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Writing Sample

Excerpt from Critical Review Essay (Mar. 21, 2013) : Introduction                  Click for the entire essay

        According to UNESCO (2007), the world needs millions of teachers to realize the goal of Education for All. In Sub Saharan Africa alone, four million new teachers are needed. In developing countries, the importance of teacher training is critical because teachers are the only reliable resources for education in such countries. Thus, teacher qualification particularly plays a significant role in students’ success in poor countries. In this paper, two articles will be reviewed to discuss how to effectively support Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan African (TESSA) countries using Open Educational Resources (OERs). In both articles the term “template” is used as the authors classify how much or how deeply TESSA OER is integrated into the local lesson plans. Three types of models, or templates, are introduced: highly structured, loosely structured and guided use depending on depending on how the OERs will be utilized. The rationale behind the development of three different models was that this gives the teacher educators and teachers more distinct direction in how they can use the materials to meet their local needs.
        For effective local use of OERs in teacher education, Wolfenden, Buckler, and Keraro (2012) emphasize the adaptation process of the OERs into local lessons according to the different regional situations. Underlining critical thinking ability to select and adapt the material, the authors deconstruct study units of the highly structured template to show what aspects should be localized and what should be kept within the template. The influence of external factors such as the attitudes and skills of lecturers are also discussed for the adaptation process. The purpose of this article is to empower local educators in Africa with the ability to select and modify given material from OERs. Thakrar, Zinn, and Wolfenden (2009) discuss three forms of OER integration - highly structured, loosely structured, and guided use templates- into teacher education in Sub-Saharan African countries. This article provides a good amount of contextual background for education in Africa including policy change in the history and diverse external factors in distribution and integration of OERs within local educational systems. The importance of collaboration of the TESSA consortium is discussed in supporting institutions in the development of learner-centered study models. Overall, Wolfenden et al. (2012) offer applicable ways to utilize OERs by showing the modification process of the given materials whereas the description of the use of OERs by Thakrar et al. (2009) remains explanatory and less practical. However, Thakrar et al. (2009) provides comprehensive views contrary to the limited perspectives of Wolfenden et al. (2012) by outlining external success factors.

Excerpt from Literature Review Essay (Apr. 16, 2013) : Body                       Click for the entire essay

        In designing learner-centered OERs, learning objects should be kept simple for OERs to be implemented in developing countries.  Defined broadly, a learning object is a resource that can be reused to support learning.  In this sense, learning objects can be regarded as an OER itself which is another reason why learning object is particularly important in OERs.  Since OERs are materials found on the web, there are many embedded learning objects with technology such as PowerPoint, game blogs, and video clips.  In creating these learning objects, material designers should carefully consider diverse learners in various cultures and environments because some learners do not have high speed Internet or high quality computers to download or install materials.  Despite these important aspects of learning objects, however, Mestre (2010) revealed that learning object designers had little knowledge about the importance of learning objects based on results of her online survey to the 120 academic librarians who had an interest in instruction, information literacy, or online learning.  Given questionnaires about design and learning style considerations, and assessment of the learning objects, the majority of the librarians answered that they used only one approach in tutorial design and they often chose the learning tools simply familiar to them or available at the moment of designing.

       It would be helpful to see how learning objects can limit or affect the potential users of OERs as we compare the major two OER initiatives.: Open Course Ware (OCW) by MIT and Open Learning Initiative (OLI) by Carnegie Mellon University.  MIT OCW provides simple learning materials such as a syllabus, a reading list, lecture notes, and video lectures per course.  On the contrary, CMU OLI provides rich multimedia such as virtual labs and simulations including documentary materials.  Even though it aims at supporting worldwide learners with full experiences of online learning, its high quality technology which needs specific operating system, browsers, and multiple plug-ins, would create obstacles to offering numerous courses and reaching underprivileged learners.  In the fall of 2005, OLI offered seven subject areas and began partnering with the faculties of institutions in three countries :Chile, Columbia, and Qatar (Stacey, 2007).  Considering that MIT OCW has published 1,250 courses among its 1,800 MIT formal courses and has reached 14 developing countries (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Spain, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, China, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Egypt) in their own languages, we can suggest that simple learning objects are easy to produce and be made available to developing countries.  This result implies that OCW and OLI targeted different main end-users when designing their OER initiatives, and it gives an example of considering the main target audience in choosing learning objects.  If learners in underprivileged countries are the target audience, an OER designer should develop learning objects with rather simple technology.




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