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:

http://www.slideshare.net/viv_rolfe/v-rolfe-oer12-conference-search-engine-optimisation-17april2012

Why search engine optimisation (SEO) is important for the biology courses website

We want as many people across the world to visit our biology courses website. We are creating open education resources and materials for teachers, lecturers anyone supporting learning – we want you too find us and make use of our OERs. We also want prospective students to get an insight into the exciting opportunities that exist at Universities to study biology and all it’s sub disciplines. There are taster materials for you on this site!

We also appeal to current students, new and experienced – get involved, help us improve –   why not write us an article and get your name on here?

biology courses seo

So how did you get here?

You may have typed in the direct URL, website address. Did we meet you at a conference, were we at your school recently, did you read about us in the local news? – this accounts for the majority of our visitors at the moment. Our SEO work in the coming months will change that.

You may have done one of the following:

One – You conducted a search via Google and maybe used one of the following words, biology courses, forensic scientist or biomedical science and we returned in the search results on the first page and you clicked on our website, great! This is what search engine optimisation achieves.

We had to work hard to make this happen!

A website has two audiences, first and foremost you, we strive to make this site valuable and relative to you, easy to navigate, interesting, fresh, up to date and above all a pleasurable experience. Do you have suggestions on how we can improve ? You will really help us by giving us your feedback by commenting below, thank you!

We also need to make sure that Google understands what this website is all about, that it is full of unique quality information and resources and is well respected in the community. We want other relative well regarded websites to link to biology courses, as we offer links to other websites that can help you. This helps us to obtain high ranking positions in the search results for keywords associated with our topics, biology courses and open education. The SEO work undertaken here is known as on-page and off-page optimisation.  We will give a more in depth description of the tasks involved in successful on-page and off-page optimisation in future articles in this series. Please check back soon and subscribe to our RSS feed to obtain all publications as they happen!

Two -You followed a link from Twitter (click and follow Dr Viv Rolfe – Project Manager), our Facebook page (please visit and like us!), or maybe your are subscribed to our RSS feed (if not do it know and get regular updates on all our new publications). Maybe you followed a link from one of the many websites that link to biology courses. If this is the case then  our social media strategy is working as it should. Thanks for visiting!

Social media power cannot be underestimated with over 30 million users in the uk on facebook (half the uk population), between 600 and 6000 Tweets being published on Twitter every second, this is where it’s at. At biology courses we aim to reach out to social media audiences and let them know we exist. We intend to share our social media strategy and results in future blog posts. So please stay tuned, let your friends, colleagues in fact any body you believe would be interested in our website know we are here and follow our social media network on biology courses.

Dr Simon Griffin – On line Marketing Consultant