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Opening Up Education in Universities of the MENA region by Isidro Maya Jariego

Isidro Maya Jariego

I’m Isidro Maya Jariego, Associate Professor, Social Psychology Department of the Universidad de Sevilla (Spain). I’m participating in a project to promote the adoption of open educational resources (OER) and open educational practices (OEP) for improving the quality of education of universities in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Palestine. OpenMed is an international cooperation project co-funded by the Erasmus+ Capacity Building in Higher Education programme of the European Union.

Throughout project implementation, we observed that higher education institutions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region face problems of massification, and occasionally cover large areas or rural extents of difficult accessibility. Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and digital media allow facing these types of difficulties; at the same time, they offer opportunities for educational innovation.

This allowed us to observe the adjustment and incorporation of the project into four different national contexts.

Lessons Learned:

The degree of internationalization of the university is a good indicator of readiness to adopt OER and OEP. Universities that are bicultural, use a second language in teaching, have bilateral agreements with other universities outside the country, have a culturally diverse teaching staff or receive and send students in academic exchanges, tend to be more receptive to the incorporation of open educational resources.

During implementation of the OpenMed project we realized that participating universities and teachers were characterized by having a more international character than other local universities and teachers. Internationalization indirectly reports about readiness to adopt OER. It seems to be a self-reinforcing process: international experiences predispose for the incorporation of OEP and the incorporation of OEP contributes to the university’s internationalization.


Hot Tip: Focus on organizational dynamics and local relevance. In southern Mediterranean countries there is usually a greater distance to the authority of the teacher, and the cohesion and harmony of the group have greater weight than the individual interests, in comparison with Europe and North America. However, beyond these cultural peculiarities, we have learned that organizational factors are key. Institutional constraints in each university (e.g, textbook use policies and incentives) are determinants of the likelihood of content reuse. On the other hand, in the reuse of content it is also opportune to incorporate locally relevant examples connected to local needs.

Hot Tip: Prevent exclusion of more local universities. Local universities that are less internationally connected, run the risk of being excluded from the processes of educational innovation and the incorporation of open education practices. These are universities somewhat disconnected from the elite of higher education institutions in the country. It is a high-risk group in terms of accessibility to quality education, which requires specific actions.

Rad Resources:

The OpenMed project has produced useful resources for planning to implement or evaluate a MENA region program:

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