Lab skills OERs!

Relaunch of the Virtual Analytical Laboratory (VAL)!


YouTube channel

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 and other national repositories.

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


Student perceptions of OERs

Also now on Figshare:

Student Masters Dissertation

Student Masters Dissertation

Download Libor’s Dissertation here –>

PDF of Libor Hurt’s Dissertation

I’m very proud to look back on this work that Libor Hurt did at De Montfort. He was awarded his Masters by Research in 2013 and he looked at student perceptions of OERs in a life science faculty. He surveyed students across a number of health, nursing and science degree programmes and looked at their awareness and use of OER, what their working cultures were, and their deeper-rooted attitudes toward open education.

The research was undertaken during 2012 and it is important to note that in the UK this was the year of significant rises to university student fees, from £3,290 up to £9,000, and this is reflected in some of the qualitative findings.

What is lovely to see is the caring and sharing culture in which many students work, readily sharing learning materials with their friends, although some did comment on whether this crossed the line toward collusion, and whether using OER constituted plagiarism.

“to help and be helped by others”

“share with people, then they share with you”

Some welcomed the idea of sharing resources across courses at other universities:

“If a system were to exist that [allowed] students from different universities to  share resources with ease, [so that] students on the same course can connect and share work that can be used as referencing for essays and further reading”

Some were concerned that the nature of some medical subjects were not appropriate for public release. Others felt that since they were paying for their university experience, why should others access the resources for nothing?

“I know it sounds really cheeky but we live in a day and age where we’ve got to pay for it, why should everybody else get it free?”

“I suppose we pay to come to university so it’s a bit kind of selfish but we paid for it so we should keep it”.

Others did agree that it was worthwhile to share materials to broaden opportunities available to everyone:

“Because not everyone gets the same opportunities do they?”

For further research looking at the IMPACT of OER visit the OER RESEARCH HUB! 


Biomedical Science Technique – API Strips


Malgorzata Rekas and Marilena Ioannou


College, University, Specialist Biomedical

OER FEATURES: (bundle of 9 resources)












In the biomedical science laboratory, quick screening of bacteria can be carried out using API strips. The strips are commercially available and allow for the rapid identification of a range of bacterial species. The plastic strip contains a number of wells or cupules which contain different biochemical tests, to which, bacteria will react differently. The results are visible as colour changes.

The strip is set up by preparing a suspension of the bacteria of interest, and transferring samples aseptically to each of the wells. Some of the wells have oil added to prevent the access of oxygen and mimic anaerobic conditions, which some bacteria prefer. The strip is then incubated for a short period of time and the results can be interpreted.

These three videos (and accompanying transcripts) provide an introduction to using API strips and how to interpret the results. A quiz can test the learner’s understanding.

If you are a lecturer or trainer, you can download these materials onto your own learning platform, and embed the quiz questions as a formative test for your students.