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UNESCO supports open learning centres in Tanzania

DAR ES SALAAM: Under the endorsement of UNESCO, the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) organised a two-day workshop from 16 to 17 June 2011. Policy-makers, international and local experts discussed the impact of the adoption of open source technologies and open content within common e-learning models, and the higher education system in Tanzania.
UNESCO views an "open learning centre" as an infrastructure providing a range of e-learning facilities and e-content to students, either on-site, through remote access, or in mixed mode. The term "open" refers to: the physical access to and use of the centre (for extracurricular student research and possible support for e-learning of other universities or informal courses in the community at large); the learning content (Open Educational Resources - OER); and the use of open technologies and standards for the deployment of services (Free and Open Source Software - FOSS).

Building inclusive knowledge societies

Within this context and as the first steps towards developing an open learning centre model, a workshop on "Open technologies and contents in improving the quality of education in higher learning institutions" was organised by the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) in Tanzania from 16-17 June 2011 under the auspices of UNESCO.

The main points of discussion during the workshop included:

  • The use and applicability of FOSS and OER in teaching and learning in the higher education system in Tanzania;
  • Policy and ICT infrastructure implications in establishing an open learning centre in Tanzania;
  • Vision and challenges in developing open e-learning models in Tanzania.

The participants from local communities expressed their keen interests in exploring the potentials of FOSS and OER in improving the high education system in Tanzania. Such open content and technologies could increase access to good quality education for all rather than just for the privileged few, thanks to shared content, software and hardware. However, in order to take advantage of such concepts, many challenges need to be overcome, including the cost of bandwidth and negative attitudes to e-learning.

Based on the workshop outcome, FOSS and OER experts will develop a pre-feasibility report containing suggestions and possible workplan for UDSM to build an open learning centre. The report is due by September 2011.

UNESCO believes that universal access to high quality education is key for building inclusive knowledge societies based on human rights, peace, and intercultural dialogue. The adoption of FOSS, OER and open access to scientific information provides a strategic opportunity to improve both access and the quality of education, as well as to facilitate policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building.