Science teaching resources at OER 12 Cambridge

In April the Biology Courses team presented their work about openly sharing science teaching resources at UK conferences. Following the STEM Annual Conference at Imperial College in London in April, the team then went to Cambridge for OER12 from 16th – 18th April 2012.

OER (Open Educational Resources) is an annual event and this year was co-organised with OCW (Open CourseWare Consortium) and SCORE (Support Centre for Open Resources in Education run by the Open University). This was an amazing event with delegates from all around the globe talking about open education in India, Indonesia, Africa and Brazil. Of course being held in the beautiful location of Cambridge in the UK was just a bonus.

What is Open CourseWare?

OpenCourseWare or OCW is a phrase used globally along with OER to represent the sharing of course materials on the internet. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US were the first institution to really support the wholesale release of their learning materials, and now the OCW consortium is an established organisation comprising of hundreds of schools, colleges and universities around the world.

What is SCORE?

SCORE is a support centre for open education in the UK based at the Open University. The centre offers training and support, and has funded a number of fellowships that have enabled individuals to become specialist and informed about open education. Of course, this also provides a great networking opportunity to share ideas about open education with others from all over the UK.

In the Cambridge talk, Dr Viv Rolfe spoke about the “Biology Courses” project which is releasing and openly sharing a wide range of science teaching resources. Our approach is to share our OER on specially designed websites – like the one you are on now in fact! We use on-line marketing techniques called search engine optimisation (SEO) to help our websites rank highly in Google and therefore attract visitors to the site. The talk explained our SEO strategy and how we are monitoring progress and visitor numbers. SEO is a huge technical task, and Dr Rolfe is not an expert, but in the talk summarised the main points which are of interest to the educational community.

Our websites receive thousands of visitors and from our feedback surveys it is interesting to see that our learners come in all shapes and sizes. In fact it is dangerous to assume ever who might want to view your learning materials. We reach learners of all backgrounds and ages. However, it also makes sense to target our science materials to the best audiences and we do this using social networking. We send information to Twitter groups and also have a Facebook page where particularly we link into university students and local colleges who have an interest in studying biology at university and the use of science teaching resources.

To view the slides from the Cambridge OER12 OCW Conference on 16-18th April 2012, go to Slideshare:

Science teaching resources at the Annual STEM Conference

In April the Biology Courses team talked about their science teaching resources and open education projects at three conferences in the UK.

The first was the first Higher Education Academy Annual STEM Conference in support of science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects. This was held at Imperial College, London, on 12-13th April 2012.

The team had one full presentation and one poster to talk about the “biology courses” project and how it is working with external collaborators to produce high-quality and exciting science teaching resources to benefit student education. The materials include patient case studies, laboratory data and images, all of which weren’t openly available for us to use in our teaching before this project started. The best bit is we can package these materials up into open educational resources (OER) and then share them around the world.

In the talk which lasted 30 minutes Dr Viv Rolfe explained how the project has established a number of local links for example with hospitals, the police and private sector companies. These relationships are mutually beneficial – yes, we get interesting learning materials and our external contacts get training materials for use with their own staff. For example, histology OER that we can use on our Biomedical Science and Medical Science degree programmes are also useful to trainee bioscientists in the hospital laboratories.

You’d have thought that setting up these partnerships would be a time consuming process? In fact, where I did imagine long discussions sorting out copyright and ownership of the materials, the individuals and their teams immediately understood the whole philosophy behind open education, and were more than happy to share their photographs, data and other materials under a Creative Commons License. Clearly, we look at every item very carefully to ensure that any patient data is confidential, and every photograph or video that may contain identifiable information is either not released, or we gain the permissions from those people photographed to use their picture for our project.

What has been interesting in working with local contacts are the unexpected benefits. Talking about open education has led to discussions about research, shared teaching and how we can work together at post-graduate level on masters programmes and sharing PhD students. You might therefore ask why haven’t universities done this before? Well we have of course. We collaborate externally all the time, but before the open education projects, discussions were hardly ever about sharing teaching and learning ideas. Unless you had funding or were established in a research field, you probably wouldn’t have had a reason to go knocking on people’s doors. So open education for me and the “Biology Courses” team has created a buzz in the local Leicester community and with local employers.

To view the slides on involving external partners in generating science teaching resources from the STEM conference, go to Slideshare:


Biomedical Science and How to Use a Pipette

Biomedical science pipetting
Image: Microscopy open educational resources.
Creative Commons BY SA.

Content Authors:                     Level:

Dr Graham Basten                                 School, College, University, General interest

OER Features: (bundle of 7 resources)

Biomedical science resources: Different Types of Pipette

Biomedical science resources: Pi-Pump Pipette

Biomedical science resources: Micropipettes

Transcript of videos PDF file

Transcript of videos Word file

Multiple choice quiz PDF file

Multiple choice quiz Word file

OER Description:

In the biomedical science laboratory, the pipette is a fundamental piece of equipment that is used routinely for the dispensing of liquids, and pipetting is a skill that takes time to acquire and perfect. There are very few procedures in the laboratory that do not require the addition of a liquid or a solution at some point, from applying stains in histology, to carrying out a spectrophotometer assay.

There are several different types of pipette and each is used in a different situation. You might only require a quick and rough application of a liquid for example to wash a stain off a histology glass slide, so a plastic pipette would suffice. However, if you were performing an assay that was going to give you accurate numbers for the concentration of say glucose in the blood, then a more accurate type of pipette such as a micropipette would be required. Other procedures for example genetic techniques might require the pipetting of tiny amounts would also require very small volume micropipettes to use.

These OERs are a series of 3 videos by Dr Graham Basten explaining the three different type of pipettes and when it is appropriate to use them in the biomedical science laboratory. The other resources include a full transcript of all 3 videos and a short set of multiple choice questions written by Biomedical Science students for release as open educational resources (OERs).