An Emerging Model for Publishing and Using Open Educational Resources in Public Health

Article excerpt


Introduction: The open source revolution has enabled the development of open educational resources (OER) and the potential for sharing lessons learned. We present a potential model for publishing OER in public health to inform workforce development.

Methods: As part of the PHORUS (Public Health Open Resources for the University Sector) Project, a review of the literature relating to the development of OER was followed by an online search for OER resources relating specifically to public health. Furthermore, a Delphi study was conducted to identify and prioritize barriers and enablers to the production and use of public health OER.

Results: A wide array of OER literature was identified, although there were a limited number of public health-related papers. The key concepts influencing public health OER release found in the literature were identified as quality, ethics and values, rewards, risks and practical aspects, such as technological developments. These concepts were then further developed through the PHORUS project research findings to produce the basis of a potential model for OER development in public health.

Discussion/Conclusion: The synthesis of a literature review and Delphi study has produced a potential model to guide the development of OER in public health. The model provides a matrix where the questions about whether and how an academic can produce and publish OER are answered, according to various risks and benefits to them and their institution. We hope that this will provide practical assistance and encouragement for the academic public health community to create and share OER.

Key words

public health; open educational resources; global context; model; publishing; education; training


The open source revolution provides the opportunity for us to rethink the way we both provide and generate information. During the last 10 years, rapid technological advances and the increased availability of internet connections have enabled the development of open educational resources (OER) and the potential for sharing the development and use of such resources. These global advances have brought about changes in education in many subject areas. Public health education would appear to be an important area for OER development in terms of its central role in improving health by reducing inequalities though education. A wide range of individuals with different skills, and within all levels of the health and social care workforce, are now expected to develop and possess public health skills. However, those who have the responsibility for training this workforce have very different disciplinary backgrounds and abilities; therefore, a tool actively facilitating the release of appropriate open resources to enhance knowledge gaps is urgently needed.

This paper will report on the emergence of a model for the release of public health OER through the PHORUS (Public Health Open Resources for the University Sector) project. This is a collaborative initiative coordinated by the Health Sciences and Practice Subject Centre and funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), and is one of a number of projects designed to test the practical considerations of developing OER.


In 2002, the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) first adopted the term 'open educational resources', defining it as 'the provision of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes.'1

The JISC, which is funding this pilot project, further identifies OER as including full courses, course materials, complete modules, notes, videos, assessments, tests, simulations, worked examples, software, and any other tools or materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge. These resources will be released under an intellectual property licence that permits 'open use and adaptation'. …


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