Open Educational Practices and Flexible Learning are not new to the University of the South Pacific. USP’s distributed nature requires it to engage in open and flexible learning which it has done since its inception. As such USP has a very strong pedigree in these areas which is widely acknowledged.
This was the message that Professor Som Naidu, Pro Vice-Chancellor Flexible Learning and Director of the Centre of Flexible Learning (CFL) at The University of the South Pacific (USP) had for delegates from 53 member countries of the Commonwealth which included Ministers, their Permanent Secretaries and representatives of various partner groups from throughout the Commonwealth.
Professor Naidu argued that at USP, open and flexible learning is regarded as a value principle, much like we see diversity or equality in education and society more generally. Engagement with these practices is not a choice, but an imperative for the University.
And he demonstrated USP’s commitment to open and flexible learning with a discussion of two Policies that have recently been developed and adopted by the University. These are:
Professor Naidu’s presentation was titled “FUTURE PROOFING” learning and teaching @USP and it was presented as part of Session 3.4 (Open Educational Resources and Open Textbooks for Quality Education in the Commonwealth) co-sponsored by USP and the Commonwealth of Learning on day 1 of 20th Conference of the Commonwealth Education Minister’s Meeting (CCEM) at the Sheraton Resort, Nadi, Fiji (19-22 February, 2018).
Flexible learning is a “state of being in which learning and teaching is increasingly freed from the limitations of the time, place and pace of study”, said Professor Naidu. For learners “flexibility in learning may include choices in relation to entry and exit points, selection of learning activities, assessment tasks and educational resources in return for different kinds of credit and costs”. And for the teachers “it can involve choices in relation to the allocation of their time and the mode and methods of communication with learners as well as the educational organization”.
Professor Naidu added that while the adoption of flexible approaches to learning is central to the ethos and culture of the USP....one size or approach to flexible learning does not, and will not fit all learners, teachers or disciplines at the University.
“There will be a need for different approaches to learning and teaching, with different levels of flexibility, structure and guidance for different cohorts and learning contexts, while the threshold value principles of all approaches remain the same,” he added.
And in relation to the adoption of Open Education Resources (OER), Professor Naidu added that while the University retains intellectual property rights on all teaching and learning resources developed by its staff, The OER Policy requires that all such resources are shared with an appropriate Creative Commons license to permit reuse, revision, remixing, and redistribution of the same by others.
To prosecute this agenda, Professor Naidu spoke about specific initiatives underway and under the auspices the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Learning, Teaching and Student Services (DVC LTSS) to support the revision and conversion of courses using OER---the goal of which are to increase the adoption, adaption and creation of OER by USP faculty to increase student success through zero textbook costs and also reduce the time and cost of course development.
Some of this work that is being undertaken at the University will be reported as part of University’s Open Education Week celebrations on 15 March 2018, at USP’s Laucala Campus (and streamed live on the web) and Pro Vice-Chancellor Naidu invited everyone to tune in (https://openedu.usp.ac.fj/).