The Biology Courses team have just returned from two conferences in London and Cambridge in the UK where they have been talking about their science teaching resources that are being shared around the world. De Montfort University is one of many UK universities opening up the doors to education, hence the term “open educational resources” or OER which refers to resources and materials that are being shared.
CC BY-SA: Cambridge by Viv Rolfe.
What makes something “open”?
Science teaching resources and learning materials such as lecture notes, PowerPoint slides and video on any subject can be made “open” by applying an open license like Creative Commons. In the past, these materials were copyright © of the university or the individual lecturer, and this mostly meant that sharing them was not permitted. For OER, copyright still stays with the university or individual, but they have signed permission to license the resource for open use. The photograph above for example is “BY-SA”. “BY” means please attribute the author or photographer and “SA” means share alike and gives you permission to adapt and modify the OER if you then share it back with everyone.
Why are we sharing our science teaching resources?
The simple answer to that is why not! The same subjects are taught all over the world so why don’t we all help each other and save time by sharing our teaching materials? This saves me time as a lecturer and also the OER are available to all learners so the ability to learn about new subjects whoever you are, and wherever you are in the world, is suddenly an option.
We have focused on our health and life science teaching resources because we specialise in some areas so can also share our expertise for example in forensic science, midwifery and biomedical science. The resources we share come in a range of useful formats so they can be used as they are on computers or mobile devices, but hopefully, if someone wanted to alter them or update them, they could take the file and amend it themselves.
There are also wider national reasons why sharing science teaching resources is important. The government are keen to support STEM education – that is, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This includes encouraging pupils in schools to study STEM, to continue to improve university education and also to provide STEM employers with the high-quality graduates they require. By sharing good quality teaching materials, this can give young people a taste of science to hopefully inspire and encourage them; OER can provide existing students with supplementary resources to support their studies; and some specialist OER can also be used for work-based training.
As open education in the UK continues to grow as part of the government-supported OER programme run by the JISC and the HEA, there will be increasing numbers of learning materials to use for free on the internet. Our “Biology Courses” website which was only launched this year will continue to be populated with university taster materials and a range of science teaching resources available for everyone to use.