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:

Science teaching resources at the Annual STEM Conference

In April the Biology Courses team talked about their science teaching resources and open education projects at three conferences in the UK.

The first was the first Higher Education Academy Annual STEM Conference in support of science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects. This was held at Imperial College, London, on 12-13th April 2012.

The team had one full presentation and one poster to talk about the “biology courses” project and how it is working with external collaborators to produce high-quality and exciting science teaching resources to benefit student education. The materials include patient case studies, laboratory data and images, all of which weren’t openly available for us to use in our teaching before this project started. The best bit is we can package these materials up into open educational resources (OER) and then share them around the world.

In the talk which lasted 30 minutes Dr Viv Rolfe explained how the project has established a number of local links for example with hospitals, the police and private sector companies. These relationships are mutually beneficial – yes, we get interesting learning materials and our external contacts get training materials for use with their own staff. For example, histology OER that we can use on our Biomedical Science and Medical Science degree programmes are also useful to trainee bioscientists in the hospital laboratories.

You’d have thought that setting up these partnerships would be a time consuming process? In fact, where I did imagine long discussions sorting out copyright and ownership of the materials, the individuals and their teams immediately understood the whole philosophy behind open education, and were more than happy to share their photographs, data and other materials under a Creative Commons License. Clearly, we look at every item very carefully to ensure that any patient data is confidential, and every photograph or video that may contain identifiable information is either not released, or we gain the permissions from those people photographed to use their picture for our project.

What has been interesting in working with local contacts are the unexpected benefits. Talking about open education has led to discussions about research, shared teaching and how we can work together at post-graduate level on masters programmes and sharing PhD students. You might therefore ask why haven’t universities done this before? Well we have of course. We collaborate externally all the time, but before the open education projects, discussions were hardly ever about sharing teaching and learning ideas. Unless you had funding or were established in a research field, you probably wouldn’t have had a reason to go knocking on people’s doors. So open education for me and the “Biology Courses” team has created a buzz in the local Leicester community and with local employers.

To view the slides on involving external partners in generating science teaching resources from the STEM conference, go to Slideshare:


Parasite science teaching resources

Recent conference news

New science teaching resources are about to be shared onto the internet by Malgorzata Rekas, who is heading up the biomedical science team in producing open educational resources as part of the UKOER phase 3 programme project “HALSOER” (Health and Life Science Open Educational Resources). At a recent conference, she jointly won a prize for the best poster.

The conference hosted by Bart’s and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and was organised by the Higher Education Academy and was entitled, “From curiosity to confidence: sharing what it takes to ‘go open’ with learning and teaching resources” on 27th April 2012. Most of the discussion topics involved best practice in creating and sharing open educational materials. The HALS team produced a poster demonstrating example of science teaching resources completed so far at De Montfort. This included parasitology, where OERs are being developed in collaboration with external partners at local Leicester hospitals to review a range of parasites, with emphasis on diagnosis. Malgorzata is also producing OERs on mycology (fungi), and is highlighting a number of different fungi that are common causes of skin diseases. The team were awarded a shared first place for the poster presentation.

science teaching resources


Click on image above for large version

At the conference, several subjects relevant to open education practice were discussed, including copyright and licensing, learning materials development, and different approaches taken to producing OERs. The copyright, licensing, consent and ethical issues were matters especially emphasised on the day.

Professor Megan Quentin- Baxter from the University of Newcastle and Doctor Jane Williams from the University of Bristol delivered a presentation about the available policy tools to facilitate sharing learning resources as well as importance of understanding of copyrights and consent issues. The discussion detailed reusing learning materials, citing and attributing resources, as well as guidance on including recordings of people in science teaching resources and materials.

Paul Scott from the Hull York Medical School discussed Accredited Clinical Teaching Open Resources (ACTOR Project) and their institutional approaches in building on existing community practice to simplify sharing and utilising learning resources. Furthermore Suzanne Hardy talked through her experiences from the following projects; Pathways for Open Resources Sharing through Convergence in Health Education (PORSCHE), Organising Open Educational Resources (OOER), and PublishOER project, all part of the UKOER programme.

Overall the day proved to be very interesting as it highlighted the many challenges that we face in developing OERs, and the HALS team gained insight into how other institutions are tackling these. During the conference the key questions “how to publish learning materials to avoid legal barriers?”, and “why bother with OERs?” were asked and given a broad discussion.

As open education and open learning gathers momentum in the UK and indeed around the world, the community can look forward to further biomedical science teaching resources from the HALS team.

Malgorzata Rekas