By April Wilkerson Writer, OU College of Medicine,
The concept of broadly sharing knowledge, not holding it tightly behind closed doors, is gaining traction among universities
The iTunes U committee for OUHSC is:
(seated left) Molly Barr, project manager,
information technology; (seated right)
Rebecca S. (Becki) Trepagnier, associate
vice president for information technology;
standing, left to right, Candace Shaw,
assistant vice provost for academic technology;
Chris Jones, director of information technology;
and Valerie N. Williams, Ph.D., vice provost for
academic affairs and faculty development.
The OU College of Medicine is but one component of The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center that is beginning a journey with the model of open education. With a new presence on iTunes U and a growing desire to share the distinctive expertise of OUHSC faculty and staff, the campus is on its way toward creating an innovative new virtual presence.
Valerie Williams, Ph.D., vice provost for academic affairs and faculty development, is leading the charge for the iTunes U project, which began in fall 2011. By Christmas, the OUHSC iTunes U site was developed, and her committee is now meeting with representatives of all seven colleges to determine the scope of the project.
The aim is to first develop multimedia content for the “exterior” world, and later consider information directed at the campus itself. The beauty of open education -- and made possible by the iTunes U infrastructure -- is that an institution like OUHSC can educate people beyond its walls with materials that are in-depth and trustworthy, Williams said. The collaboration between OUHSC colleges and programs, academic technology and information technology makes the iTunes U presence feasible, she said.
“The Internet is a wonderful thing in that it’s free and full of all sorts of information, but open education takes that to another level,” she said. “I can go to a hundred different Internet sites and come away with a lot of information, but not more knowledge. I can go to an open education site like iTunes U and, if I invest myself in the richness of the material that is there, I can come away with more knowledge. My depth of interest is tied to the willingness of a community of scholars to share what they know through iTunes U.”
Indeed, society has been shifting to make that possible. Professor Peter Drucker, who coined the term “knowledge worker” in his writings about the transition from an industrial society to a knowledge society, predicted that people would go to experts because they want to know and understand something, not because they have an immediate need.
Health care and medicine are particularly well-suited for open education because people are increasingly involved in their own conditions. In decades past, most patients would leave a doctor’s visit without asking very many, if any, questions. Today, patients are much more invested in their health, as well as the treatments and research surrounding it. Open education will allow OUHSC to offer resources in its areas of excellence and to introduce its expertise in a broader and deeper way.
“We have amazingly talented faculty – great people who have interesting ideas and who have discovered, innovated or integrated their work into new areas,” Williams said. “Aside from presenting their work to colleagues in their discipline at a national meeting, writing a journal article or sharing research with their students, their work may not be shared more broadly. Most of our time is invested in delivering patient care, teaching students and doing our own research, then sharing it within a peer audience through the traditional means. Open education is a more contemporary means of letting faculty share their depth of knowledge with a bigger audience than they would have normally. I think that’s one of the most powerful things about it.”
The work of the iTunes U committee during the first part of 2012 is to see what material already exists, whether it takes the form of a video, podcast or document. Planning will then transition to types of content that can be developed and a peer review to ensure it is the highest quality.
Williams said the possibilities are endless for the ways OUHSC can communicate its story. A College of Medicine option may be to share the model simulation programs developed for the Clinical Skills Education and Testing Center. Other topics might focus on the conditions that particularly affect Oklahoma, such as diabetes, obesity and cancer, and educating readers about the related treatment, prevention or biomedical sciences associated with these conditions.
“We have great people at OUHSC, and I believe we can step into the concept of open education and offer something of value,” Williams said. “I think OUHSC’s presence in a space that includes college institutions large and small around the country and world is timely.”