CC Certificate Alumnus, Mostafa Azad Kamal on his work with open education policies and practice

Jennryn Wetzler

The Creative Commons Certificate program provides unique training courses for educators, academic librarians and the GLAM community (galleries, libraries, archives and museums). Certificate courses are an investment in open movements, training people on copyright, open licensing, and the ethos of working with our global, shared commons using CC licenses.

Portrait, Mostafa Azad Kamal, CC BY 4.0

After launching in 2018, and certifying approximately 1000 graduates from 56 countries, Creative Commons (CC) is taking stock of the incredible community of Certificate participants and alumni. We are particularly interested in learning about local “case studies” of open licensing in local country contexts, and asking alumni about their experiences. CC Certificate alumni have used the Certificate courses in a number of ways—read about alumni testimonials here, and an in-depth adaptation one alumnus made of course content here. In this interview, we highlight one Certificate graduate’s work in Bangladesh, and celebrate the momentum he’s built in open education. 

This interview is with Mostafa Azad Kamal. Mostafa is the Dean of Business Faculty at Open University in Bangladesh. He mentors people for the Open Education for a Better World project (OE4BW); was a reviewer for UNESCO OER* Recommendation; and helped draft a National OER Policy for Bangladesh. Mostafa serves as a CC Global Network Chapter Lead for Bangladesh.* 

Mostafa is also designing and updating the curriculum for the OU bachelor of business program in Bangladesh, moving to OER materials where possible. He and colleagues have developed almost 40 business modules using OER for students.

An Interview With Mostafa Azad Kamal at Open University Bangladesh, Dean of Business Faculty

CC: Thank you for joining us today. We understand you have a pretty unique role, working at the intersection of open education policy and practice. As Dean of Business Faculty at Open University in Bangladesh, you understand how OER serves the needs of students in your classes, and you’ve given numerous talks about the importance of OER; but, you also were a reviewer for the UNESCO OER Recommendation (passed in November 2019), you developed an open OER repository for Bangladesh in 2013, and now, you helped draft the National OER Policy that the Ministry of Education is considering. Tell us about this policy and what it took to draft it.

Mostafa: My journey with the open movement started in 2012. With the help of the Commonwealth of Learning’s (COL) open schooling initiatives (led by Ms. Frances Ferriera), I planned to develop an OER Policy for Bangladesh Open University (BOU). As I believed that Open Policy would create a commitment of the authority of BOU, my colleague Dr. Sadia Afroze Sultana and I designed a workshop for OER Policy development for BOU. It was exciting that BOU was the first university in Bangladesh to have an OER Policy. Following the policy, BOU developed a repository that contains the books developed for the learners of different BOU programs. Now BOU has 43 formal programs with 600,000 students. BOU OER repository is extensively visited by BOU learners as well as other learners.

I’ve always had a strong intention to create awareness of open education in Bangladesh, so I began looking for an opportunity to draft a policy for the Ministry of Education. I managed to convince Dr. Sanjaya Mishra, Educational Specialist (eLearning) at the Commonwealth of Learning, to provide support for the National OER Policy.

Developing the National OER Registry happened in 3 phases. First, we conducted a nationwide survey among public university students and produced a COL report identifying the strong need for OER among the university students. The study found that the limited access to the books decreased students’ learning achievements and affected their grades.

Based on these findings, we drafted a national policy on OER. This required hosting two national consultation workshops and incorporating feedback on a draft policy before submitting the policy to the Ministry of Education for further approval.

In phase 3, the Ministry of Education started a feedback and vetting process, working with various related agencies, institutions and ministries before finalizing the draft. Now it is waiting for the final approval from the cabinet division of the government.

“The study found that the limited access to the books decreased students’ learning achievements and affected their grades.”

CC: How do you see policy and practice working together? What are some of the challenges open policies face, either in creation or implementation? 

Mostafa: Policy is a commitment from the top management as well as the stakeholders. I believe policy is critical for mainstreaming the open culture and practices. Since the open movement is relatively new at educational institutions, an informed policy usually makes the stakeholders aware of the concept and motivates them to use and create OER. Though practicing open education is not necessarily dependent on the open policy, a policy is always helpful for mainstreaming open educational practices at institutions.

Open policies face challenges in various ways. 

The mindset of the institution’s leadership is a big obstacle for promoting open policies. Most of the institutions charge money from the students on study packages. So, they do not feel comfortable with open sharing. 

Sometimes, authors do not permit institutions to share their resources openly. They are mostly afraid of economic loss, or losing their moral rights. 

Teachers are often used to using foreign textbooks for their courses, even if those books are copyrighted and highly expensive. They like to maintain this status quo, as they are so much confused about the quality of open resources. So, they do not encourage open education. 

Another challenge is the lack of skills in using OER for teaching and learning.  

CC: Now let’s talk about OER in practice. I understand you and colleagues have developed almost 40 business course modules using OER. How is OER helping your MBA students

Mostafa: As the Dean of the Business School, I am now working toward adoption and adaptation of OER for all our courses of MBA, BBA, Commonwealth MBA and PGD programs. The reasons are: 1) textbooks are highly expensive, students buy bootlegs which are violations to copyright; and 2) textbook case studies and examples never reflect the local context for Bangladeshi students. 

I got a plan to engage students (MBA and commonwealth MBA) in developing case studies from local contexts. I prefer to give them assignments for developing content based on their local contexts. I strongly believe that the content developed by students helps their engagement, helps them learn more, and makes the material better for future students. 

Pedagogically, I never believe that a student can learn from a fixed textbook if he/she is not engaged in their own context. Also, to be future ready, learners must understand how to search for and synthesize relevant resources. A singular, closed textbook limits learners to one source of knowledge, subject to old theories, cases and concepts. So, they end up just memorizing the concepts.  Considering the issue of contextualization and the importance of the capacity of surfing the world of knowledge, I strongly believe that there is no better alternative to OER.

CC: You took the CC Certificate in 2018, but you’d already contributed a tremendous amount in the field of open education. Did the CC Certificate help you with any of your open projects? 

Mostafa: Certainly. It helps me in five ways. First, I am confident that I got a certificate that speaks to the authenticity of my understanding of open licenses. Secondly, the CC Certificate course enhanced my understanding of open education, copyright issues, open licenses and open policies very much. With clarity on the concepts, I’m better able to teach my colleagues and participants in local workshops. Thirdly, the Certificate offers a very gracious network with the kind and noble open leaders and practitioners worldwide, which allows me to keep myself in the learning process not only in OER, but also in eLearning, learning design and open pedagogies. Fourthly, I am confidently pushing the institutions and government agencies to develop open policies for their benefits and the benefits of the rest of the world as well. Fifthly, I am now helping my colleagues at my university, as well as other universities in Bangladesh and India, find OER and develop OER-based study resources. Recently, I facilitated 3 workshops on OER, where more than 1000 teachers from 20 universities of Bangladesh attended. They came up with 20 institutional OER Policies which are in revision form.

“Though practicing open education is not necessarily dependent on the open policy, a policy is always helpful for mainstreaming open educational practices at institutions.”

CC: That’s terrific! Once the national policy is done, what do you hope to accomplish next? 

Mostafa: Once the national policy is approved, I will convince the Ministry to create a fund for promoting open educational practices among all universities. As a first step, I aim to help develop OER policies for the country’s 150 universities, and also conduct the workshops, seminars and summits to make the academics and learners aware of OER.

CC: If there’s one piece of advice you could give people, like educators or administrators, considering conducting open work at their institution, what would it be?

Mostafa: The fundamental truth of education is ‘learning’. To ensure meaningful learning, we must not keep ourselves confined to a few expensive and copyrighted textbooks, which limits learners’ access to resources and their ability to think deeply and critically. Another point is that the copyrighted textbooks from foreign origin are not customizable, which reduces the quality of learning. Therefore, OER can help them reduce the cost of education, enhance the quality of learning, and expand the free and legal access to plainly relevant education resources.   

CC: Thanks again for your time with us here.

We celebrate Mostafa’s excellent work, and we want to celebrate more of our CC Certificate alumni’s work, as well as the fantastic work of people in the broader open education community! If you have a story about something you’ve tried or an open project you’ve accomplished at your institution, please let us know (email certificates@creativecommons.org). 

*Readers note: Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials that are either (a) in the public domain or (b) licensed in a manner that provides everyone with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities.

Retain – make, own, and control a copy of the resource
Reuse – use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly
Revise – edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource
Remix – combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new
Redistribute – share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others