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: