FOOE: Free and Open Online Education
Empowering Free and Open Education through e-Learning
නිදහස් සහ විවෘත අධ්යාපනයක් සදහා ඉ-ඉගැනුම
இலத்திரனியல் கற்கையினூடு திறந்த மற்றும் இலவசகல்விக்கான சக்தியூட்டல்
In year 2006, Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) funded the University of Colombo School of Computing in Sri Lanka to establish the National e-Learning Centre (NeLC) through 4 year project. The main objective of this project is to establish “Open, Flexible and Distributed e-Learning Environment to provide effective, efficient, scalable and economical learning opportunities to stakeholder communities in Universities, Schools, the Public Sector and Society at large”. Several activities were carried out during last 4 years under this project and they were summarized at http://www.e-learning.lk and also we won several national and international awards for outcomes of the project (http://www.e-learning.lk/node/18).
One of main outcome of the project is to promote Free and Open Online Education (FOOE) using e-Learning Framework of the project. Hence, NeLC has published more than 40 free online courses for ICT awareness and literacy, language learning, Entrepreneurship, Secondary School subjects at http://www.e-learning.lk/vle in English, Sinhala and Tamil languages. All these courses are freely shared with any organization which carries out activities based on e-Learning under creative common license.
A special open source system, named, eNOSHA was developed to share online e-Content resources. eNOSHA is available at http://www.e-learning.lk/enosha and it is also an FOSS product of NeLC.”Free Learning and Pay only for Certification” is the theme we have established in the project for the National e-Learning Centre in Sri Lanka. Hence, we have established several online certification programs including an online degree program to demonstrate Free and Open Online Education (FOOE).
Free education has already made a big impact in the Sri Lankan society. However, it is not a 100% open education system as we expected. For example, learners from rural community face several issues when they need to access educational services including resources for learning. This critical national issue can be addressed through ICT integration with the education services. Hence, the Government and many agencies are implementing several projects to establish ICT infrastructure to provide the basic foundation for ICT integration with education services. At the same time, ICT literacy of both teachers and learners is a crucial requirement in the infrastructure development. Many programs and courses have been conducted during last few years by many parties to address this issue. However, we have seen they are not scalable and sustainable to enhance ICT literacy at the national level. One of key objectives of this initiative is to establish a scalable and sustainable online ICT literacy program at different sectors of education (higher education, school education, community education and professional education) and different levels of proficiency (basic awareness, driving license level and professional certification).
It is very important to develop the ICT literacy using the ICT infrastructure that we develop at the national level. Learning becomes stronger when there is a continuous engagement with learning resources as well as other stakeholders (fellow learners, experienced learners and facilitators/teachers). Hence, we believe that ICT literacy should be developed using online learning framework and it could help to develop lifelong learning skills which required to maintain the ICT literacy. At the same time, acceptable and affordable certification is required at different competency levels allowing learners to continue their education. Hence, in this project several online courses were developed considering the national ICT literacy requirements and suitable certifications were defined for it.
ICT literacy should not be restricted to a particular technology that depends on specific hardware or software. For example, many learners are divided based on the operating systems (windows or Linux) and software packages (Microsoft office or Open office) when they begin to develop ICT literacy. At the same time, change in the product and system affect the current status of ICT literacy. Most importantly, the language is a key barrier for ICT literacy since many programs/courses delivered through English. This situation has further deteriorated with adhoc training programs for ICT literacy conducted by different parties. Absence of active national level programs has also created vacuum for unwanted foreign programs taking control local ICT literacy. Therefore, as a national university in the country, we first established curriculum for ICT literacy considering three layers of proficiency. They are called e-Sri Lanka Certification (which is 30 hours ICT awareness program http://www.e-learning.lk/drupal/?q=node/27 ), ICT Application Certification (Sri Lanka Computer Driving License SLCDL) and Foundation of Information Technology (FIT) http://fit.bit.lk/ The curriculum for these literacy programs are validated and extended on regular basis considering the changes in ICT domain such as operating systems and application tools selected for basic literacy. Different versions of online courses were developed and published for free and online access at the open learning environment http://www.e-learning.lk/vle
Education is a fundamental right and “Educational for All” is a universally accepted action plan. Hence, we consider open access to learning resources promotes the learning as well as it develops the learners confidence for certifications which could be decided by the learners depending on his/her objectives, affordability and recognition. At the same time, national level initiatives should be collaborative and they should also promote public private partnership. Hence, University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) offered these programs in collaboration with National Apprentice Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) by empowering their certification program called Sri Lanka Computer Driving License in addition to direct certification by the UCSC. At the same time, UCSC has developed a network of private teaching institutes covering every province in the country which facilitates the training for those learners who need assistance for ICT literacy. However, the self study learners can directly access courses free of charge at http://www.e-learning.lk/vle in addition to paid facilitated online courses at http://fit.bit.lk/lms
It is important to mention that ICT literacy depends on both the knowledge and skill of learners. Our research in the past has proved learners who have knowledge on ICT literacy find hard to apply their skill for a given work assignment. Therefore the ICT literacy program we have introduced consider both knowledge and skill development in learning as well as assessment in the evaluation. Interactive ICT skill development courses can be accessed at http://188.8.131.52/sbosas/ (System can be tested with username – test and password – test).
The value of e-Content depends if they can be shared by many parties. If those contents are proprietary and cannot be shared due to licenses, it would be hard to expect collaboration or public private partnership (PPP). Hence, all these above mentioned e-Content ICT literacy courses are shared under creative common license. Sharing means not simply free giveaway or public dump. It should establish collaboration and these e-Content could make a large e-Content repository. This repository would be the basis to develop new interactive e-Learning Courses for different learning requirements. National e-Learning Centre under its research and development initiative has also established an online repository for e-Content at http://www.e-learning.lk/enosha and this open source system is free available for stakeholders at http://sourceforge.net/projects/enosha/
In general, learners start their learning by developing the literacy and once they acquire a particular level of competency they may need to continue the learning to a higher level. Hence, we have developed in this initiative, a learning path connecting all sectors of education.
40 Free Online Courses at http://www.e-learning.lk/vle
e-Sri Lankan Certification (eSLC)
- ICT Awareness in English/Sinhala/Tamil
- FREE Online course http://www.e-learning.lk/vle
- Certification by NAITA http://www.e-learning.lk/eslc
Sri Lanka Computer Driving License (SLCDL)
- FREE Online Courses http://www.e-learning.lk/vle
- Online e-Tests for Evaluation (No Prerequisites)
- Certification by NAITA http://www.e-learning.lk/eslc
Foundation in Information Technology (FIT)
- Online Courses for ICT Applications (SLCDL) + English + Mathematics
- No Prerequisites for Registration
- Certification by UCSC
- Take e-Tests when you are ready
- Details available at http://fit.bit.lk
Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT)
- Virtual Campus [Vidupiyasa] provides online courses for all subjects [32 Online Courses] http://vle.bit.lk
- Requirements: Three A/L Passes or FIT
- Minimum Duration: 3 years
- K. P. Hewagamage, "FOOE: Empowering Free and Open Online Education through e-Learning", 16th International Conference on Technology Supported Learning and Training (Online Educa 2010), Berlin, Germany, December 2010.