Curating an OER for first year biology

SLE111 cells and genes is a foundation biology unit that is core to most degrees in the School of Life and Environmental Science and may degree in the Faculty of Health. It typically has a cohort of over 1000 students during the main offering in T1. Such a large core unit has students with varying levels of experience and interest in studying biology. The textbook previously in use although good, was very expensive. Many students could not afford to buy it and were relying on found resources on the internet. We decided it would be better if we could curate something so we know they are accessing reliable materials. Fortunately, for first year biology there were already a number of high quality open education resources in existence so it was simply a matter of finding them and adapting them to our syllabus 

In addition, due to austerity measures the university has stopped paying for an institutional license for an interactive online learning website that accompanied the Campbell text.  These interactive materials provided students with extensive opportunities for practice and feedback on their learning so we wished to replace these with other interactive materials created in H5P. 


The first run of the project was rolled out for Trimester 3 in 2021. The content at the moment is relatively minimal with readings, links to animations/videos and some interactive elements. Interactive elements will be increased as time goes on. These are obviously the most time-consuming part to make. 
From Trimester 1 2022 students will not be required to buy a textbook for SLE111 and there will be no prescribed textbook listed for this unit. 
So far there is anecdotal evidence is that students are very happy to have all their resources located in the same place, to have chances to test and practice their learning and that they did not have to spend $180 + on a textbook. But as the material has only been available for half a trimester it’s difficult to gauge impact just yet. 

This project also provided a placement opportunity for 3rd year student in the Bachelor of Biomedical Science who are required to do a minimum of 80 hours of placement as part of their professional practice unit. They were able to assist in the search for and production of materials. Having a placement that could be completed online was beneficial for these students as it was a difficult year for many students find placements due to Covid lockdowns.