The University of Cape Town (UCT) has made its OpenContent Directory live, allowing easy, free, online access to a selection of UCT’s teaching and learning resources. The initiative is the first step towards developing OpenUCT, a far-reaching initiative that will eventually make a range of UCT’s knowledge resources – including research – available to anyone with Internet access.
Launching the OpenContent Directory is a significant step towards making UCT’s African knowledge more accessible to the world,” says Dr Max Price, vice-chancellor of UCT. “The open movement is already giving Africans easier access to knowledge from the world’s top universities.
"UCT’s OpenContent directory will enhance this endeavour by contributing South African resources to the global Knowledge Commons. I congratulate all involved in implementing this. As the OpenContent directory comes onstream, our continent’s valued participation in global affairs will accelerate and our continent and the world will be the better for it.”
Funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation and developed as part of the Open Educational Resources Project in the Centre for Educational Technology (CET), the directory will showcase UCT’s collection of open educational resources. The subsequent development of the broader OpenUCT initiative will increase the institution’s participation in the global open research, teaching and social responsiveness environment.
“Through this initiative, the university will provide a global platform for the rich body of research and knowledge that is coming out of Africa,” says Professor Jo Beall, a deputy vice-chancellor at UCT. “Open content initiatives also enable universities across Africa to establish an online connection to a wealth of resources from other continents: teaching materials, research findings, articles and statistics.
"These materials from prestigious universities like MIT were previously out of reach because they were only available to those who could afford to pay for published materials. Today, you don’t even have to be part of a university to access open content – anybody can log in.”
CET associate professor Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams says that making such materials available outside of academic circles will help create a culture of lifelong learning in South Africa.
“Institutions like UCT are paid for by taxpayers, but until now, most South African taxpayers have not had the benefit of the knowledge that is produced at universities,” she says. “Through the OpenContent Directory and OpenUCT, learning and knowledge sharing will become something anyone can participate in.
"Researchers and educators will be able to share their findings, build on each other’s work and create a wider, more comprehensive body of world knowledge. And people outside of the academic campus will be able to look up information just as freely.”
The launch of the OpenContent directory is one way of putting into effect Dr Price’s vision of UCT as an Afropolitan university, by making African content available globally.
Historically, academic knowledge has been available only through published materials. As a result, academics in Africa have been largely dependent on books from the US or Europe, where publishers could print for a bigger market at a lower cost.
“But African researchers and teachers have important perspectives on subjects as diverse as economics and art, health and climate change,” says Prof Beall. “UCT’s OpenContent Directory is a starting point for putting Africa’s contributions into the global body of knowledge.”