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Exploring global potential for WaSH distance education and training

The original aim of this project when it started in 2011 was to explore the potential for WASH distance education and training in a global market. WASH stands for water, sanitation and hygiene. At that time the final objective was to prepare a bid for funding. This objective was achieved in 2014 but was so successful that the project rapidly moved on, way beyond its original aim, to the production and delivery of a comprehensive set of learning resources for the WASH sector. 

After the development phase, in the summer of 2014, funding of more than US$600,000 was obtained in partnership arrangements with World Vision Ethiopia and UNICEF, funded from UK Aid. The project had evolved into a plan for the production of five Modules and a Trainers’ Handbook for use in Ethiopia. Key principles of the project were that we would work with in-country authors to produce resources that used Open University distance learning pedagogical techniques and would be available as open educational resources (OERs). The teaching would take an interdisciplinary approach that recognised the complex interconnections of the WASH system and the need for both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills and knowledge.

The OpenWASH modules were written by a team of 15 Ethiopian WASH expert authors working with a group of OU academics from MCT and Science faculties, with essential project management and administrative support from the OU International Development Office, and module production by LTS Corporate. After an intensive period of work involving many colleagues, the production phase was successfully completed in early 2016 when the modules were approved by Ethiopian Federal Ministry officials.

The OpenWASH Modules and Trainers’ Handbook are now available in pdf and Word for print in English and are being translated into four Ethiopian regional languages. They are also available online as OERs. The modules will be piloted in eight Ethiopian colleges where they are being used for curriculum support for face-to-face teaching.

The project was inspired initially by a combination of personal experience from making a series of videos for the undergraduate module U116 Environment: journeys through a changing world and from participating in the HEAT (Health Education and Training) programme in Ethiopia. OpenWASH was therefore informed by and is informing OU teaching as it now brings added value to the rewrite of U116, currently in progress, and demonstrates the beneficial links between OU teaching and applied development work.

As well as the tangible output of the Modules and Handbook, the project also led to successful in-country capacity building that will contribute to sustainable improvement in learning delivery. The experiences of the Ethiopian authors were assessed in a short survey. This revealed overwhelmingly positive responses and demonstrated the emergent secondary benefits that can result from a collaborative international teaching project of this type.

The planned next phase is to extend the benefits of OpenWASH to a wider audience in other countries. As OERs, the OpenWASH modules can be used and adapted for WASH projects around the world, supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to achieve safe drinking water and adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030.

The OpenWASH resources are available here:

Related Resources: 
PDF icon Pam Furniss, OpenWash. eSTEeM Final Report.pdf348.81 KB

eSTEeM final report.

PDF icon Pam Furniss, OpenWASH visit report.pdf558.55 KB

Project report.

PDF icon Pam Furniss poster.pdf108.75 KB

Project poster.