PCF5: Open Educational Resources and health education: workshop

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Title of session

Open Educational Resources and health education: workshop

Session details

  • Date: 17/07/08
  • Time: 11.00
  • Room: WLE Centre

Session papers

  • Models for improving health education and training in Africa using open educational resources (455)

Key Issues that arose in the session

  • Lesley-Anne Cull and Andy Lane, The Open University, UK

Lesley-Anne and Andy facilitated a workshop that looked at developing a health education and training programme model to support training and development of health professionals at scale, through open and distance learning and the use of open educational resources.

It was acknowledged that there are many challenges surrounding the effective creation, organisation, access and utilisation of open educational resources; however the facilitators described the model they are developing in the Open University as providing an opportunity for African health education institutions, commissioners of education and health practitioners themselves to share high quality resources and expertise across the region and the world to support learning, teaching and research through access to materials that otherwise would be hard to obtain.

Using the lessons learned the OU has learned from the Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa Programme, which is being used by nearly 500,000 teachers across nine countries, the Health Education and Training in Africa Programme (HEAT) aims to deliver student-focused health education for different cadres of health professionals across Africa, particularly those in shortage specialties and in under-resourced rural areas. It has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of health professionals and to make a significant contribution to a rapid increase in capacity building in the health workforce in Africa and in the quality of health-care provision. The model will be developed and implemented in genuine partnership with health-care educators and practitioners in Africa to ensure that learning materials are developed in line with identified national need but also relevant to and fit for use in local contexts.

During the workshop, discussions took place about the issues using such a model raised. These issues included what thinking about what may help or hinder the development and implementation of models for providing effective health education and training at scale utilising commonly derived open educational resources that are adaptable to the needs of different countries. Participants considered the importance of using both old and new technologies; for example that the use of radio as an instrument of ‘instruction’ teaching and sharing ideas, remains very powerful in many sub-Saharan African countries. We also discussed the importance of ensuring materials are developed in genuine partnership with African health educators and practitioners and the importance of bringing in service users. The importance of including local health and community leaders was also seen as important. There was some discussion about how materials online could be used by those working in rural areas and the facilitators descried the teacher model where partners in the TESSA Consortium who had internet access, download print and distribute materials to teachers in rural areas. The same methodology will be used to distribute HETA’s resources. There was also some discussion about what curriculum would be developed and what the purpose of the programme was - i.e. what is the OU hoping that the community health workers will be able to do as a result of engaging with the HEAT programme? It was emphasised that there will be workshops during the first year, in Africa, paid for by funding already granted by donors to explore what curriculum is key for community health workers, how their role can be about health promotion as well as providing treatment and support services and that part of the aim of the programme is to enable community health workers to have access to up to date relevant material that will help them improve their work as reflective practitioners, support them in feeling part of a community of health workers outside their own immediate workplace and help them to develop their skills and competencies. Institutions accessing the materials are able to use them within existing programmes to develop curriculum pathways for accreditation or to create new accredited programmes and continuing professional development. It was agreed that there are already many materials already being used successfully in health settings in Africa and that part of the development of HEAT will involve mapping what materials are ‘out there’ as well as exploring what existing training programmes are delivering effective education for community health workers. HEAT will build on these, adapting materials as well as resource ‘toolkits’ for educators to upload onto the HEAT portal, as open educational resources freely available for individuals and institutions to access. As part of this development, it will be crucial to have partners who are skilled in taking a critical approach and who understand evidence-based practice. Partners and collaborative working are at the core of HEAT and its aim is to scale up significantly, through the partners, the numbers of community health workers with access to relevant and useful resources and to skill up the workforce to meet the challenges in health for Africa. The pcf5 conference has provided many useful ideas as well as contacts who may be able to contribute to HEAT’s development and provide networks that can be built upon and extended so that shared thinking and expertise can be harnessed positively.

Lesley-Anne Cull Open University, UK 18th July 2008

Points for future action (Policy, recommendations, commitments etc.)

  • see above