Africa: Free Online 'Open Content' Initiatives Announced

press release

Tunis — New Web Portal Connects People in Developing Countries to Course Materials from Universities Worldwide

Hewlett Foundation Announces $900K Grant to African Virtual University for Teacher Training Program

A new Web initiative launched today at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), will connect anyone with Internet access and the desire to learn to a world of free, high-quality open educational materials. The Development Gateway Foundation's "Open Educational Resources" portal aims to equalize access to education and help people in developing countries improve their chances for a better life.

The portal features free course materials and other educational content offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Chinese Open Resources for Education and other institutions around the world. The initiative is launched in partnership by the Development Gateway Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

While content on the Open Educational Resources portal is particularly geared to educators, students and self-learners in developing countries it is available for everyone. The portal will also facilitate communication among the growing online community of providers and users of free, online educational resources.

Alan J. Rossi, Chief Executive Officer of the Development Gateway added, "Our goal with this new portal is to encourage more citizens and universities in the developing world to tap into the wealth of free, educational resources available online so more people have a shot at improving their lives and their future."

The Hewlett Foundation also announced a $900,000 grant to support the Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) initiative, an "open content" resource bank of educational materials to train teachers in basic curriculum areas including literacy, numeracy, science and life and health skills. TESSA is a consortium of African and international organizations. It is led by the African Virtual University (Nairobi) and the Open University (UK).

"We launched the teaching the teachers program to directly address the enormous challenge of educating and training the millions of teachers needed in sub-Saharan Africa," said Rector Kuzvinetsa Peter Dzvimbo of the African Virtual University, which is the hub for a network of African universities working together to support open, distance and eLearning initiatives via 57 learning centers in 28 African countries. TESSA will initially be implemented in Tanzania and South Africa.

Funding for the new Open Educational Resources portal and for TESSA is provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The Foundation supports a wide portfolio of Open Educational Resource initiatives, including MIT's OpenCourseWare to publish course materials from virtually all MIT courses and Widernet eGranary to improve digital access in developing countries.

"These two innovative activities will provide access to high quality content drawn from throughout the world," said Marshall Smith, Educational Director of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. "This is critical in areas such as Africa, where lack of infrastructure and the high cost of education prevent millions of people from raising the quality of life in their communities."

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