February 20, 2020 – Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) has been working to promote open education since 2014, with Dr. Fawzi Baroud, Assistant Vice President for Information Technology at NDU, spearheading a culture of openness on campus. Since then, 17 courses across 6 departments – some 7000 students – at NDU have benefitted from OER, saving $450,000 on university books alone. February 20, 2020 saw NDU take its position as a pioneer in education in the region still further with the establishment of the UNESCO Chair on OER for Access and Success covering Lebanon and the MNEA Region with Dr. Baroud acting as chairholder. In so doing, NDU joins 14 other UNESCO OER Chairs programs as the holder of the 15th OER chair in the world, all of which work to strengthen international cooperation between universities and establish networks to enhance institutional capacities through the exchange of knowledge and collaborative work.
The launch took place at NDU’s Abou Khater Auditorium, in the presence of the Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Education in the Arab States, Dr. Hamad bin Saif Al Hammami, and NDU President, Fr. Pierre Najem. The ceremony was attended by a number of academics, students, and broader educational and media figures, including former Minister, Dr. May Chidiac.
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.”
Fr. Najem began his speech by highlighting NDU’s, including achieving full International Accreditation issued by the one of the most prestigious American institutions, the New England Commission for Higher Education (NECHE), and being ranked this year as the strongest university in Lebanon in terms of citations per research paper, by the QS World University Rankings. Fr. Najem also highlighted NDU’s efforts in sustainability – winning the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Milestones Award in Academia for the second year running – and how the establishment of the UNESCO OER Chair at NDU reinforces the University’s position on sustainability with particular regard to SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. “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.”
“We are here to celebrate the inauguration of the UNESCO Chair for Open Educational Resources,” said Dr. Al-Hammami. Dr. Al-Hammami thanked Dr. Baroud and 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.
Finally, Dr. Baroud highlighted how his own work at NDU aligns with
the five Axial Objectives of UNESCO’s final OER recommendations
as approved by all Member States. 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. “Future directions lie in NDU sharing its expertise in the OER,” said Dr. Baroud. “[NDU serves as a] launch-pad and research mechanism for Lebanon and the MENA region, and will continue to support open educational resources to reach its full transformational potential to achieve the SDG4.”