European Year for Development

European Year for Development


Embracing the Philosophy of Open Educational Resources

Dr. Jane-Frances Agbu is the Head of the newly created Open Educational Resources – Massive Open Online Courses (OER-MOOC) Unit at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). With funding from the European Union, UNESCO is assisting the university in transforming all the courses into open-licensed Open Educational Resources (OERs) as well as open-licensed Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) to attract very large numbers of young Nigerians to access high-quality higher education. With over 180,000 enrolled students, NOUN is the 2nd largest university in Africa with 1,500 courses at Bachelors, Masters, and PhD level. This is the Jane-Frances’ story.

“As a mother of three young children and after eight years of being a ‘stay-at-home mum’, I felt that it was time to get a job. I applied for employment at NOUN in 2006 and fortunately was offered a position in the School of Health Sciences.”

“Initially I did not really know much about OER, so I was curious and decided to learn more. In July 2013, I attended the Regional Workshop on OER for West African states, in Abuja, Nigeria. In a nutshell, we learnt that OERs are learning materials released under an open intellectual property license or in the public domain, allowing free-of-cost and legal reuse, revision, remixing and redistribution. MOOCs on the other hand are short courses aimed at unlimited participation and open access through the web. The underlining philosophy of ‘openness’ and ‘sharing’ of educational resources for the common good, especially those produced with government funds, was emphasized.”

“What struck me the most at the workshop was the communal character of African culture. Often, it is the practice that kindred and family groups cook together, raise the children together and collectively assist each other with farm work and homebuilding. Thus the philosophy underlining OER is naturally adaptable to the African worldview of sharing for the common good of all. However, the current reality is that knowledge production and dissemination are often hoarded under the guise of intellectual property rights, thereby undermining the higher ideal of knowledge sharing and intellectual development for the good of humanity.”

“In August, 2014, NOUN took the bold decision to embrace OER/MOOCs and created a dedicated unit for this. Astonishingly, I was asked to head this project. With the full support of UNESCO, the second Training Workshop on OER/MOOCs, for NOUN staff is taking place on February 3-6, 2015. This exercise aims to sensitize about 400 people, train 10 course writers on skills required to convert course materials into OERs and present proposals and design for NOUN MOOCs. The first set of OERs will be uploaded on the NOUN OER portal at the end of the training workshop.”

“The NOUN OER unit hopes to stimulate OER/MOOCs awareness in NOUN and beyond; evaluate and review institutional policies to incorporate OER/MOOCs value and processes. Furthermore, the unit wants to offer high-quality MOOCs to the global community and stimulate research and exchange activities in OER and MOOCs.”


We would like to thank Jane-Frances Agbu (National University of Nigeria), Abel Caine and Lindsay Young (Knowledge Societies Division of UNESCO) for their contribution.

If you want to find out more about this project, you can visit the UNESCO website (, the website of 'OpenUp Ed' ( or you can contact the UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels ( 

About the partner

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is a specialized agency of the United Nations system. The organization was created 70 years ago, with the mission to build the defences of peace in the minds of men. More...

“The philosophy underlining OER is naturally adaptable to the African worldview of sharing for the common good of all.”

- Jane-Frances Agbu
Map of Nigeria (

Uptake of Open Educational Resources for Learning and Teaching

  • OpenupEd project is carried out by UNESCO with the support of the European Commission, DG Education and Culture, under the Lifelong Learning Programme
  • OpenupEd is an open, non-profit partnership offering MOOCs that contribute to open up education – much to the benefit of individual learners and the wider society.
  • The vision is to reach out to all those learners who are interested to take part in online higher education in a way that meets their needs and accommodates their particular situation.
  • The project aims to provide guidance to enhance the development and implementation of national OER strategies through increased international cooperation
  • The main characteristics of the project are: learner-centred, openness to learner, digital openness, independent learning, media-supported interaction, recognition options, quality focus, spectrum of diversity