SCOOTER – a reflection.

January 30, 2019 in featured, guestpost, oer

(Sickle Cell Open Online Topics and Educational Resources)

 

 

Guest post by Viv Rolfe


The start of a new year seems a good time to reflect back on my past OER work. One project I was most fondest of was ‘SCOOTER’ – Sickle Cell Open Online Topics and Educational Resources [http://sicklecellanaemia.org]. The name not at all celebrating one of my favourite Muppet characters!

This was very much inspired by Professor Simon Dyson a social scientist at De Montfort University (where I worked at the time) who’s research looked into the social and care surrounding young people with sickle cell and other haemoglobin disorders. Coupled with a geneticist colleague Dr Mark Fowler, we set to engage colleagues across our faculties in providing multidisciplinary teaching materials to raise awareness of the needs of young people with sickle cell, and provide education content on this vitally important subject.

SCOOTER was funded by Jisc OER Programme in 2010 marking the 100thanniversary of the discovery of ‘peculiar elongated cells’ by James Herrick. What followed that year was a snowballing, or more of an avelanch, of enthusiasm and interest, not just from our faculty as intended but across the university. Some of my most cherished resources were from an arts student Jacob Escott who was utterly inspired by the human body and I remember my first meeting which went well past an hour and I had to hustle him out of the office so I could go and teach. Jacob inspired me in SCOOTER and various projects after that by providing the artwork which created strong project identities, great colour schemes and were utterly fabulous.

SCOOTER shared resources on social care, nursing, genetics, personal experiences, art, and included the involvement of the pathology department at the local hospital, Leicester Royal Infirmary.This started a collaboration where they would share biomedical content (data, graphs, photographs) under open licenses that we would repackage as educational materials. We’d both use the OER in our teaching or training of biomedical scientists in the lab.

Professor Dyson’s main area of work is in providing healthcare policy documents for schools that give plain speaking guidance for helping young people, and these are certainly some of the projects most visited pages over the 8 years. These vital guides have been translated into many languages.

Scooter received personal reflections from students and healthcare professionals. In one, Professor Elizabeth Anionwu shared a video of her experience of setting up the first nurse counselling services in the UK [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VK0p8t-NA-Q]. My most favourite recent editions is a song composed and performed by students in a school in Africa – Sikul Sel.

As I reflect back on the very first blog post on November 27th2010,  we achieved our goals of making the project ‘search engine optimised’ by using researched keywords, having content in multiple formats (also for accessibility), and sharing content on multiple social media platforms (for sustainability). The WordPress blog was perfect for this. I’ve just about managed to keep the blogs afloat in the subsequent years – slightly irked that I’d never received any thanks or support from the university as a whole, but very grateful that I’d discovered Reclaim Hosting who have been so generous as to assist with the very occasional technical difficulties.

Another goal was “building a vibrant community of users”.

We did at the time, but I wouldn’t say this has sustained over the years. In terms of Google rankings the site has definitely slumped, but resources on YouTube and Flickr still gain new views every year. We might have a vibrant community of users – I just have no way of knowing that now.

“New challenges will surely emerge as economic factors change the face of Higher Education in the UK and wider a field, and Open Education may hold the key to the future as students choose their own educational settings and tailor-make their own experiences”.

Oh how I should have placed a bet on that one! How insightful of me at the time. Yes, there would be only one more year of OER funding in the UK, but within a few years any funding for digital, pedagogic or teaching-enhancement research in the UK would cease. The HEA is no longer and Jisc continues to merge with other sector agencies [https://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/hesa-and-jisc-integration-10-jan-2019]. The fate of OER is shaky, with many of the original resources produced between 2009 and 2012 no-longer retrievable, and certainly the communities and the learning lost.

Has OER held the key for students (to) choose their own educational settings and tailor-make their own experiences”.

I think I foresaw a booming OER sharing economy at that time, and I think students gained not so much by having access to these materials to support heir learning, but certainly were enthused and grew through co-creating and contributing to resources and the project.  Sadly I think UK higher education policy has put the nail in the coffin for that opportunity, with universities ever-more competing for students rather than investing in the sharing of resources. The quest to achieve good TEF outcomes has leveraged a culture of league tables at the expense of learning (in my opinion). What hampered all of my OER projects was the continual turnover of senior staff and continuing having to lobby for support for projects rather than them being embedded in learning and teaching and/or digital strategy. I don’t think we really considered how easy it would be to repurpose materials, although in my experience people are overwhelmingly happy to link to them and use them directly as they are. Maybe repurposing was a bit of a red-herring.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the buzz and excitement of working on this project – my first major external funding award. I’m proud that SCOOTER lives on and wish there was some way it could be reignited as a repository for educational materials for this all important subject. The Nursing Times only last year called for more teaching on this subject.

In our paper that surveyed over 200 university educators, it was concluded that sickle cell was a major public health issue globally that is neglected in university curricula across the board, not just nursing and health professionals (1).

Ref

(1) Rolfe, V., Fowler, M., & Dyson, S. M. (2011). Sickle cell in the university curriculum: a survey assessing demand for open-access educational materials in a constructed community of interest. Diversity in Health & Care8(4). https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/xmlui/handle/2086/5952

About the author


Viv Rolfe
(PhD) is member of the OEWG advisory board and is an independent open educator and directs three science open educational resource websites (http://vivrolfe.com/open-education/) sharing materials co-created with students, hospital laboratory staff and academics with global audiences. She is involved in the UK Open Textbook Project funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation along with the OER Research Hub and Wonkhe.com, aiming to raise awareness of open textbooks and explore with academics, library and technology staff the possibilities of utilizing the amazing range of books available. As with all of her open education work, she aspires to widen access to educational materials and research, and encourage more open academic practice. She is co-chair of the #OER18 conference to be held in Bristol, April 2018 where global delegates and virtual attendees will discuss the impact of open education on learning and learner inclusion (and exclusion). She is a blogger, #DS106 learner and jazz musician, alongside working full-time as Head of Research for Pukka Herbs. She can be followed as @vivienrolfe on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *