NWU now hosts UNESCO Chair on Multimodal Learning and OER

Issued by North West University
Johannesburg, Aug 17, 2018

The establishment of a Chair on Multimodal Learning and OER at the North-West University (NWU) was recently approved by UNESCO. There are currently only 737 UNESCO chairs worldwide, of which only 10 are in South Africa.

The promotion of multimodal and self-directed learning has been identified as important aspects in the NWU Teaching and Learning Strategy as part of the university's commitment to accessible and relevant high quality teaching and learning, with a view to enhancing student success as well as experience of the curriculum.

The research for this chair will focus on multimodal learning (a blending of face-to-face and e-learning modalities) as well as the multi-literacies required for culturally appropriate and effective learning within an environment that is conducive to self-directed learning and OER: open educational resources (peer-reviewed, shared online resources that include material, books, videos, lessons and even full courses).

The purpose of the research chair is to (1) build networks in southern Africa around OER and multimodal learning; (2) build capacity at the NWU and in southern Africa; (3) train and develop academic expertise among staff concerning multimodal learning and the creation and use of OER; as well as (4) doing research on OER and multimodal learning.

The NWU has already taken a leading role in promoting multimodal learning and research on OER in the region and internationally. The institution is a member of the National Association of Distance Education and Online Learning in South Africa (NADEOSA), Commonwealth of Learning, Open Educational Resources University (OERu) network and Apereo. In November 2013, the NWU joined the OER network as an anchor partner. The establishment of the UNESCO Chair was recommended by the NWU's Institutional Committee for Research and Innovation on 14 September 2016.

Subsequently, a post was advertised and Prof Jako Olivier was appointed in this position on 1 September 2017 to be recommended by the university to UNESCO in its application for the Chair. In March 2018, the NWU's Senate approved an OER Declaration, committing the institution to the promotion, implementation, creation, re-use, revision, remixing, redistribution and retention of OER within an open licensing framework.

The formal application of the chair was made to UNESCO at the end of April 2018. The application also involved endorsements from Prof Wayne Mackintosh (Director, OER Foundation; UNESCO/ICDE Chair in OER) from Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand and Prof Rory McGreal (UNESCO/COL/ICDE Chair in OER from Athabasca University, Canada) as well as the South African National Commission for UNESCO, South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE) and some universities in the SADC region.

On 7 August 2018, the NWU was informed by UNESCO (Paris) that the university was successful in its application. Furthermore, the NWU was also commended on the quality of the project application proposal. An agreement to finalise the approval of the chair will be signed between the NWU and UNESCO very soon.

The chair will be led by Prof Olivier, professor in multimodal learning in the Faculty of Education. His research is currently based in the self-directed learning research focus area and is focused on multimodal multi-literacies and self-directed learning as well as OER in support of multimodal learning. The chair will work closely with the NWU's Unit for Open Distance Learning (UODL), Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the research entities TELIT and SDL, and the NWU Library.

Other confirmed national collaborators include researchers from the University of Pretoria, University of Cape Town, UNISA, Rhodes University, University of the Witwatersrand and the Department of Higher Education and Training. International partners include researchers from Botswana Open University, Open University of Mauritius, National University of Lesotho, Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique, University of Swaziland and the African Virtual University.

Prof Olivier will be presenting his inaugural lecture: "Multimodalling and multilanguaging: charting student (open) access and (communal) success through multi-literacies", on 17 August 2018 in the NWU Senate Hall, Potchefstroom.

More information on the UNESCO chair programme: https://en.unesco.org/unitwin-unesco-chairs-programme