Lab skills OERs!

Relaunch of the Virtual Analytical Laboratory (VAL)!

Website
http://www.val.biologycourses.co.uk

YouTube channel
BiologyCourses

It has been an interesting experience completely revamping VAL which was first published in 2008 as a project at De Montfort University. Back then, videos were produced in large AND small file formats to accommodate these new fangled mobile devices. Videos and animations were produced in short time-frames again to facilitate downloading and use. How times have changed and how simpler things are now. The entire website has been revamped and set up as a sub-domain on the Biology Courses server.

Consequently the original website of over 100 webpages and 150 resources has now been condensed – slightly – to around 70 webpages and around 75 video and animation resources. Many of these files are also in other formats such as PDF transcripts and include some quiz questions.

Getting back into FLASH!
The relaunch was not without pain as I had to get back into using Adobe Flash again but for the first time on a Mac. It certainly isn’t the smooth operation that it is on a PC but I got there in the end. Another great widget included the Screen Capturer Lite APP for the Mac which very easily let me grab video clips to import into Flash.

Silent movie backdrop
I used the CC backdrop from CopyCatFilms which was just the job. I added some old movie crackles and lines within Flash.

Proud moments!
I look back at the resources – willingly provided by colleagues, the lab technical staff at De Montfort University who were always fantastic, and also students, and I feel really proud. Some parts of these Open Educational Resource (OER) projects were in collaboration with the Leicester Royal Infirmary, who again, were very happy to provide case studies, images, materials, and their amazing team of biomedical scientists where happy to be filmed and recorded.

Looking at the SurveyMonkey feedback from over the years, and Google Analytics to track global users and activity, VAL is certainly well-used. From the ‘trash collector’ in the US who commented “I have always wanted to know how a microscope worked”, to publishers such as the Oxford University Press and associations including the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, many people seem to be linking to VAL as a resource.

The future?
I maintain VAL, Biology Courses and SCOOTER – all the De Montfort University OER projects in my own time. Server space is cheap. WordPress is a great platform for disseminating OER on the web, although all of the sites including VAL have their ‘back ends’ produced in Dreamweaver. Updating them therefore is easy enough. Many people have told me that this isn’t a very sustainable approach, but these OER projects and resources have been ‘sustained’ for longer than others. Far to many great initiatives and project resources have dropped off into the void. I make things as ‘sustainable’ as you feasibly can by also using Jorum, Merlot and OER Commons to share and back up my work in case I get run over by a bus.

I would warmly welcome anyone to use the materials – reuse and adapt them, and if people would like to contribute OERs, I’d gladly assist with that. I’d also recommend the resources are placed on Jorum.ac.uk and other national repositories.

Do Tweet me if you have any questions or would like to be involved.

@vivienrolfe