Otago Polytechnic is about to launch a world-leading
educational resource with the potential to help millions of
people in developing nations.
Chief executive Phil Ker will travel to Canada next week to
launch the Open Educational Resource (OER) university, which
has been spearheaded by a team at the Dunedin campus.
Mr Ker said it was a proud moment for the polytechnic, which
would benefit from global recognition as a result.
''We are really proud to have been able to facilitate a
global initiative which involves a whole lot of very notable
institutions worldwide. We are proud that little old Otago
Polytechnic can facilitate something of this scale from
Dunedin,'' he said.
Three years ago, the polytechnic established the Open
Education Resource Foundation with the aim of providing free
educational services, and making education more
cost-effective for all by using free resources already
available on the internet.
The polytechnic spent a little over $150,000 setting up the
foundation, from which the OER university project developed.
Mr Ker said the online university was aimed at making
internationally recognised qualifications available to those
who could not otherwise afford to study.
''You could call it a philanthropic or charitable
initiative,'' he said.
''The benefits are really around the development of free
resources and the collaborative development of programmes.
There is also a significant reputational benefit to the
polytechnic in ... getting our name out there on the global
stage and having global visibility.''
Traditional online learning resources either came at a cost
or did not result in a valid qualification, so the OER
university was unique, Mr Ker said.
''Harvard and other significant establishments have been
offering free learning now for a year but the difference is
that it doesn't lead to a credential, so it's learning for
interest. This actually provides you with a qualification ...
and the OER university model is unique because it's been
developed collaboratively by all the partners.''
They included universities and tertiary institutions in
Australia, the Pacific, Canada, the United States, United
Kingdom, South Africa and India.
The OER university would initially offer a ''general tertiary
studies degree'' - the equivalent of a three-year bachelor of
arts. Although anyone could teach themselves through the
online university from anywhere, there was no concern about
providing free what thousands of students already paid for,
Those planning to attend tertiary education institutions were
unlikely to choose self-taught programmes on the internet.
''This is a self-service model so if there are people in New
Zealand that want to teach themselves, they can do this and
they will, but those people aren't going to come to
polytechnic to be taught anyway.''
Courses through the OER university were aimed at people in
developing nations, and did not replicate all specialist
study at paid institutions, he said.
The second qualification, to be introduced next year, was a
graduate diploma in tertiary education for people who wanted
to become teachers.
''There's a lot of demand in developing countries for that
... for people to gain the skills to be tertiary teachers.''
Mr Ker said the OER university was now self-sustaining and
although staff were based at the Dunedin campus, the
polytechnic no longer had to underwrite it.
''We've had international funding and we've been signing up
members of the foundation who pay an annual membership fee
and that also helps fund the development.''
As part of next week's launch, chief executives from partner
institutions will hold a three-day planning meeting to
discuss the university's future development.
Open Education Resource Foundation director Dr Wayne
Mackintosh was leading the project from Dunedin.