Biology Courses Update

A happy new year to all our users and visitors!

It has been a while since I have updated the site but I’m glad to say it has been regularly visited over Christmas, and our YouTube Biology Courses channel is nearing 10,000 video views. That is by far the most popular format for learners.

Spike Biology Courses Mascot

Spike and me on a Christmas walk in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire.

Open Education – 2012 at a glance!

2012 was an epic year for the Biology Courses team at De Montfort. We were lucky to be part of the UKOER programme and work along side many universities and open education experts in order to learn how to share our teaching materials in the best way (i.e. understand copyright, involve local hospitals and employers, and what technical formats were best). Over the year we have also worked to ensure staff and students know about all the open educational resources (OERs) available in the UK (on and globally.

A quick tally up tells me our team and students presented over 10 conference papers, and we had three peer-reviewed articles published in academic journals. Of course my highlights were conferences and meetings in Las Vegas, Boston – visiting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and finally Vancouver for the OpenEd2012 conference.

As planned we shared some of our university learning materials on a range of subjects – forensic science and midwifery – both subject where there is much more to come. Our biomedical science resources flowed out thick and fast particularly in haematology, microbiology and laboratory skills. My site data shows me these are used all over the world now. A biomedical science graduate who stayed on to help produce resources was Malgorzata Rekas, and she did an absolutely outstanding job in producing OER. I’m glad to say she is working at Oxoid International now who produce microbiology products.

2013 looking forward!

Our next event is our Master’s student research viva. Libor Hurt looked at student understanding and use of OERs in what was an epic piece of research. He will present his paper at OER13 in Nottingham in March, and his viva is just before that. Libor is an amazing person and it has been a joy working with him – we all wish him well in his medical career.

This year we will continue to share our resources, and make De Montfort students and staff aware of the resources and creative approaches being shared by the other UKOER projects. We have “Open Education” as part of our PGCert which is a training course for all new lecturers, and we are establishing a Centre for Open Education with dedicated areas in the library and learning zones.

I think what was a surprise in 2012 with the advent of high university tuition fees, is that students STILL want to come and do science, and many  of our biology courses were very well subscribed, such as medical science, and biomedical science. It is evermore important therefore to work with schools and colleges so they can use the OER as “taster” materials to ensure that that students making this committment are making the right choices.



Biology Courses Project End of Year Summary

Summary of the Biology Courses Project

Well as the latest round of JISC/HEA funding runs to a close I have just submitted the end of project report to the funders. It is difficult to summarise the colossal amount of ground covered by all the people involved in the biology courses project:



Viv Rolfe attending a learning technology conference in Las Vegas, July 2012.


DMU Library – led by Kaye Towlson they have been looking at helping students find and make use of open educational resoures (OERs) to support their learning.
Widening Participation Team – led by Dr Angela O’Sullivan they have been working with local Leicester schools and collages to talk about open education and to produce their own resources to be shared on this website.

Midwifery – led by Jacqui Williams they have built their own midwifery repository to share learning materials and to provide staff and students with a one-stop resource to support their learning and teaching.

Forensic Science – led by Dr Mark Fowler has worked with professional bodies and external collaborators including the Leicestershire constabulary to produce high-quality OERs for forensics students.

Biomedical Science – led by Malgorzata Rekas, and working with Amrat Khorana, Marilena Ioannou and Ruta Furmonaviciene has produced a wealth of microbiology and immunology laboratory technique videos, and a series of educational resources on parasitology.

Medical Science – led by me Dr Viv Rolfe, and working with Douglas Gray, Graham Basten and other staff in the medical science team to produce histology resources, training materials for the Leicester Royal Infirmary and haematology resources.

Jonathan Crowe of Oxford University Press has worked with us to explore how OERs can benefit biomedical science text book publishing, and has provided the biology courses project with a great insight into the complexities of the publishing world and copyright.


Biology Courses Technical Team

All the technical aspects of this project have been overseen by three individuals who really the entire project would not have even gotten off the ground.

Phil Tubman – learning technologist from Lancaster University ensured that the websites, Moodle and the OERs produced are designed effectively, and has put a lot of thought into how to ensure all the technology used is OPEN and does not create a barrier to people using the materials. Phil was the Association of Leaning Technology “Technologist of the Year” in 1212 which was a very well deserved award.

David Fraas of 5 Heads Marketing in the US (available was the genius behind our on-line marketing campaigns and steered us through the Google Algorithm changes (changes to the way Google ranks websites). David advised on how to best market the Biology Courses website and how to use social networking and other media such as videos to promote our work widely.

Dr Simon Griffin of Webtistic based in Derby (available worked with David to put all the recommendations into action, and also built this website. We shall continue working with Webtistic to ensure the site continues to grow.

A HUGE THANK YOU TO EVERYONE INVOLVED and also to EVERYONE WHO HAS USED OUR SITE AND THE RESOURCES. Do keep popping back as we have many biology courses OERs yet to add.


Biology courses summer news!

Well A level results are out today and the statistics say that more students are doing sciences and mathematics at this level which is great! This means numbers entering biology courses like Biomedical Science or Forensic Science at university will also be booming. These are part of the STEM group (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and the Government is working to encourage these subjects in schools, and universities are working with employers to ensure that our graduates are high-quality and meet industry needs.

Biology Courses Graduates

Our summer graduations were held in July and a record six Medical Science students achieved upper first class honours degrees this year (firsts!). It is always a sad time to say good bye, but exciting too to watch everyone go on to achieve their goals and their dreams. Most stay in science or health using their biology courses knowledge, but some don’t and that is fine! Many people study subjects at university because they love it, and then go to do something different. The great thing about these science-based degrees is they include many skills employers seek including good communication, team working, problem solving and extensive use of computers and technology.

Here are some student highlights already this summer:

One student has been accepted on to the physicians assistant programme at Aberdeen – an interesting new role in the UK carrying out many medical duties but not as extensively as a fully qualified doctor. (

PhD student Nikil Patel who graduated in 2010 ( has completed year one of his PhD studies looking at blood flow in the brain in stroke. Here he is contributing to World Stroke Day last year.

2012 graduate Chloe MacDonagh had an article published in GURU Magazine and has just completed a second. She hopes to go into medical publishing. GURU is a new science mag that is very funky and very accessible (

2011 Medical Science graduate Libor Hurt, now studying for his masters, and 2010 Biomedical Science graduate Malgorzata Rekas, now working for this project, both have presented at National Conferences for the first time this year talking about open education. Libor talked about his work understanding student use of OER and Malgorzata talked about her parasite resources, and in fact won a prize for the best poster.


There are plenty of other students that go on and have exciting and fulfilled careers, but of course behind it all is hard work and dedication. But it all started with an interest in biology courses at school, and I’m just glad our students choose De Montfort. The great thing today with Twitter and Facebook particularly, it is easy to stay in touch with our alumni, and if you come here as a new student you can sign up to our Facebook page and chat to students across all years, those out in placement, and those in the work place.