Open education news from Las Vegas conference

Open education conference news

Students making their own textbooks with open content!
(Afnan-Manns, Mickelsen and Medrano, Paradise Valley Community College, US).

This talk on open education from Paradise Valley Community College ( was a nice example of students being involved in open educational activities and gaining many benefits. Library staff worked with students to provide them with digital literacy skills to search for open educational materials and content on the internet, and then worked with them to evaluate the quality and critically appraise the content. These skills themselves are critical today for our information-driven society and are important for all university leavers to grasp.

Open Education

How did they change their courses?

They replaced face-to-face lectures on international business with interactive sessions supplemented with lectures. Through this, students became curators of their digital information and compiled an open textbook to replace an existing recommended text. Why do this? It seems that with high fees, the prospects of students buying expensive course books is a barrier to them enrolling and taking courses in the US. Also in some subjects, the books cannot keep up with say medical advances, current affairs and global activities. This is where open education has the advantage of being continually shared and added and updated on the internet.

How were the teaching sessions structured? Students formed teams and each decided upon a book chapter, e.g. product life cycles, globalisation etc. They then searched for OER and retrieved a bundle of good quality materials. As their text book chapter contribution they reviewed the OER with a summary, wrote keywords and a headline. The chapter was correctly cited and referenced to attribute the OER. Students produced their work in Blackboard on a WIKI so could view each others work and provide comments.

The work was monitored by library team and module academic Dr Morano. As he commented, the wealth of material retrieved by the students was amazing, and found new items and information that he couldn’t have possibly read. Also, the module was brought alive by real-time events and news.

Open education practices – the downside?

As always, new advances take an investment of time, and open education practices are no exception. Time was required to up-skill the students in digital literacy, and time was needed to encourage them to write WIKIS and comment. Dr Morano to transfer from a diactic content delivery to more interactive teaching sessions, which were backed up by lectures. This resulted in changes to module assessment because learning outcomes were not static year on year and changed with the nature of the resources found. This would have implications for writing examination questions early in the year before content was delivered.

The upside!

Through being involved in open education and by becoming partners in learning, the business students learnt practical skills of managing information, and experienced team-working and working collaboratively in an on-line environment. Their test scores improved, although the longer term impact on enrollment or retention where “text book-free” courses are seen as a popular choice remains to be seen.


Biology Courses in Las Vegas Day 1

Biology Courses in Vegas!

I can hardly believe I’m here and what a contrast to the peace of the Vale of Belvoir in Leicestershire where you are occasionally disturbed only by the clip clop of horses hooves. Here you are continually disturbed by erupting volcanoes, fireworks and the rattle of slot machines 24-7. I have already lost track of what is night or day. There are continual crowds of people but the great thing about the Venetian Hotel is that it is full of Italian music and Louis Prima on a permanent loop…..”Angelina, the waitress at the pizzaria”. Fantastic.

Biology Courses Vegas Trip

The Venetian Hotel is based on something between The Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. There is marble everywhere, fountains in the foyer and, and wall and ceiling frescoes copied from Michelangelo;s work that go on forever. Or are they murals? I wouldn’t dare call them that. My hotel room is larger than my entire house, with two plasma televisions and gold plated taps in the bathroom! The hotel the size of a small town. But I could get used to it if I had to! And restaurants, bars and shops open 24 hours a day, I could certainly get used to that.

La Venetian Hotel

The hotel is better than your average Holiday Inn I guess. It contains two theatres, a Madame Taussards, art gallery, a golf course and three swimming pools including one beach. Oh and I think there are two nightclubs and numerous casinos. Did I say it was like a small town, well actually, it is more like a small city, in fact I think already has more attractions than Nottingham. And yes it does have a river running through it with gondola rides.

Last night I spoke to a lovely Italian gentleman who for $400 a month rents an apartment with swimming pool which is both considerably cheaper and larger than my rented property back home. Would I swap places, well I’d give it some serious thought.

Post by Viv

Biology Courses US Road Trip!

Well it has been a while and it might look like nothing has been happening, but the Biology Courses team have been busy working on this website and packaging up some of our open educational resources (OERs) into online courses with quizzes and feedback.

The other exciting news it that Dr Viv Rolfe, who heads up the team, in two weeks time will be flying off to the United States for a conference and to meet with academics to talk about the Biology Courses project and open educational resources and activities at De Montfort University in Leicester.

Biology Courses Vegas Trip

City of Las Vegas by DunGoofd at Wikipedia.
CC BY SA 2.0.

In the first leg of the trip Viv will be flying to Las Vegas for an international learning technology conference. (I must stop calling it Las Vagus – once a biologist, always a biologist!). The meeting is the Sloan Consortium Annual Conference entitled “5th Annual International Symposium for Emerging Technologies for Online Learning” and starts at the end of July 2012. It will showcase the work of institutions and academics from around the globe who’s aim is to enhance online education. The conference is in partnership with MERLOT, one of the leading US repositories for open educational resources (OERs). Viv is due to give a 50 minute lecture to the Sloan audience. Is she daunted by the task? Of course not!

Following that she flies to Boston to visit the University of Boston, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT – who were the first education establishment to open their doors and give access to all their learning resources. Since then, it is probably fair to say most universities and colleges around the globe are now involved in open education in some way – either as providers of materials, using materials, or being involved in networks and discussions about open education not just in relation to biology courses but any subject discipline from arts to science.

The Biology Courses project is still only 9 months old and a huge amount has happened, quite often behind the scenes and not always apparent from this website. We have bundles of resources ready to be released, and are developing our Moodle Courses so prospective students and students due to come to university can try out some of the stuff that those doing biology courses at uni will actually experience.

The most exciting thing about the project is that it has involved students from the start providing ideas for materials and writing ALL the quiz and multiple choice questions as part of their biomedical science and medical science degrees at De Montfort. The project is very lucky to have some student volunteers working on it over the summer as well as students on the university’s new “Front Runners” scheme which provides undergraduates with paid work experience from a choice of almost every department around the university, from working in a laboratory, to marketing, finance and more!

So follow this BLOG and look for updates on FACEBOOK and TWITTER to follow Viv’s progress as the Biology Courses project tours the United States in July and August.