Open Education

Summary of my open education work

NEW SWOT Success with Open Textbooks

University of Nottingham RLOs
Virtual Analytical Laboratory (VAL)
Sickle Cell Open – Online Topics and Educational Resources (SCOOTER)
Biology Courses
Midwifery OER
Interprofessional (health) working OER
Open Science Laboratory
Technology support and thank yous

What is it all about?

I don’t intend to write a history of open education or cover everything that it entails and encompasses because that has been covered elsewhere (e.g. Kernohan and Thomas 2012), but I am passionate about opening up the doors of education for the benefits all round are far-reaching. I think of open educational resources (OERs) as building blocks – photographs, animations, PDF files, entire modules, videos – that users can construct and personalise. In these times of austerity and over-stretched academic workloads, sharing materials just makes sense 🙂

Before I go any further, the Jisc OER Infokit is a “must have” for anyone wanting to get started or their institutions started with OER. Also Catherine Cronin and myself have initiated a new space around getting started in OER and developing your open practice. GoOpen!

A bit of top blogging on how to find OER from Kavubob here – video, images, lectures and courses.

How do I define open?

For me, “open” means openly licensed content, data or methodologies that are readily accessible for others to build upon. From my initial immersion in open education in 2004 it has been wonderful to watch “open” mature and embed itself within education practice, and be represented by a global community who share the ethos and values relating to openly sharing and communicating.

MOOC Open Boundaries

So I’ve put my money where my mouth is!

Openness for me is also something I value deeply and personally. Open is about creative and excellent teaching / assessment practices, and open should also be more about being inclusive. Student fees are invested in locked-down technology solutions that are increasingly inaccessible beyond their courses. It is like buying a pair of shoes and then not being able to walk out of the shop in them. Student debt in the UK has reached crisis point and is shockingly ill-considered. David and myself presented a “cost of not going open” workshop at the Cardiff OER15 conference which was well received, and more recently I’ve started to look at textbook costs and student views on using books.

Textbooks cost whaaaat?

Open education projects

At Nottingham University School of Nursing an abundance of learning objects were shared to support students and provide flexible study whilst out on placement. I produced a number of Flash animations in 2004, and it is great to see they are still used today and usable via the web. The extensive range of materials cover and are a “must have” for any health and life science faculty:

  • Biological sciences
  • Nursing and midwifery
  • Research methodology and practice
  • Pharmaceutical practice

At De Montfort University I taught across a number of biomedical science subjects and a group of colleagues and myself decided to share open educational resources on basic laboratory skills. And these were very basic – “how to use a microscope”, “what is a pipette?” We gained some internal money then external funding with the HEA Bioscience Subject Centre as part of the UKOER Programme (Pilot Phase 2009). Our Virtual Analytical Laboratory (VAL) has grown to encompass hundreds of web pages and resources made by staff and students.

Virtual Microscope. At De Montfort we also contributed to the OU Virtual Microscope project. This was a funded initiative between the Open University and the Wolfson Foundation. De Montfort University contributed an archive of histological slides and images that were scanned to form the resources used within their digital microscope. Staff annotated the slides and provided descriptions and text for the OU project.

In 2010 part of the UKOER phase 2 funding, I extended the OER work at De Montfort with the SCOOTER Project, with Professor Simon Dyson and Dr Mark Fowler (Sickle Cell Open – Online Topics and Educational Resources). This aimed to compile a range of teaching materials for blood disorders – particularly sickle cell and thalassaemia. It was a cross-universtiy effort involving arts, law, social sciences and biosciences, and led to some lovely collaborative resources with local the Leicester Royal Infirmary Department of Pathology, and also Northampton General Hospital.

The great thing about OER is the idiosyncrasity, creativity and surprises. Our OER included:

  • A reprint of out of publication text book
  • Brilliant contributions by retired professors in the field
  • Sickle cell games made by technology students
  • Contributions by universities and charities
  • Resources translated into Nigerian (4 languages) and Brazilian (3 languages)

In 2011 I further built momentum with phase 3 funding this time to specifically push life science materials, and involved pharmacy, forensic science and midwifery. The project was called Biology Courses and partly aimed at providing university taster materials for schools and colleges. This work really got students involved in producing OER:

  • Students reflected at the ends of lectures and practicals by producing multiple choice questions – released as OER
  • Students widely sourcing and using OER to support their studies
  • Students evolved a critiquing matrix for online resources (sensible considering how much time they spend on YouTube)
  • OER were produced by prospective students on open-days and as part of school / college visits
  • Fantastic artwork supplied by Jacob Escott

Midwifery and Interprofessional Working in Healthcare

Midwifery OER – from De Montfort led by Jacqui Williams.

Interprofessional teams and working OER – from De Montfort led by Jacqui Williams.


How the technology works?

All of the work you see was supported by external technology consultants, and ALL of the materials produced by staff and students themselves, with a few exceptions. Therefore, a huge benefit from being involved in OER is knowledge gained about how to produce good quality teaching materials and also what technologies work the best. I now maintain the websites, do all the digital marketing and SEO to support them, and continue to produce the resources. I would not have learned how to do so or get any of these sites off the ground without:

  • Phil Tubman, University of Lancaster and ALT Learning Technologist of the Year 2011
  • Simon Griffin, SEO consultant, WordPress construction and maintenance
  • Anmoal Thethi, SCOOTER resources
  • Julie Lowe, De Montfort University CELT team
  • Rob Weale, De Montfort University CELT team
  • Steve Mackenzie, Distance Learning Specialist

Many many huge thank yous!

There are so many people who have been involved in these projects I couldn’t thank everyone, but here are some of the main individuals and groups:

  • Biomedical Science team at De Montfort University
  • Forensic Science led by Dr Mark Fowler at DMU
  • Midwifery team led by Jacqui Williams at DMU
  • Sickle Cell team led by Professor Simon Dyson at DMU
  • Faculties of Arts, Design and Humanities; Business and Law; Technology; Health and Life Sciences
  • DMU Library
  • DMU CELT team – Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology
  • Careers and Widening Participations teams
  • DMU students!
  • Contributions from Professor James Elander, University of Derby
  • Contributions from the Pathology Services, Leicester Royal Infirmary
  • Northampton General Hospital
  • Oxford University Press
  • Family of Frank B Livingstone
  • Professor Elizabeth Anionwu


2 thoughts on “Open Education

  1. Pingback: #digifest14 session on “MOOCs” | FOLLOWERS OF THE APOCALYPSE

  2. Pingback: JISC Digital Festival – March 2014 | The CELT Hub

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