also started to offer courses at Veduca. Among them, we find Brasília University (UNB), Campinas State University (UNICAMP), Paulista State University (UNESP) and Santa Catarina Federal University (UFSC). Little by little, more and more universities and institutions are offering their courses and materials for free at the platform. All the content at Veduca is free of charge. However, not all courses hosted at the plataform grant an official certificate. When they do so, student wishing to earn a certificate must pay for it, after proving the competences and knowledge acquired in the course. The certificates are issued by the Brazilian Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC). In September, 2014, Coursera (a for-profit educational technology company) was launched in Brazil hosting Portuguese language MOOCs from University of São Paulo (USP) and Campinas State University (UNICAMP). Similarly to Veduca, the courses offered by Coursera are free of charge and some give the option to pay a fee to join the “Signature Track”, which allows the students to receive a verified certificate, appropriate for employment purposes. Video classes are another way used by some Brazilian universities to offer free courses on the Web. An example is outlined below: E-classes from University of São Paulo (USP) [] are free without tutoring, evaluation and certification. It is not necessary to be USP student to access the e-classes. Depending on the program and subject, there is no knowledge requirement to follow the classes. EMUNDUS PROJECT In what concerns international cooperation projects on Open Education, among the several that could be mentioned, we will focus on emundus Project, funded by the European Union. Brazil, together with Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, Italy and Holland develop research on Open Education use. The main objectives of the project are to map the state of the art MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in higher education and contribute towards the sharing of knowledge, tools and practices of MOOC and of Virtual Mobility (VM) developed mainly by and in Brazilian universities. As a result of emundus project in Brazil, a collaborative work was established between two higher Brazilian Education Institutions: the University Center of the Educational Ignatius Foundation “Padre Saboia de Medeiros” (FEI) [] and eMundus partner through the Engineering School of University of São Paulo (POLI/USP) []. FEI developed an open source game engine software for teaching computer programming. This game is based on a previous business game developed in the Production Engineering Department from FEI. The initial results indicated that such approach to teaching computer programming could improve the learning process and motivate students. To learn more about the objectives and initial results of the use of the learning tool, see []. To read and learn more about Brazilian initiatives on OER and Open Education, see Open Education Brazil image003 See also: Open Education Brazil image004 ADDED BY THE EDITOR

For an earlier but comprehensive report on OER in Brazil see Open Educational Resources in Brazil: State-of-the-Art, Challenges and Prospects for Development and Innovation by Andreia Inamorato dos Santos –

For background on e-learning in Brazil see

All these reports are linked from the POERUP page on Brazil –

OCR and OER – update

- September 25, 2015 in communication, developing-world, guestpost

We welcome this short posting from Subhashish Panigrahi which updates a 2014 posting of his –
Subhashish Panigrahi (@subhapa) is an educator, author, blogger, Wikimedian, language activist and free knowledge evangelist based in Bengaluru (often called Bangalore), India. After working for a while at the Wikimedia Foundation’s India Program he is currently at the Centre for Internet and Society‘s Access To Knowledge program. He works primarily in building partnership with universities, language research and GLAM (Gallery, Library, Archive and Museums) organizations for bringing more scholarly and encyclopedic content under free licenses, designs outreach programs for South Asian language Wikipedia/Wikimedia projects and communities. He wears many other hats: Editor for Global Voices Odia, Community Moderator of, and Ambassador for India in OpenGLAM Local. Subhashish is the author of a piece “Rising Voices: Indigenous language Digital Activism” in the book Digital Activism in Asia Reader.

Google’s OCR and its use by Wikimedians in South Asia

Some time back on the OCR project support network, Google had announced that the Google drive could be used for Optical Character Recognition (OCR). The software now works for over 248 world languages (including all the major South Asian languages). Though the exact pattern of development of the software is not clear, some of the Wikimedians reported that there is improvement over time in the recognition of their native languages Malayalam and Tamil. The recent encounter has been with a simple, easy to to use and robust software that can detect most languages with over 90% accuracy. The OCR technology extracts text from images, scans of printed text, and even handwriting to some extent, which means that the text can be extracted pretty much from any old book, manuscript, or image. This certainly brings hope to most Indian languages as there is a lot to digitize. Most of the major Indian languages have plenty of non-digitized literature and the existing OCR systems are not as good as Google when so many languages are concerned as a whole. Google’s OCR engine is probably using aspects of Tesseract, an OCR engine released as free software, or OCRopus, a free document analysis and optical character recognition (OCR) system that is primarily used in Google Books. Developed as a community project during 1995-2006 and later taken over by Google, Tesseract is considered one of the most accurate OCR engines and works for over 60 languages. The source code is available on GitHub. The OCR project support page offers additional details on preserving character formatting for things like bold and italics after OCR in the output text.
When processing your document, we attempt to preserve basic text formatting such as bold and italic text, font size and type, and line breaks. However, detecting these elements is difficult and we may not always succeed. Other text formatting and structuring elements such as bulleted and numbered lists, tables, text columns, and footnotes or endnotes are likely to get lost.

The user-end interaction of the OCR software currently is rather simple. The user has to upload an image of the scan in any image format (.jpg, .png, .gif, etc.) or PDF to the Google Drive. Upon completion of the uploading, opening the file in Google Drive shows both the image and the converted text in the same document. One of the most popular free and open digitization platforms, Wikisource currently hosts hundreds or thousands of free books which are either out of copyright or under Creative Commons licenses (CC-by or CC-by-SA) allowing users to digitize. While OCR works quite well for Latin based languages, many other scripts do not get OCRed perfectly. So, the Wikisourcers (Wikisource contributors) often have to type the text. Thus the new Google OCR might be useful both for the Wikisource community and many others who are in the mission of digitizing old text and archiving them. The image below shows a screen from a tutorial to convert text in the Odia language from a scanned image using Google’s OCR. Tutorial to use Google OCR August 2015 JPEG

 This was designed by Subhashish Panigrahi. Freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0


- October 20, 2014 in developing-world, Featured, mooc, oer

STAFF_vbalajiWe’ve all heard about MOOCs but are you aware of key concepts, methods and practices in the MOOC paradigm? So how about a MOOC on MOOCs? Today we have a guest post from Balaji Venkataraman from the Commonwealth of Learning, based in Vancouver, Canada. He is associated with OER efforts and is currently involved in designing an offline device that can provide access to OER on large scale ( He served as the Course Manager for the MOOC on MOOCs mentioned below.
The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK) offered a MOOC on MOOC during 5 Sep-12 October 2014. We had 2342 participants from 92 countries, the top five being India, Nepal, Mauritius, South Africa and Canada. About 1900 participants were active in the course. From an exit survey, it emerged that most participants were teachers in the Higher Education sector while a small number were full time students.  Besides mentors and facilitators from the two collaborating institutions, there were other speakers, such as Sir John Daniel, Sanjay Sarma, Russell Beale, David Porter and key education sector leads from Google and Microsoft. We expect about 400 to qualify for participation. There was a significant demand from the participants for a space to continue the discussions. We have converted the course space into an online discussion space and will host it for about six more months. This will help us understand how MOOCs could lead to new communities of practice. Here is a news item about this course. Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 08.52.18 One of the purposes in offering this MOOC was to demonstrate that there can be “generic” MOOCs as contrasted to “branded” ones and to explore the usefulness of MOOCs in a situation where most participants are from developing countries.  A purpose-built platform called MOOKIT was deployed and worked successfully. It will be released as an Open Source application after a few more trial runs. In a couple of weeks from now, we will make all the learning materials, available online as OER. The course analytic data, after carefully removing all kinds of personal identifiers, will also be posted online as an Open Data set for which there was a serious demand in the course. This is the second time the collaborators have offered a MOOC. Back in 2013, they offered a MOOC on Mobiles for Development  which attracted 2286 participants from 116 countries (learning materials released as OER). A detailed analysis is available in the public domain.

Tertiary education in Rwanda to go the open way

- October 5, 2014 in developing-world, Featured, languages, oer

Bernard NkuyubwatsiAdvisory Board member Bernard Nkuyubwatsi is following up his previous posts on A Multidimensional Migration for Social Inclusion: A Personal Account and Open Education Rwanda with some exciting news about the open education situation in Rwanda.
The Higher Education Council (HEC), a semi-autonomous institution in the Ministry of Education in Rwanda, has already expressed willingness to move towards an open and inclusive tertiary education in a call for consultation published in The New Times on 11 September 2014. The intention is to adopt Open, Distance and eLearning (ODeL) at the rate of 50 percent in conventional tertiary education, provide an opportunity to potential students who have not been included in the conventional higher education due to family and professional commitment as well as finding an alternative cost-effective academic pathway for students who may not afford expensive conventional academic programmes. The HEC intends to support the development of a national ODeL policy and strategy which will underpin related practices. In a live Twitter session (#AskTheMinister) hosted on 30 September 2014, Professor Silas Lwakabamba; Rwanda’s Minister of Education, invited any contribution that may open up tertiary education via ODeL. If exploited at the fullest potential, this political investment and participatory approach may position Rwanda among global leaders in open and inclusive tertiary education. Rwanda may also lead in opening education with limited resources.
General view of northwestern Rwanda by Neil Palmer (CIAT), Flickr, CC-BY

General view of northwestern Rwanda by Neil Palmer (CIAT), Flickr, CC-BY

Many Rwandan learners have already been successful in self-determined learning (also referred to as heutagogical investment) when the national examinations administered at the end of secondary education were made open to anyone, and the results in the national exams were established as a benchmark for student loan from Student Financing Agency for Rwanda (the current Department of Higher Education Loan at Rwanda Education Board) for public higher education. Many learners who had not been previously included in higher education learned on their own, enrolled in the national exams as non-formal learners in a quest for student loan. These learners’ heutagogical practices were fostered by the value created by the change in student loan provision and the assurance that if they do very well in the national exams, student loan was guaranteed. This student loan is very limited and has been available to only less than 5 percent top performers. Consequently some of the non-formal learners had to re-take national exams up to three times to secure student loan. Such dedication and perseverance is already a great asset that should not be wasted. Some of the learners who won student loan through this pathway have already completed post-graduate degrees and their income multiplied threefold or more. This transformation was enabled by open assessment and if the content and the national curricula were similarly open and easily available to the learners, more accomplishment would have accrued. Unfortunately, funds available for student loan for tertiary education have recently been shrinking due to financial constraints. There is need for innovation in collaborative quality enhancement based on shared benefit to enable different stakeholders’ contribution of a diversity of resources rather than building quality education around only financial resources that lack in Rwanda. An overemphasis upon financial resources in building quality education has undermined the quality of education in Rwanda due to the shortage of these resources on the part of the Government and more importantly most of the population. Quality enhancement that overemphasizes financial resources cannot be accomplished in Rwanda and many other countries without excluding an overwhelming majority, which often catalyse other social problems. Opening up the tertiary education system to invite heutagogical investment has not been attempted although this approach has been transformative to many non-formal pre-university learners. This approach would however need more collaboration to develop independence and heutagogical practices among learners and open education expertise among all stakeholders. The open discussion started by the Minister of Education promises a collective uptake of open education and related practices in the country. There have been scepticisms on the quality of open education systems. In such systems, quality can suffer if it is approached as a product made for students to consume. However, quality in open education systems can be very high if it is enhanced collaboratively and when all stakeholders develop ownership. Particularly, open education systems require transfer of some powers to learners so that they make their heutagogical investment and develop as independent learners. Current problems that are of local and global concerns call for responsible citizens who are independent thinkers and problem solvers who can transform their own lives and the lives of those around them (See An Avalanche is Coming). It is important to educate citizens who can live sustainably within limited resources they have access to rather than those who want to consume beyond their capability. These are values that come with an open and inclusive education system that create opportunities for heutagogical investment. The open education initiative in Rwanda will require all stakeholders to learn new practices, and even learn together. However, given the social inclusion and transformation toward knowledge-based society Rwanda needs to achieve, such learning is worth undertaking. Transformation towards a knowledge-based economy cannot be accomplished with more than 90 percent of the population excluded from tertiary education. Enormous potential talents have already been lost. This is a ripe moment for Rwanda to add value to its human capital through open and inclusive tertiary education.