The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa is one of the leading scientific and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. It undertakes directed research and development for socio-economic growth.

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August 2008 edition

Information and communications

Open education resources award shared by Meraka Institute researcher

Kim Tucker (left) with the learning4content team, who received the MERLOT Africa Network (MAN) and eLearning Africa 'Free Software for OER Content Authoring' award for WikiEducator
Kim Tucker, a researcher from the Meraka Institute at the CSIR, was called upon to join fellow participants in the learning4content project to receive the inaugural MERLOT Africa Network (MAN) and eLearning Africa 'Free Software for OER (open education resources) Content Authoring' award at the conclusion of the third eLearning Africa conference on ICT for Development, Education and Training. This three-day event, held at the Accra International Conference Centre in Ghana, was attended by some 1 500 eLearning users, newcomers, providers and experts from more than 80 countries and ended on 30 May 2008.

The award was given to the WikiEducator project in recognition of its "pioneering role as a model of content authoring and professional development that supports the OER movement".

Founded by Dr Wayne Mackintosh of the Commonwealth of Learning, WikiEducator is the virtual protégé of Tucker and other free knowledge advocates worldwide. Mackintosh comments, "This [award] is a significant achievement demonstrating the power of the wiki model to collaborate and make a difference in the world!"

With a bold strapline 'free eLearning content', WikiEducator is an evolving community intended for the collaborative planning education projects linked with the development of free content. It also offers a collaborative platform for the development of free content on WikiEducator for e-learning. Through WikiEducator, collaborators can build and create OERs, and network on funding proposals developed as free content.

WikiEducator houses free course material and portals for collaboration on such materials and is one of the 190 top web sites in the world. "Free learning resources are a powerful tool for empowerment and growth," Tucker confirms.

Tucker's passion for free knowledge has seen him engage in a number of initiatives, one of which has been dubbed 'social entrepreneurship'. This is best explained as having good ideas for big social impact (as opposed to commercial gain). "I co-facilitated an event in March 2008 on social entrepreneurship, which was convened by the World Bank," he explains. "This led to the establishment of a tertiary education institution network to promote the participation of students in social entrepreneurship."

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