Medical art student showcase – sketchnotes, animation and 3D printing

Over the past few years at Dundee we’ve had growing opportunities to work with our colleagues in medical art and suggest project ideas to students studying the Masters programme.  There have been some great projects over the years with students developing learning resources, creating comics to support patient communication and exploring the potential of 3D printing to help surgeons.  With a long standing interest in the potential of sketchnotes to support student leanrning and in particular revision I’ve pitched a project idea around sketch notes for a couple of years but it’s never grabbed anyone’s attention.  This year I floated the idea again and suggested a focus on neurology teaching given that many medical students seem to find this a challenging area of medicine and I was delighted when Susanna Brighouse took on the challenge.   First off Susanna created a sketchnote based on a lecture on pain and thermosensation and is with all our student developed resources it was peer reviewed by one of our academics.  She produced different versions including one that could be coloured in and labelled by students to support revision.

NEUROLOGY WK 2, LECTURE 8: Pain & Thermosensation Summary Sketch by Susanna Brighouse, University of Dundee

Following positive feedback Susanna went on to make sketchnotes the focus of her Masters project and produced a further 15 sketchnotes based on a series of neurology lectures covering topics such as the anatomy of the spinal nerves, body innervation maps and radiculopathy.  Feedback on the sketchnotes from medical students identified that they would make most use of them to help revision.  We hope to share these further sketchnotes soon.


Alongside with Susanna’s project there were a few others with a medical education focus where the students had worked closely with Dr Richard Oparka our pathology teaching lead.  Two of the projects were super animations, first up a delightful video on the phases and main components of the cell cycle by Cristina Sala Ripoll, which Richard will be using in his teaching with 1st year medical students in a few weeks time.  The video highlights the the different phases of the cell cycle that lead to cell division and includes some of the cellular components involved in them.


The second animation comes from Elvire Thouvenot-Nitzan and gives an overview of apoptosis looking at the important role apoptosis plays in growth and development as well as removing DNA damaged cells. It goes on to show how the activation of the caspase cascade occurs in each external and internal signalling pathway and ends with a glimpse of cancer cells and their ability to block apoptosis.


The fourth project I want to showcase is Anna Sieben’s 3D epithelium.  Anna, who’s a doctor, has created a fantastic teaching resource for medical students on epithelium which links to the virtual microscope used in teaching at Dundee. Students can select to look at the epithelium in different body organs and explore the structure and function of these different tissues through a series of 3D models. I’ve embedded Anna’s model of the epithelium of the skin from sketchfab below.  You can 3D print these models from sketchfab and Anna had a wonderful display of these at her degree show.

There’s a lot of focus on technology enhanced learning in medical education and higher education at the moment but I get the impression it’s rare to find medical artists in elearning teams.  At Dundee we’re very lucky to have two medical artists in Annie Campbell in medicine and Emily McDougall in dentistry but we don’t have similar posts at the moment in the central elearning team or in other schools.  Much of the work that Annie and Emily produce is shared as OER and FAOMed so that others can reuse these resources to support medical and dental education.

Susanna, Cristina, Elvire and Anna are four super talented medical artists and I hope they get snapped up with job offers from other medical or dental schools. I’m looking forward to following their work in the future.


Research priorities for OERs #h817open

One of the tasks we’ve been asked to do on the #h817open MOOC is consider the research priorities around open education and OERs.

The preamble to the activity says:

Much of the research around open education has been derived from the OER movement. A number of key questions have arisen, which can apply to most aspects of open education, including:

  • Sustainability – many OER projects have received initial funding from organisations such as the Hewlett Foundation. How sustainable are they after the funding stops?
  • Pedagogy – are different ways of teaching required to make effective use of open education?
  • Barriers to uptake – what prevents individuals or institutions from either using or engaging with open education?
  • Learner support – how can learners best be supported in these open models?
  • Technology – what technologies are best suited to open approaches?
  • Quality – how can we assure the quality of open educational content?
  • Rights – how do we protect the intellectual property of individuals while encouraging wide distribution?

A number of my fellow MOOCers have already idenified sustainability, quality, learner support and accreditation as issues that need to be researched further.

My immediate thought on the issue of sustainability is why is there the view that funding from the likes of JISC, and the Hewlett Foundation required to make OER and open education sustainable?  Isn’t the whole OER movement about a culture of sharing?  I shared a previous post on my musings on UKOER and whether it had been value for money to the MOOC’s G+ community and in the discussion that followed I added:

…, I wonder whether the research focus in our institutions means that openness in teaching and learning just aren’t given the same air space or priority.  Many institutions have invested time and effort into developing their research repositories how many have done similarly with their teaching resources.  Most are hidden away in the bowels of institutional VLEs, and I suspect many are PowerPoint files.
Clear policies on OERs and highlighting their possible role for teachers to gain wider schoalrly recognition for their teaching which could support promotion would perhaps be a welcome step in the right direction. …

I’d be interested to hear what others think of this.

Focussing back on the task, what do I think are the priorities for research? Here’s my tuppance worth:

  1. Institutional strategy, policy and culture: I’d like to see some research done in the UK looking at what policies are in place in universities surrounding OERs and staff engagament in applying technology to their teaching.  Other than the OU, the University of Nottingham always springs to mind when I think of  institutions that support open education, with it’s open learning repository, presence on YouTube and iTunesU etc.  Are there others doing the same?  It was a bit disheartening to read on the OER13 conference blog that whilst De Montfort University includes OER in its institutional teaching and learning strategy, senior executives could not name any major instituional OER projects!What are institutional strategies around promoting and sharing OERs and not just outwith the instituiton but also on the inside too.  How many institutions support scholarly recognition for staff developing and sharing high quality OERs and include these in promotion criteria. In medicine there is lots of talk of evidence based practice.  What can we learn by looking at institutions that seem to be getting open education right, what mistakes can we avoid. Can we adopt an evidence based approach to to help equip those who want to become agents of change to facilitate change in their instituions.Linked to this is also the question of whether focussing on institutions is the best way to promote OERs and sharing.  Is there more chance of success when the drive for openness and sharing comes from a community as is being evidenced in medicine with the emergence of the free open access meducation (#FOAMed) movement.
  2. Methods of distribution and access: Traditionally we’ve had learning repositories that have stored OERs, so for example Jorum in the UK, in the US in medical education, the field that I’m involved in, there is MedEdPORTAL.  Are these the best places to share OERs or are social media sites like YouTube, Vimeo and blogs better ways of sharing OERs?  I’ve read some work on this recently published in Academic Medicine (1) which indicates that YouTube proved a much more effective way of sharing open video content.  Linked to this is the whole issue of usability which I think is key to reusability and something I’ve also mulled on before.
  3. Student engagement: Some of the sessions at the OER13 meeting also seemed to indicate that whilst some students were creating learning resources there was some reluctance to share these openly and particularly with individuals who weren’t fee paying students. Again in medical education there seems to be a slightly different view, and my own students are keen to develop resources that they can share as OERs or #FOAMed resources and see that they learn so much from the process of developing resources, including skills in interprofessional working, team work, communication and digital literacy.  In relation to this it would be interesting to see if involving students in the development of OERs helps to improve their employability and is an effective way of developing 21st century learning skills.


(1) Topps, David, Joyce Helmer, and Rachel Ellaway. “YouTube as a Platform for Publishing Clinical Skills Training Videos.” Academic Medicine 88.2 (2013): 192-197.

Musings on UKOER

oer_logo_EN_1 by btrautweinjr, on Flickr

I’ve read a few things over the past while that have got me thinking on and off about OERs and the #UKOER programme  and particularly about it’s impact and contribution to the area of online learning in medicine and other subject disciplines.  I’m not sure exactly how much has been invested in the various phases of the UKOER project, this piece on the Glasgow Caledonian website indicates tens of millions, how many tens though? £50, £60 million … or more?. I asked on Twitter if anyone knew and David Kernohan replied

So maybe not as much as I was beginning to think, but I’m still interested to know whether this has been a worthwhile investment, has it been value for money and what’s been the impact on the academic community and what’s the level of awareness and engagement like amongst staff in HE?  What will the longer term impact be?

It was interesting to see Simon Thomson’s (@digisim) Storify of the recent UKOER12 event, where he says

After being involved in a phase one project (where I was very much heavily involved in OER networks) I am now more aware that beyond the ukoer network the volume at which OER is heard is significantly lower.

I think Simon is right and wonder if in some places the volume is actually off and it’s never been turned on. Simon asks if the OER community has failed in some way to evangelise beyond its borders.  Maybe it has been too inward looking, with the same old crowd following the circuit of OER meetings. How effective has the communication and dissemination of UKOER activities been?  In the words of Spandau Ballet has it been a case of ‘Communication let me down’!  Those of us engaged online via twitter and blogs can follow what’s going on to some degree but even then trying to keep up with all the projects large and small seems like a full time job in itself.  But what about those who aren’t engaged online and aren’t part of online networks, what’s the strategy to get these academics thinking about OERs.  Now the funding has come to an end what’s going to be long term legacy, what are the sustainability issues and what do we do to try and raise the profile of OERs?

Is the communication issue outside the OER network the only thing that’s affected the volume?   Has UKOER met the needs of academics at the digital chalkface ie resources that can be reused in multiple different contexts?  Is there lots of high quality content that academics want to use and assimilate into their teaching?  If there was wouldn’t we all be talking about it and generating a lot of noise?

Despite dipping in and out of Jorum and subscribing to the RSS feed for new resources I’ve yet to reuse anything because I’ve not seen anything that meets my needs.  Consequently it’s somewhere I rarely bother to look.

The big issue in developing online resources in medical education that I see, day in and day, out is the need for reusable illustrations, animations and videos.  These are the types of OERS that we’re always on the look out for.  Along with other members of the team I work in, I’m frequently presented with storyboards for online resources full of medical illustrations etc taken from a Google image search.  Clinicians are often a bit taken aback when we say we can’t use them because they’re copyrighted and then when we run an advanced search they look crest fallen as invariably what comes up is nothing of any use.  They’ve put time and effort into trying to source images and all to no avail! The good quality images worth using tend to come from the big textbook publishing houses and so can’t be reused to develop our own learning resources let alone new OERs.  We end up scouring wikimedia commons and creative commons image banks in the hope we’ll find something we can reuse that fits the bill.  For anatomy illustrations my first stop was always the Health Education Assets Library – HEAL – based in the US which has a great collection of illustrations shared by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.  The problem now is that HEAL has been down for months and who knows if it will ever come back online.  I often think if only some of that UKOER money had been spent on core resources like images and animations, what sort of impact would that have made?  Would we have had the beginnings of a bank of learning assets that would have been really useful and reused in medical courses and in the life sciences here in the UK and elsewhere that met an identifed need?

My philosophy is very much there’s no point in re-inventing the wheel when someone’s already done it and I’m a big supporter of OER and try to raise awareness amongst colleagues where I can.  We make use of lots of OERs and we’re always on the look out for things that we can pass on to clinicians to review to see if it’s something we can reuse in local teaching and point our students to.  Some of these OERS do include videos that have been funded by HEA grants like the St George’s Medical School clinical skills videos, but the vast majority of OERS we use have been sourced from YouTube, Vimeo, TED, SlideShare, iTunesU, iBooks, blogs and the like.  These have typically been developed by keen and enthusiastic academics.  There are also sites like GetBodySmart developed over a number of years as a labour of love by Scott Sheffield and probably used by medical students the world over.  We’ve also seen our own students developing OERs and students elsewhere have done similarly.  These are the sorts of resources that we can use to build and create our own teaching narratives and learning activities and present them in the context of our own curriculum and reuse in different ways in a range of learning resources.

So as the UKOER round of projects comes to a close I’m left thinking what’s the impact been in different subject disciplines? What do others involved in medical education think?  There have been some projects that seem to have become well established such as HumBox. What’s the general level of awareness of these subject specific OER repositories and how many resources are actually being reused?  And what about  Jorum, the national UKOER learning repository, whilst well known in some circles I still come across many colleagues who’ve never heard of it (something I’ve mentioned before) and that’s with my institution having signed up to it before the days of OER funded projects!

I had high expectations at start of the UKOER journey and now I feel a bit disappointed. Is the issue me, lack of engagement on my part, or am I just missing something?  I feel I’ve had the volume turned up but I know so many who haven’t heard the message.  More fundamentally I wonder whether the UKOER initiative has encouraged UK universities to promote and support the development of OERs and so build and sustain a community of sharing?  I’m not even aware if there are colleagues locally in other Schools who’ve been involved in any UKOER projects. I wonder too what those involved in the UKOER inner circle would do differently if they had the chance to run the programme again?  As usual lots of questions!

Image Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  btrautweinjr 

Why can’t learning respositories be more like Slideshare

Over the past year we’ve been migrating our online learning content for the early years of our undergraduate curriculum from Blackboard to WordPress.  This move to using WordPress for our learning portal (VLE) was made after a series of pilots led to a bit of a snowball effect with growing numbers of our clinical teachers calling into the office and asking if they could have a WordPress site for their areas of the curriculum.  Staff and students preferred WordPress because it was much more like their everyday experience with the Web, they found it quicker and more user friendly.  WordPress didn’t present them with folders to click on like the old VLE, but webpages that looked like the rest of the Web and a number of students felt it better supported self-directed learning.

In parallel with the move to WordPress we’ve got another project running developing a timetabling and calendaring application which will deliver a personalised calendar to each of our students and tutors.  A key feature of this development is going to be linking teaching resources to each timetabled session so we’re linking the timetable application to a learning repository and we’re currently working on this integration.

Whilst we’ve been discussing learning repositories and possible solutions as a team I’ve been thinking about learning repositories and how I’d like them to work as a user.  The important thing for me is what’s the user experience like, how does it compare to everything else I engage with on the Web, is it going to be easy for my colleagues who are still a bit intimidated by technology to use.  Also how intuitive is to for students to use and does it easily inetragte with other tools that they are likely to use to support their learning.

I know that some have a complete aversion to learning repositories and might question why we’re bothering with one.  There are good reasons including the need for a system to manage and track the increasing numbers of learning assets such as videos, illustrations, animations, e-tutorials created in Articulate etc that we need to manage and keep track of.  We also want to avoid duplication and encourage sharing and reuse of resources across the medical school.  A repository will also help us to more easily produce reports for the GMC about where we are teaching various topics and themes across the curriuclum.  We also want it to support student learning and the dicoverability of resources.

Nationally we have repositories like Jorum, I’m not sure what the usage stats for Jorum are (Mark Hawksey has pulled some data off but I’ve not had chance to look at the detail but you can take a look if you’re interested), but I remain to be convinced that the majority of lecturers have even heard of it.  If I mention Jorum or other repositoies to colleagues I’m generally met with a blank expression and have to explain what it is.

In one of my thinking out loud moments with the team I was saying why can’t we have a learning repository that looks like Slideshare, YouTube/Vimeo, Flickr and Scribd rolled into one.  A platform where students and staff could

  • actually see and play a video, or quickly click through the slides or through a study guide or handbook without having to download it to view it
  • share the resource with their peers via social media buttons or post to social bookmarking tools, Instapaper etc
  • embed the resource on their own blog, Tumblr site etc that serves as an online notebook for their learning
  • rate and comment on the resource and give feedback on how it could be improved to their lecturers
  • see other resources recommended on similar topics to support their learning.

Thinking about this reminded me of a blog post Martin Weller wrote a while ago ‘Slideshare is the best OER site?’, in which he higlighted that Slideshare gets way more traffic than educational sites such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare or the OU’s OpenLearn.  Martin posed a number of questions asking why this might be the case including were individuals more likely to share through Slideshare, could it be considered as an OER repository of sorts and are commercial operations just better than educational ones.

I wonder if sites like Slideshare work well as an OER repository because of their usability and the ability to find the resources easily via web search engines.  Repositories like Jorum and Hum Box do have social sharing buttons but on the whole you have to download the content to view it.  If I go to Flickr, Vimeo or Slideshare I can preview the content, I can then easily embed that content/resource into another webpage and then share it in another context or download it for local use.  When I share it others can easily see the resource, engage with it and share it again, they don’t have to download it either.  That’s how the social web works, but it’s not how most learning repositories seem to work. It’s also easy to engage with these resources on a mobile device and share them whilst you’re on the move.

So why can’t we have learning respositories with this sort of functionality?  Perhaps there are some out there and I just don’t know about them.  Has anyone got an institutional learning repository that presents content like Slideshare and Vimeo, if you have it would be great to see it.