Open educational resources: opportunities and challenges in the tertiary education sector – Case Study- Mauritius
Manta Devi Nowbuth, University of Mauritius, Mauritius
Conference Theme: Collaboration
Summary: The success of OERs in the field of environment and engineering is linked to collaboration and sharing of experience of users
Abstract: With a view of promoting literacy in the world, open educational resources have been growing rapidly since 2001. In Mauritius the policy of the Government to promote the island as a cyber island has resulted in a number of incentives given to the public at large to increase the level of literacy in the field of information technology. This at the same time resulted in the promotion of the use of open educational resources in various levels of education, from primary up to tertiary. At tertiary level the use of open educational resources in the field of pedagogy, instructional design, environment, science, social science and engineering are being used to a large extent. In this paper the use of OERs in the field of environmental science and engineering is being discussed. Quite a vast amount of information is available on the web on the following topics: environmental management, geographical information systems, computer aided design, geology, wastewater engineering, water resources and groundwater modelling. Use of these very valuable resources are often constrained with regards to copyright issues and with regards to having to adapt them to the local situation. Subjects such as environment and engineering tend to be structured as 25% general information and 75% case studies in the local context so that students are able to appreciate the application aspects of the subjects. Hence, in these subjects adaption of course materials is crucial. A research study was carried out using OERs for teaching of subjects listed above, at tertiary level. The students were requested to look for support materials from the web in order to solve a local problem which had both an environmental aspect and an engineering aspect. The students had to place emphasis on how these education materials helped them to get started with solving the problem and how to formulate the solution to the problem. The students also had to stress on the limitation of the education materials and at the same time stress on how they came up with the solution for the local problem. From this experience the strengths and the weaknesses of OERs in engineering was highlighted. In terms of opportunities, it can be said that there is still a need for OERs in the field of environment and engineering with emphasis on case studies. In terms of challenges, it should be emphasised that engineering problems are complex and are influenced by local environmental situation, which results in solutions which work in a country may not work in another. As conclusion, this paper will thus present an approach that can be adopted in order to promote OERs in the field of engineering and environment, so that readers appreciate not only the general information about the topic but how engineering problems and solutions are influenced by environmental conditions and also by cultural practices in a country. OERs in the field of engineering can be so structured that readers get a good understanding that off shelf technologies have their limitations from country to country.