The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand
Media Release: Immediate
11 December 2007
Open Polytechnic receives international award
A ground-breaking Kiwi eLearning project led by The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand has gained a prestigious US$100,000 award from the United States-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The annual Mellon Awards for Technology Collaboration recognise the work done by not-for-profit organisations globally in the field of open source software development and collaboration.
This year’s awards were judged by a panel of internationally renowned technology experts led by Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.
The Open Polytechnic received the award for its leadership role in a project that makes it easier and cheaper for organisations to deploy eLearning platforms to support online learning for students and employees.
Supported by $1.5 million in funding from the Tertiary Education Commission, The Open Polytechnic project team selected an open source eLearning system, Moodle, and made improvements to it for widespread release.
Eleven polytechnics and three universities, along with several Government departments and a growing number of schools are now using the Moodle system.
The Open Polytechnic was one of 10 winners in this year’s Mellon awards and the only recipient in the Asia-Pacific region. It was also the only winner outside the United States to receive the maximum US$100,000 in prize money.
Finalists for the awards were selected after a world wide public nomination process.
Open Polytechnic Chief Executive Paul Grimwood said the Mellon Award was a significant international honour for his institution and for New Zealand in the eLearning field.
“From The Open Polytechnic’s perspective it is very gratifying to have this kind of recognition both for our expertise and for our ability to take a leadership role in large-scale collaborative eLearning projects.”
Project leader Richard Wyles attended the awards ceremony in Washington DC today with Open Polytechnic Chairperson Douglas Langford.
“Receiving the award shows that the work we are doing in open source technology has significant impact internationally,” Mr Wyles said.
“It is a huge honour for The Open Polytechnic to be judged a leader in open-source development for the educational community. We intend to use the prize money to further our work in this area.”
The Open Polytechnic will again feature on the world stage as New Zealand’s representative at the IMS Global Learning Impact Awards to be held in Austin, Texas in May next year.
The open source project won the national heat at this year’s Learning Impact Awards at the Summit on Innovation on Learning Technology. The Open Polytechnic also recently received a special category award at the New Zealand Open Source Awards.
The other recipients of this year’s top US$100,000 Mellon Foundation awards were the American Museum of the Moving Image and Duke University.
The 2008 Mellon
Awards Nominations are open worldwide from 12 December,
What is Open Source?
Open source refers to software freely available on the web, both to users and to programmers who want to enter the development community to enhance and improve the source code.
The most famous example is probably the Open Office alternative to Microsoft Office.
Background on The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand Project
The Open Polytechnic was recognised in the Mellon Awards for its leadership role in the New Zealand Open Source Virtual Learning Environment project (NZOSVLE). Supported by $1.5 million from the Tertiary Education Commission’s eLearning Collaborative Development Fund (eCDF), the project was completed in June 2006.
Led by The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, it involved a consortium of 20 Tertiary Education Organisations to establish “a virtual learning infrastructure that minimises the financial, organisational, and technological barriers to delivering eLearning across New Zealand’s knowledge economy.”
The project involved evaluating and developing software by participating in global communities using the open source development model.
After a rigorous selection process early in 2004, the project team selected a leading open source learning management system -‘Moodle’ - as the most suitable for the New Zealand environment. The team has continued to participate in the Moodle development community, where software programmers from around the world voluntarily work to improve and enhance the system.
Open source now underpins much of New Zealand’s national eLearning infrastructure. Along with cost benefits, Moodle also offers other advantages, such as the ability to modify the system to suit local and institutional needs.
As a further outcome, the project developed an “open access environment” called Eduforge (www.eduforge.org). This provides a virtual space for users around the world to share ideas, research outcomes, open content and open source software for education.
Initially conceived as a collaboration platform for the NZOSVLE partners, Eduforge now hosts over 190 education projects and has helped position New Zealand as an innovative leader in the eLearning field.
A range of other eLearning projects have come out of NZOSVLE in areas such as open educational resources and a pilot eLearning ‘network’ where partners share resources and services.