Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Facilitating access to educational and learning resources: Experiences so far

As you may already know this week (March 7-11) is the Open Education Week 2016 - an initiative that aims to raise awareness of free and open sharing in education and the benefits they bring to teachers and learners. The event takes place at a global level and is coordinated by the Open Education Consortium, a global network of educational institutions, individuals and organizations that support an approach to education based on openness, including collaboration, innovation and collective development and use of open educational materials.


I wanted to take the opportunity to write something relevant to this concept, as a small contribution to this global event - and it seems that the best I could think of is our (as Agroknow) contributions in facilitating access to educational resources, mostly in green topics.

I have been working with green educational projects and initiatives for quite a long time now; starting back in 2009 with the eContentPlus project Organic.Edunet, which led to the development of a multilingual green learning portal that featured about 11,000 educational resources appropriate for various levels of green education. The portal was further enhanced in the context of the Organic.Lingua ICT-PSP project, which not only added domain-specific automatic translation features to the portal, but also worked on the evolution of the metadata schema (Organic.Edunet IEEE LOM AP) and the ontology (Organic.Edunet ontology) used for the description and classification of these educational resources respectively. The Organic.Edunet Web portal is open and available to anyone.



Other projects like the Leonardo da Vinci Organic.Balkanet and CerOrganic ones worked mostly on developing specialized training curricula for the organic farming sector. These courses were made available through a learning portal called Multimedia open learning environment (MOLE), a fully-featured course management platform with multimedia capabilities. While the platform required a free registration for accessing most of the material, it supported the Organic.Edunet IEEE LOM AP and the OAI-PMH protocol for publishing the metadata records with other platforms. The Herbal.Mednet project also worked on the development of educational material for the vocational training sector, focusing on the organic medicinal and aromatic plants.

Our latest projects (both as Agroknow and individual members) include the recently completed GreeNET and the still ongoing Green Learning Network. The former created an inventory of Best Practices related to sustainable development and environmental protection, an Discovery Space for green OER on these topics and other related (and useful tools) - all available through the GreeNET Hub. At the same time, Green Learning Network working on developing a network of educators, agriculturalists, institutions, learners and user communities in Lifelong Learning, has created a number of OER hubs for different types of educational communities, namely Higher, School, Informal and Vocational - all of them featuring discovery spaces for the discovery and retrieval of high quality OER in the corresponding fields. These hubs are enhanced with social sharing options, that facilitate access to and sharing of OER with existing colleagues and online communities through social media.



We also had the pleasure to actively contribute to two other projects working on the ECVET (European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training framework) sector, namely ECVET-STEP and the Agricultural Alliance for Competence and Skills based Training (ACT), which focused their work on mapping the existing training curricula, opportunities and skills with competences standardized in the context of ECVET.

On top of that, I had (and still have) the opportunity to represent Agroknow in educational networks that are interested in the promotion and facilitation of access to OER, like the European-based EdReNe (Educational Repositories Network); and let's keep in mind that Agroknow is also activated in other educational networks like the ARIADNE Foundation and GLOBE (Global Learning Objects Brokered Exchange) which work in providing the necessary technical and policy developments for the global educational and learning communities. Last but not least, Agroknow is actively involved in the Global Food Safety Partnership, a global initiative led by the World Bank aiming at combining food safety training and technical support so developing countries can improve their food safety systems and benefit from better compliance with food safety standards (Agroknow has developed a GFSP demonstrator for the vocational training material of interest to GFSP) .



More updates on Agroknow's contribution to the OER communities will follow soon - especially with the launch of AGINFRA that will facilitate the interoperability and connection of various educational and learning initiatives in the agri-food sector at a global level, by providing the required infrastructure and services for enabling this. Stay tuned for more info!