Open educational resource Tweet Chat.

Thursday 8th December 2016 10am UTC (UK time)
Use the hashtag #altc
Look out for the hashtag for the ALT Open Education Special Interest Group #OpenedSig

Why this chat?
This Tweet chat session is part of the ALT Winter Conference and aims to provide an introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER).

Many people don’t know about OER and I think are missing out on the benefits of using, creating and sharing openly licensed materials in their teaching. Creating and sharing OER can provide learners with a wider variety of resources to chose from, and as a teacher I find other people’s materials often an inspiration and a guide for my own practice. Teachers who share resources or co-create them with their students will see their practice and the dynamics in their classrooms change. OER come in all shapes and sizes from individual assets – pictures, text files, video to entire textbooks. Someone might contribute to the open education community through Wikipedia or any of the elements of the Wikimedia Foundation. The use of a Creative Commons open license enables you to share the resource on the web (under the terms that you select).

Visit here for the results of the chat!
I’ll ‘Storify’ the chat and summarise main points. I’ll point you in the direction of web resources to help you get started using OER in your teaching or learning, and particularly focus on getting you thinking about your teaching and assessment practice in the context of being more open.

Storify –>

Everything is connected game…

Liking this Wikipedia/Wikidata game as introduced by Martin Poulter:

“Here’s a fun activity that creates open educational resources. Thanks to programmer Denny Vrandečić, there is now a tool to create puzzle games based on Wikidata’s 24 million entities and the relationships between them. To create a game, you just need to construct a query string using Q numbers, Wikidata’s language-independent identifiers. They are multilingual games in that you can choose which language the puzzle pieces are labelled with”.



My attempt:

Click to start my Everything is Connected game….

OK, so there weren’t quite the data connections on Wikidata yet, but this did ultimately seem to combine all my wordily interests in one game. Click here for what I imagined the answer to be!

My answer:

Click to see answer…


So Wikipedians – we have work to do!

Innovation – it has to be more than the shuffling of feet.

I’ve had an interesting few days out and about at meetings, the first with our South West healthcare science group, yesterday at the Jisc Student Experience event, and today have had an interesting conversation with a psychology colleague about  innovation.

So I’m thinking innovating in educational practices today, and linking back to my OpenEd15 presentation in Vancouver. (Slides can be found on SlideShare). I reviewed interviews and data from a number of science open educational resource (OER) projects that I lead, and viewed them through the blurry lens of innovation. What were the innovative features of these projects? What structures were in place? What was vulnerable. Here is what I suggested:

  • Innovation in education / digital practice relies on champions / early adopters
  • Impetus from local partnerships can help gain momentum (colleges and hospitals)
  • Global partnerships also drive processes (OER translations)
  • Innovation can create conflicts – the digital tussle – staff wanting to be creative but constrained by institutions and infrastructure
  • Open education innovation relies on the ‘spirit of OER’ and shared ethos. (Not a solid basis you might think, but that must be the one common thread in all of my work going back 10 years or more).

Innovation versus sustainability?

An innovation by definition has to have an inventive step or application. You can’t patent a thing, but you can patent a thing with a function. Innovation in education is a step-wise creative improvement in practice. When more people adopt this, it leads to change. In my research I then went on to think about how things can become sustainable within teams/departments/universities, and also how fragile and vulnerable they are.

OER sustainability

So what about innovation this week?

Here are some further examples and ideas relating to education innovation that have emerged this week.

Enforced innovation and at any cost.

  • Investment. Wholesale organisational innovation and change can be achieved quickly through investment and strong leadership.
  • Innovation can obviously fail without adequate investment, such as the catastrophic ‘modernising scientific careers’ initiative that has left most of our healthcare science professions at high risk. Also due to lack of buy-in verging on actual conflict by key groups.
  • Some people will achieve innovation and change at any cost. One project talked about staff working solidly for months on end, and those not complying were performance managed through appraisal processes.
  • Lots of talk about enforcing innovation and change through monitoring virtual learning environments – monitoring staff compliance with the systems; making processes or life difficult for academic staff to achieve outcomes. Enforced innovation.

How to innovate beyond a mere foot shuffling pace?

  • One of the most common problems raised always is how to bring people with you? How do you get at the ‘tail end’ of colleagues who do not wish to change their practice?
  • How do you reach over stretched people who really do not have the time?
  • The problems with champions is they set a precedent. How do you manage student expectations where they may have a small number of creative and innovative modules, and others that won’t comply?
  • Do you go for horizontal innovation (cohort by cohort embedding of practice) or vertical (innovate through disciplines/subject themes across all years)?

These are just thoughts. Do share yours through comments or via Twitter.




Critical Appraisal for Forensic Science Introduction and Goals

Introduction to critical appraisal!

Welcome to all students studying the MSc in Forensic Analysis. This blog post is part of your Research Methods and Practical Skills module led by Helen Green (USSKM3-30-M). USSKM3 = the module code; 30 = indicates this is a 30 credit module; M = indicates master’s level).

I’m Viv Rolfe and we have a number of 2 hour sessions together as follows:

Week 9 (20 September)
Lecture and discussion –> Notes here lecture-1-19sept2016_online
Task 1 – writing critically

Week 11 (4th October)
Week 15 (Independent learning)
Week 16 (8th November)
Week 17 (15th November)
Week 18 (22nd November)

Learning goals!

My goal for you is of course to pass the January 2017 examination in which you will write a critical appraisal of a forensic science journal article. I also hope we have a constructive and fun time in these sessions and that you will also develop valuable skills in critical thinking and critical writing.

I think we take for granted our ability to read scientific articles, and write about them, but do we ever stop to question whether we are being really effective? How are your critical thinking skills?  Do you sometimes think critically about the scientific world around you, or are you too rushed to stop and do so? Do you consider yourself a fair person, unbiased, in the way you think and communicate your ideas with others?

I hope these sessions help you grow as critical thinkers and writers. You might wish to watch this introductory video to critical thinking, which references the work of Richard Paul who was a leading proponent in this area.


How are these sessions structured?

You will need to bring a pen and paper to these sessions, as a big part of them will be you developing your thinking and writing skills. We shall be forming pairs and groups to discuss aspects of forensic science research and court case studies. Each week there will be a ‘task’ or homework which I very much hope you will all take part in; these will include the opportunity for you to complete small writing tasks for me to help you develop your talents!

Some preliminary reading for weeks 9 – 11

I am hoping you’ll find these sessions a bit of an ‘eye opener’ and we will be challenging some of the established doctrines that surround our research industry – from experimenting, interpretation, communication and publication. Here is a blog post that I wrote reflecting on the quality of medical research – or often, lack of it.

Research Quality’s Scandals 2014

We are going to base some of this module work on the writing of Trish Greenhalgh. She has perfected the art of ‘trashing a paper’, and there are a number of articles that you can refer to, all freely available here. I’d focus on two at the start of this module:

Getting Your Bearings
Assessing the Methodological Quality

We’ll work toward understanding these papers toward the end:

Papers that Report Drugs Trials
Papers that Report Diagnostic Screening

Greenhalgh T (-) How to read a paper. The BMJ. Available:

The do’s and don’ts of publishing.

American Association of Immunologists (2010). Dos and Don’ts
for Authors and Reviewers. Available:

These items may also be helpful:

A blog post on basic journal searching and some openly licensed (again free) learning resources coving all basic skills for students.

Seek and ye shall find.

Roll up. Roll up. Get your free study skills OERs here.


Let’s get started!

You have my UWE email address and contact details on the Blackboard Module Page, but you can also contact and chat with me via Twitter – in fact, I would love for you to share any interesting articles or videos relating to our studies.





Getting to the bottom of neuroscience in education

I am very sad not to make it to the Association of Learning Technology conference on right now in Warwick (#ALTc), and the first two recorded keynotes that I’ve just viewed have already had me gripped. I’d like to focus on the one today by Lia Commissar who is part of the education team at Wellcome. You can view all the conference keynotes including Lia’s on the ALT YouTube Channel ( Education and Neuroscience: Issues and Opportunities). (Of course, Josie Fraser’s excellent one on trolling is also there).

Several education and neuroscience projects are underway to better inform educators about learning processes, and to dispel some of the mythology and misconceptions we have about how people learn, and that we have favoured learning styles, or use or left or right brain hemispheres. What interested me more are a series of projects looking actively at the brain and how it can impact on learning, using MRI scanning technology, looking at student sleep patterns to name a few of the ideas.

Let’s debunk some more myths.

As a physiologist of course I’m interested in the brain and central nervous system. But I’m also aware and very interested how our body systems act in concert, and it is not ever relevant to think of one system in isolation. And of course, when we start talking about the wonder of the nervous system, we usually forget another nervous system in our body that is as extensive as the brain, contains the same array of neurotransmitters and is located in the only part of our body that is able to work entirely independently of brain control. What am I going on about now? Our enteric nervous system in our guts.

“A north wind brings constipation”.

OK, so Hippocrates through his ancient and detailed observations didn’t always get it right, but he was probably the first to observe that stagnant water caused diarrhoea. The trouble with the intestines is they are very inaccessible, and therefore carrying out research to understand the mechanisms therein, is awfully difficult. To make matters worse it contains a ridiculously wide ranging number of cell types – epithelium, striated muscle, smooth muscle, immune cells (oh yes, most of your immune system is also in your gut), blood cells, nerve cells and sensory cells. The reality is also that humans are just mere hosts for bacterial and fungal ecosystems, large numbers of which also reside in our guts. We apparently are more bacterial than human.


Layers of the GI tract

By Goran tek-en [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, Available:

You can see how buried away the enteric nervous system is. It forms a series of mesh layers that extend along the entire lengths of our guts – from mouth to anus. The mucosal plexus, submucosal plexus and myenteric plexus are the main components, and they are connected to the central nervous system and brain via additional connections. Sensory information is gathered all the time and fed-back to the brain, and the brain elicits commands to control our gut functions. The gut contains:

  • Primary afferent neurones that senses food and chemicals within our gut.
  • Tension receptors monitor the contents and control peristalsis.
  • Glial cells, as with other parts of the nervous system, provide support.
  • “Pacemaker” cells (like in the heart) control motility patterns.
  • You find all the neurotransmitters that you find elsewhere – acetyl choline, serotonin, dopamine etc.

Gut-brain axis.

We know increasingly how vital the connections between the gut and brain are, and how the two systems work synergistically not just for our physiological processes but as part of our psychological ones. Some interesting medical studies looked at the use of psychotherapy for treating patients with gut disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (Reed, 1999). We know ourselves about these connections – we often refer to having “gut feelings”, and that is simply our sensory environment in our guts responding before our brains provide more of an interpretation of what might be going on.

The gut and neurodegeneration.

This is such an interesting area of science, and this is no attempt at a literature review. However there are many interesting epidemiological studies (that have looked at patient populations), controlled medical studies and animal work that points to the gut and other peripheral systems being associated with the processes of neuro-degeneration. Science gets excited at treatments and discoveries that target biochemical markers in the brain, and rightly so, but research shouldn’t only focus there. Here are a few papers.

Gut Brain Papers

Some of this is fascinating – the first paper shows how important the vagus nerve is – that is the main route of connection between the gut and central nervous system. In patients where the connection was severed (as part of a previous operation), the incidence of Parkinson’s in that group was lower. The last paper shows some intriguing interactions between our bacterial flora and nervous system.

So what is the role of neuroscience in education?

The work funded by Wellcome is starting to explore just that. It is worth thinking that gut neuroscience seems to be involved in degeneration and the loss of cognitive processes, so I would think the gut most likely will also play a role in our development and ability to learn. I guess, that could be the next project for Wellcome to fund!


  • Chung, S.J., Kim, J., Lee, H.J., Ryu, H.S., Kim, K., Lee, J.H., Jung, K.W., Kim, M.J., Kim, M.J., Kim, Y.J. and Yun, S.C. (2015). Alpha‐synuclein in gastric and colonic mucosa in Parkinson’s disease: Limited role as a biomarker. Movement Disorders.
  • Haehner, A., Tosch, C., Wolz, M., Klingelhoefer, L., Fauser, M., Storch, A., Reichmann, H. and Hummel, T. (2013). Olfactory training in patients with Parkinson’s disease. PloS one, 8(4), p.e61680.
  • Kelly, L.P., Carvey, P.M., Keshavarzian, A., Shannon, K.M., Shaikh, M., Bakay, R.A. and Kordower, J.H. (2014). Progression of intestinal permeability changes and alpha‐synuclein expression in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. Movement Disorders, 29(8), pp.999-1009.
  • Mulak, A. and Bonaz, B. (2015). Brain-gut-microbiota axis in Parkinson’s disease. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG, 21(37), p.10609.
  • Rahne, K.E., Tagesson, C. and Nyholm, D. (2013). Motor fluctuations and Helicobacter pylori in Parkinson’s disease. Journal of neurology, 260(12), pp.2974-2980.
  • Svensson, E., Horváth‐Puhó, E., Thomsen, R.W., Djurhuus, J.C., Pedersen, L., Borghammer, P. and Sørensen, H.T. (2015). Vagotomy and subsequent risk of Parkinson’s disease. Annals of neurology, 78(4), pp.522-529.

Textbooks cost whaaaat?



£26 million.


So I’ve done some fag packet calculations this evening because I’m so increasingly concerned about the financial welfare of my students. When I was at the 2014 Open Ed Conference in Washington and first started hearing about open textbooks, I conducted a very quick and dirty survey with some of my students. I realised I had no idea about their textbook purchasing habits, or indeed, how this fitted into the wider context of their university experience. I really should write that up. There were 69 responses from science students. Nearly 80% had part time jobs. They on average spent (based on their estimations) between £300 and almost £1000 on text books.

What about our textbook recommendations?

Clearly our degree programmes are structured around credit-bearing modules, and it is a requirement of validation and professional body accreditation to make recommended reading lists. This can comprise books that are strongly recommended to accompany each module, plus those that provide supplementary reading. Of course, every book recommended is available in the library. But what if someone really did come along and buy – even some of them? And as academic teams, do we ever sit back and think of the prices of those books we are recommending?

What I’ve done is compiled the reading lists of all the compulsory modules for our Biomedical Science degree. This degree is offered at 91 universities across the UK, and I am pretty confident that their lists will look the same. This excludes similar courses – clinical sciences, medical sciences. Let’s just stick with Biomedical Science for now.

Students have 4 compulsory year 1 modules, 3 in year 2 and select 3 in year 3. These estimates assume a student will by a text relating to each important area, so there may be more than one strongly recommended text for some modules. I’ve also not accounted for one or two modules where the books from the first year will do for modules later on.

So to purchase a good range of books that = 33 texts.
For year 1 that = 10 texts.
7 books are priced way over £100.
Kindle versions are really no cheaper.

So this already sounds ludicrous, but it is what we recommend. So why do we recommend and advise on books in this way?


This was the Amazon price of the most expensive book recommended. My prices were based on Hardback cover, Paperback or Kindle versions, and I took the most expensive price on offer which may be through Amazon or a private provider. Of course there are second hand versions available, but unfortunately for science, go back more than one edition, and it will be generally out of date.

Text Ethical Issues



If all the students enrolled onto these modules purchased all of the books, the grand total is £289,710. The largest first year module has over 200 students and the most expensive book there is £184.99 for a hardback version of a core physiology text. In fact this was the text I purchased in my degree, so possibly a good investment over the years although mine is certainly 20+ years out of date. I certainly would look round for a previous edition, paperback version instead, but for a chunky core book, you’d still be talking around £50.

£26 million.

The thing that worries me most about education is the vast amount of duplication of lecture and content creation, that teaching resources are discarded when people leave or retire, and I’ve written about this before. Of course, any excuse to share Kevin Mear’s excellent cartoon capture of mine and David’s session “the cost of not going open“.

The cost of not going open is also unfathomable for students across the nation. Multiply up the cost of Biomedical Science textbooks from one university to the other 91 that offer the same course, and yes, that is the figure in the millions.

But what about some real numbers?

In my 2014 textbook survey, students claimed an average spend between £300-1000.

Huffington post article showed how costs had risen by over 800% over the last three decades in College Textbook Prices Increasing Faster Than Tuition And Inflation. Figures in the article are similar to my fag-packet ones, with students on average spending about $655 on textbooks, with the most expensive being around $300.

In the 2010 National Union of Students (NUS) report What are the Costs of Study and Living, over £1000 was attributed to books and additional equipment. Further NUS reports like Debt in the First Degree detail the financial burden that students experience, and how it leads to many holding down jobs whilst studying. And we often wonder why they don’t attend classes? What is the progression and success rate for those students who have to work? What is the impact financially of those who for whatever reason have to drop out, or delay a year because work has impacted on their study?

Anyway, this isn’t intended as an in-depth academic study of the area. But we absolutely need to do just that! We also need to be providing flexible study choices for students and think about the sustainability and cost-effectiveness of the education systems we offer.

Added resources:

Unite Students Insight Report:

Florida Orange Grove student report:

Bryan Alexander blog post:

Open education! Open education? Open. Education.

UNESCO (2016) believes that universal access to high quality education is key to the building of peace, sustainable social and economic development, and intercultural dialogue. Open Educational Resources (OER) provide a strategic opportunity to improve the quality of education as well as facilitate policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building.

UNESCO Paris (2002). Participants then adopted a Final Declaration (Annex 6) in which they “express their satisfaction and their wish to develop together a universal educational resource available for the whole of humanity, to be referred to henceforth as Open Educational Resources.”

The Cape Town Declaration (2007) (supported by Open Society Institute (OSI) and the Shuttleworth Foundation) stated…we are on the cusp of a global revolution in teaching and learning. Educators worldwide are developing a vast pool of educational resources on the Internet, open and free for all to use. These educators are creating a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. They are also planting the seeds of a new pedagogy where educators and learners create, shape and evolve knowledge together, deepening their skills and understanding as they go.

I do love the global open education community because it gave me a home where my ideas for education could be firmly routed. I have shared open educational resources (OER) for over ten years. The aspirations above have inspired me, my colleagues and my students. But you know what, unless we actually evaluate these objectives, we will never know what we have actually achieved!!! So come one, we all need to wake up to the idea of sharing our research strategies to carry out some good evaluations of where we are.

Avon - Blake 7


(And if you don’t know about Blake 7. You should. And goodbye for the next few hours, days or weeks –

I know research takes a huge amount of time and effort. But couldn’t we sneak just one or two little questions in, really?

These are super papers out this summer:

Nicole Delimont (2016),
Kansas State University


524 students were surveyed and 13 faculty teachers were interviewed regarding the adoption of open books on a range of biology and maths subjects. That is a considerable chunk of work. Students were kinda satisfied. There again, if you ask students anything, they are generally kinda satisfied. But what about those who might not have afforded education in the first place, or those who learn in different ways? Did using open textbooks transform their experiences, because I’d really love to know.

I loved the faculty (teaching staff) responses – generally finding the adoption and repurposing of textbooks rather difficult but absolutely rating their experience with this open text book initiative as very strong. This study is super as it gets beneath the surface, and the open questions and answers start to reveal the benefits of open texts in that they are more up to date and customisable. Student responses to the use of an open textbook were firstly financial, they supported the idea and they liked having an online book.

But as Peggy Lee once sang, “Is that all there is”? “Then let’s keep dancing”.


Olga Belikov (2016), Brigham Young University.


Another paper just out, is on 218 faculty (teacher) responses as part of the 2014 ‘Babson’ survey. Staff were asked about their perceptions of OER and were invited to leave an ‘open’ response at the end of the survey. The top three barriers were – need more information, lack of discoverability and confusing OER with other digital resources. In terms of positive responses, the top response was a generally positive idea that this is “the way of the future”, that OER contributed to better student costs and equity of study, and that resources were equal to traditional materials.

The open comments are as always very revealing, but I wonder if responses for a wider and more varied population (as part of a series of studies), would give rise to a broader framing of the barriers and incentives to using OER or open textbooks? And why not include some of the bigger ambitions of the OER community round diversity and opportunity? This study and many others is really interesting – around 10% of students have different learning needs, yet, this isn’t at the front of our minds.


Barbara Stack Illowsky (2016), Foothill-De Anza Community College District (USA) and a multi-centre research collaboration.


This is a nicely conducted study that has asked students about their perceptions of cost and quality of open texts adopted for the teaching of statistics. 231 students completed the survey. The survey results were nice and gave a good glimpse into student textbook purchasing habits – something of which we know very little. Although the texts were offered for free online, some students liked a printed copy. The numbers of hours a week used was similar to other texts, and always rather disappointingly, in terms of quality, the majority saw the open text equal or better than the commercially available alternative. Only 13% saw it as worse. Either students have different understanding of the term ‘quality’ as we do, which I suspect, or the book was released in a similar format and didn’t intend to explore any more creative elements – collaboration, multimedia, links to further resources.

It is interesting that students when offering feedback will often use words like “confusing” and not “comprehensive”. What does this really mean? When we questioned students about what they valued in terms of resources, they referred to ease of discovery, quick to use, and resources that didn’t require time and effort to understand. This might be quite different from the ambitions of faculty and teaching staff.

“The book is written simply and clearly. This made it easy to understand and less ‘taxing’ to read. The collaborative aspect of the course built in the text encourages group learning which I have found to be beneficial to my learning.” (Illowsky paper).



These studies are insightful and I am no way intending to underplay the huge amount of work that has gone into them. These are fantastic initiatives and clearly open education is reaching out to hundreds of students. However I am just being inquisitive regarding some of the more interesting goals that the community talks about yet never really evaluates:

  1. Does open education offer equal opportunities for all those who wish to learn and to reap the benefits that education can offer, or even a short course or forming a network can offer?
  2. Does open eduction address social inequality and other recognised inequalities within our education systems, such as in “Causes in differences of student outcomes“?
  3. Does open education offer a high quality education – linked to sustainability and peace?
  4. Are we really addressing access and accessibility?

Evaluation is central to us all achieving these goals – I look to the US, Africa and elsewhere for evidence to present to decision makers in MY country. So go on, sling in a few interesting questions. If you don’t, Avon will come after you.

Avon Blake 7



CSF101 Defining sustainability and sustainable development (session 4)

CSF101 (session 1) – the inspiring challenge.
CSF101 (session 2) – understanding systems.
CSF101 (session 3) – how the earth works.

OK. I’m on the home run with session 4. We are thinking about defining sustainability again, and Steven Henry in his opening video says part of the problem is we’ve put man at the centre of the problem. In reality, nature is at the centre of the problem and we are a component of that. Steve’s most important message to me is that this is where we’ve gone wrong by putting ourselves and our needs first, rather than thinking of ourselves as part of the system.

For me sustainability means?

We think about it in terms of achieving one big shiney goal. What we need to do is think about the sustainability of all the component parts, that then as a whole, can offer something of a viable future. I guess that is how the body works. Some body systems might be healthier than others – I wouldn’t want to vouch for my liver these days. But the sum of the parts, is still something that is overall healthy. I’ve a hernia and diverticulitis, but the systems are acting all around to create health. I’ve suggested this with sustaining open educational resources – bung them out on at least two platforms at a time, and when one dies, you can repopulate from the other.

Steve Henry Sustainability Models

Steve suggests the most realistically accepted model is that on the right. Financial decisions drive all of our considerations. I think this absolutely must be part of the challenge – now that sustainability has become a business, approaches will be guided by those with a vested interest, and wrong choices might be being made by those clearly in for making a profit. Perhaps this is the sacrifice if we want to be making big changes, but are we really making big enough changes?

A bit like open educational resources (OER) again. Nobody wants to pay for them, but if we all share the cost, then that is almost negligible. If we share our knowledge and outputs of our teaching as ‘part of what we do’, then that five minutes a week is negligible. The same with sustainability. As a society we all need to know what to do to ‘do our bit’. I hate sorting out the rubbish each week into elaborate piles for recycling. It couldn’t be more confusing. But if this is making a difference then it is essential.

Henry Sustainability Model








Do we just accept this model?

Dr Robert (Founder of the Natural Step) talks about the ‘triple bottom line’ – that is, social, ecological and financial basis. The economics drives the approach, and is the means for everything else. The solutions are about the design of products and services.

What do I think?

I have worked in a global blue-chip company. If we think businesses and business people will ALL share the same ethical values for the good of society and ecology, then I we will be very much disappointed. There are a number of genuinely ethical companies out there, but how can the economic goals place nature and society as a priority above profit? It won’t happen. Are pharmaceutical companies really concerned about curing disease? Are food manufacturers really concerned about our health? I’m not talking about individuals in those companies who will be highly motivated toward the common good, but the overall business objectives will be to make money.

What is missing from the models above is an ethical or moral component. I also think tackling sustainability through business will never be big enough. We need each and every person on the planet to champion the cause.

Meeting basic human needs and building communities

Manfred Max-Neef, Antonio Elizalde and Martin Hopenhayn have listed 9 basic human needs to survive and to integrate as a society: things like food/water, freedom, culture and education is in there. I do think though that some people are driven by the very need to make money, or to achieve positions of power. For the model to work, we’d have to integrate this also. More can be found on Wikipedia – fundamental human needs. The glue that sticks individuals together is the need for trust, that is how we form friendships, groups, communities and society.

Definitions and frameworks

The Brundtland Commission, dissolved in 1987 and defined sustainable development in their report of that same year:

Sustainable development is the kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

(Our Common Future, Report 1987).

Karl-Henrik Robèrt, an oncologist, took up the reigns around that time and thought about the components / stuff that were unsustainable in society:

  1. substances extracted from the Earth’s crust
  2. substances produced by society
  3. degradation by physical means
  4. in that society, people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs

These can be applied to any situation to formulate a sustainability plan, so for education, well, let’s have a go.

  1. eliminate the use of precious resources – e.g. teaching materials that are not share, or work discarded from people who retire (paper / electronic = trees / chemicals); time wasted by not sharing (staff productivity = energy and natural resources).
  2. eliminate the build up of toxic substances – e.g. imagine the scale of schools / education institutions around the world and the waste therein; laboratory waste material; physical materials from arts classes; discarded old computers and technology; discarded old furniture and materials.
  3. degradation of local environments by campus building.
  4. meet the basic needs – including a right and access to education.

There is much work to be done there. That is the topic for future research, workshops and brainstorms. I can’t possibly paint such an intricate picture on my own. I do like Robèrt’s model though, that works for me.

Working toward a summary of my learning on this course.

This course has been fantastic. I can’t recall being so gripped by something – and yes, the time commitment is quite significant. I’ve only given things a superficial and quick think over, but there is so much work to be done here. One of the final questions asks us to think about trends:

  1. Analyse trends, issues and opportunities that will influence future activity and generations in a chosen sector.

I suppose for education, there might be winners and losers here:

  1. Globally, education is expanding – so this will bring the need to address all of the points above, reducing the use of precious resources and minimising waste and the environmental impact.
  2. Growth of online learning – that must be a winner, reducing the need to physically travel to campuses and institutions, but there is again an energy cost, and impact on natural resources required to build our digital capability.
  3. In the UK, certainly growth in numbers of education providers and move to bring new private providers into the market. Business and profits might not mean thinking about sustainability here.
  4. As time goes on, the repeat production of learning materials / resources / lecture slides becomes incalculable.