Society of Biology’s new higher education teaching website promotes Open Education Resources

Issue: Antimicrobials

01 November 2012 article

Society of Biology logo


This summer, the Society of Biology (SB) received funding from the Higher Education Academy and JISC through their Open Education Resources (OER) Programme. We were to work with our Special Interest Group, the Heads of University Biosciences (HUBS), to identify, collect and promote UK OER to the bioscience community. Through this project, we have recently launched a new Higher Education (HE) teaching website at

OER ARE LEARNING, teaching and research resources freely available for the teaching community to use and adapt that have been released under specific intellectual property rules. There are many excellent teaching resources publicly available across various websites, publications and discussion forums. Although some of these resources are featured in specific sites, such as the UK’s national repository for OER, Jorum, many are hosted directly on institutions’ own websites and may require extensive searching to find them.

The project allowed us to identify resources for bioscience HE, and signpost them to the teaching community via a new website, reducing the time spent by individuals searching the web, ensuring better access to quality teaching resources, and introducing and encouraging those who are new to OER.

Working closely with the HUBS Executive Committee to ensure the project meets the needs of those working in HE, we have focused on resources that support practical biology and research-led teaching in HE.

Over the summer we surveyed the biosciences community to find out what they would find most useful from the website. We asked about current use and barriers to using OER and comments on our plans for our website.

In response to our suggestion that we focus on practical biology resources, respondents felt that lab and fieldwork protocols, data handling exercises, videos of techniques and multimedia alternatives to wet lab work would be the most useful resources to feature.

Feedback from those already using OER highlighted that although there was a number of very good resources available, there was a huge variety in the quality, and a great deal of searching and sorting was needed to find high-quality resources. To address this we have included an element of peer review in the project, recruiting a team of experts in the bioscience teaching community to review all of the resources we find.

When asked about the main barriers to creating OER, the overwhelming response was, unsurprisingly, that of time, but many responded that they did not know how to go about releasing their teaching materials as OER, or even whether their institutions would allow this. Resources such as the JISC OER infokit and STEM OER Guidance wiki provide information on using and creating OER, covering copyright and intellectual property issues, and ‘dos and don’ts’ for creating your own resources.

The uncertainty over whether institutions allow and encourage their staff to create and release OER is something we all need to address as a community. Institutional policy needs to be disseminated and embedded at a departmental level and departments need to make it clear what staff training is available to support this. In our work with departmental heads through HUBS, and teaching practitioners in our membership and beyond, we will be promoting institutional change to support the use of OER and championing reward and recognition for those involved.

Setting up this new website to promote the use of OER has been the start of this project for us, and we look forward to working with you all on this in the future. We will be adding new resources as they are released to keep the website up to date and useful. If you are creating new resources, or know of a great resource that we have missed, then please let us know via the ‘Submit resources’ section of the site!
For more information on the project please see http:/

HE Policy Officer at the Society of Biology; Email [email protected]