BU Study Contributes to Online Health Education Debate

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A major UK study by leading health experts at Bournemouth University (BU) has contributed to the national debate surrounding the provision of open educational resources (OER) by revealing the key factors surrounding support for and against free online health education.

While IPR and copyright still remain a concern the emergence of an International movement towards online education will mean that these types of issues hopefully will be resolved sooner rather than later.

BU’s Dr Heather Hartwell and Dr Ann Hemingway investigated the barriers and enablers of free online public health education as part of the PHORUS (Public Health Open Resources in the University Sector) project - an initiative designed to test practical considerations and benefits of providing OER in Higher Education.

Carried out in partnership with the Royal Society for Public Health and the Higher Education Health Sciences Subject Centre, the study found that online educational resources present key benefits such as recognition and networking opportunities but also raise concerns surrounding Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and academic credit.

Using what’s known as a Delphi study, a qualitative research method that relies on the judgment of individuals presumed to be knowledgeable and expert at what they do, Dr Hartwell and BU colleagues Dr Ann Hemingway and Dr Catherine Angell studied the controlled feedback towards the availability of online resources given via workshops, telephone interviews and the PHORUS dedicated web page.

Key reasons behind support for sharing public health resources online included:

  •     Reduced costs of producing teaching materials for universities
  •     Networking opportunities
  •     Participation in OER development
  •     Participation from a wide range of Public Health disciplines
  •     Use of OER as a marketing tool by universities
  •     Assist educators in gaining recognition amongst their own profession

Divergent themes included:

  •     Issues of liability arising from incorrect use
  •     Lack of clarity within Universities regarding IPR issues
  •     Problems with academic credit
  •     Concerns regarding time and cost
  •     Staff will need additional sills to develop OER
  •     Universities can identify a new strategic direction through the release of OER

Dr Hartwell explains: “Saturation of data has now been achieved and from initial findings the important elements in Public Health OER development are regarded as
reward and recognition for institutions, employer engagement, allowing lecturers time and resources to develop material.

“There is support for a Community Of Practice which will inherently ensure quality and provide a platform for peer review.

“While IPR and copyright still remain a concern the emergence of an International movement towards online education will mean that these types of issues hopefully will be resolved sooner rather than later.”

Dr Hartwell adds: “Sustainability is key to any learning resource but is more likely if students actively use and engage with the OER produced by their institution. It is clear that strategies are required to ensure sustainable development and updating of OER, and that initial funding for OER projects requires consideration of the ongoing future of such resources.”

The research will now be used for consideration in the future development of open educational resources in public health.

Notes to Editors:

1.    The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is an independent, multi-disciplinary organisation, dedicated to the promotion and protection of collective human health and wellbeing.

2.    Project PHORUS is part of an initiative to release open educational resources focused on public health in the Higher Education sector. Funded by HEFCE and supported by JISC and the Higher Education Academy, PHORUS is led by the Health Sciences and Practice Subject Centre working with the Royal Society for Public Health, Bournemouth University and other institutions.

3.    BU is the UK’s Number One New University (first place among all institutions that became universities since 1992) according to The Guardian University Guide 200 9 & 2010 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education)

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Charlotte Knight
Bournemouth University
+44 01202 961033
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