On 20 February 2019, the Notre Dame University- Louaizeh (NDU) launched its UNESCO Chair on Open Educational Resources (OER) for Access and Success, in presence of UNESCO Beirut’s Director Dr Hamed al Hamami and UNESCO Beirut’s Programme Specialist for Communication and Information Mr George Awad.
The term “Open Educational Resources” (OERs) was created at UNESCO’s 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries to describe a new global phenomenon of openly sharing educational resources in 2002. OER are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. Since 2002, OER has increasingly been recognized by the international community as an innovative tool for meeting the challenges of providing lifelong learning opportunities for learners from diverse levels and modes of education worldwide.
Realizing the importance of OER in achieving SDG4 and expanding students’ access to education and learning opportunities, NDU has started in 2014 its efforts to create a UNESCO Chair on OER, based at the university but serving the broader MENA region.
The launch ceremony was attended by high-level personalities, including former Minister Dr May Chidiac, representatives from the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and CERD, as well as a number of university professors and students. Director of the Office of Public Affairs and Protocol at NDU, Majed Bou Hadir, welcomed all parties to the proceedings, saying, “Our two institutions meet today, in a spirit of continuous, and joint cooperation in their overall goals.”
In his speech, NDU President Father Pierre Najm spoke of the University’s commitment to deliver quality and inclusive education and achieve SDG4. Najm said: “Today, after six years of continuous work, we are honored to join with an international organization that affirms in its founding charter that human dignity requires the spread of culture and the formation of all people on the principles of justice, freedom and peace. This is a sacred duty for all nations to be conducted in a spirit of mutual cooperation.”
In his turn, UNESCO Beirut Director Dr Al Hamami stressed the importance UNESCO devotes to promoting SDG4 in Lebanon and the Arab region. Al Hamami highlighted that OER represent a key instrument to achieve access and quality of education and congratulated NDU for its serious efforts to launch the UNESCO Chair on OER. Al Hamami also discussed UNESCO’s commitment to building a knowledge society and spreading a culture of peace: “UNESCO has translated the culture of peace through its five sectors: education, the humanities, natural sciences, culture, and science and technology”.
As to George Awad, CI Programme Specialist at UNESCO Beirut, he introduced the public to OER and to UNESCO Chairs. Awad said: “Launched in 1992, the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme, which involves 792 institutions in over 116 countries, promotes international inter-university cooperation and networking to enhance institutional capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work. The programme supports the establishment of UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks in key priority areas related to UNESCO’s fields of competence – i.e. in education, the natural and social sciences, culture and communication”.
He added: “The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme enhances inter-university cooperation in a spirit of international solidarity. It reaches out to and promotes cooperation with civil society, local communities and policy and decision-makers. As such, the Programme provides a platform for global governance of knowledge production, dissemination and application”.
Lastly, Dr Fawzi Baroud, the appointed chairholder of the UNESCO Chair on OER at NDU, made a presentation in which he explained the different steps through which the university has gone in order to launch the Chair. Dr Baroud also highlighted how the NDU UNESCO Chair on OER aligns with the five Axial Objectives of UNESCO’s final OER recommendations. Dr. Baroud emphasized the benefits of adopting OER – increased access and equity, up to date course content, lower course drop rates etc. – and his work drafting policies and offering training to mainstream OER at the national level.
At the end of the ceremony, Father Pierre Najm offered Dr Al Hamami a souvenir gift from NDU, thanking him for the fruitful cooperation between the two institutions.