Category Archives: Open Education

Sickle cell project update!

We all love SCOOTER!!

That is what this project was initially called. It stood for “Sickle Cell Open – Online Topics and Educational Resources”, and with thanks to the sickle cell community, academics, doctors, nurses and laboratory scientists, the project did INDEED attract learning materials in a wide range topics, and in a wide range of shapes and sizes.

Image from

OK, I confess, yes, it was named after SCOOTER! I have tried to name all my project after Muppet Characters, although I’ve not sure I’ve succeeded. I was devastated when BEAKER did not get funded. But we have a VAL and a HAL.

How did it all start?

Open education philosophy and practices started many years ago now, and these include sharing learning materials – so called open educational resources (OERs). A programme of funding in the UK from HEFCE started in 2009, and was managed by Jisc and the HEA. SCOOTER received funding in 2010 – and I was very glad because this coincided with the 100th anniversary of this discovery of sickle cells – peculiar elongated cells. This project was run and is still receiving contributions from De Montfort University, in particular Professor Simon Dyson. It was an amazing experience working with him. I am a gut physiologist and didn’t often venture into the blood, but I was captivated from the start. I now maintain this website (and other open educational resource websites) by myself. I am very conscious about keeping them free community resources, and not let them become swallowed up by institutions. I’ve seen this with a number of projects now that simply can’t be sustained and supported, or even become commercialised and going against the grain of the original intentions. It is surprising that from the UKOER programme only  few years ago, many some amazing materials have disappeared. I am on a mission to track them down!

SCOOTER highlights!

We gained contributions from the top people in the field – including Professor Elizabeth Anionwu – described as trailblazer – and who established “nurse counselling” as a profession in the UK, particularly supporting patients, families and health care workers associated with sickle cell disease and thalassaemia in the UK, and around the world.

Professor Elizabeth Anionwu

The wonderful Professor Elizabeth Anionwu

Prof. Anionwu kindly gave her time to be interviewed along with a huge slide resource of her life’s work. Unfortunately many of the pictures contained people and patients and we couldn’t get permission to release most of them, but the ones we did, told such interesting stories.

“I shall be delighted to hand over all pictorial resources relating to sickle cell disease so that it can be accessed by appropriate interested parties”.


Genetics resources


Frank Livinstone’s text book.

We managed to release under a Creative Commons license one of the seminal medical textbooks  – Frequencies of Hemoglobin Variants – by Frank Livingstone. This was a huge amount of work, and took 18 months of negotiation with publishers, chasing up and gaining permissions from family, finally leading to the release of the entire text book. Frank was an anthropologist and mapped the variations of haemoglobin genes around the globe. I would love someone to do a comparative study today to see how the distribution has changed with globalisation and movement of populations.

The Leicester Royal Infirmary!

One of the highlights for me was sneaking off in the afternoon to the Leicester Royal Infirmary to the Pathology Department. Here were the biomedical scientists  – biochemists, haematologists and pathologists – that supported the hospital, and indeed the Midlands as a region. I never met with any opposition to the idea of making educational materials and sharing them for free! I was welcomed very enthusiastically. Everyone I worked with instantly saw the benefits of producing JOINT training materials and SHARING them for free on the web.

Working a the hospital was a new experience for me. I’d been a laboratory scientist for many years, and had probably lost site of the fact that our samples and investigations did in fact represent a person’s true life story. I remember one day when the laboratory was waiting for the results on two blood samples from twins.  Both were at risk of an inherited disease. When the results came  though and both babies were affected, the atmosphere in the lab was one of devastation. The people working there were completely concerned for the patients and families first and foremost. That was a huge lesson for me.

The Future?

Open education – open educational resources (OERs) – are widely used in schools, colleges and universities now around the world. Open activities in the US, Africa, India, Japan and in many other countries are a key part of education policy. Learning materials, courses and social networking OPENLY are now part of every day life, and continue to grow.

The success is so much that in fact you need to be wary of activities and ventures that call themselves OPEN just to appeal! Many open courses will require your email and contact details, and actually NOT contain Creative Commons openly licensed materials. You won’t be able to download or reuse them. Watch out for back-door costs associated with some of these, such as invitations to pay for a certificate. This is certainly NOT why the majority of us spend our own time (and money) promoting open education. I do it because:

  • It is great fun!
  • It makes sense to share expertise, knowledge and materials for the sake of learning.
  • I would love people to take these materials and do something else with them.

I maintain FOUR blogs and will soon be starting up a FIFTH. FOUR of these are in my own time and with my own money. You can visit the others below, and I would LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU – what you think, resources you would like, or if you would like to collaborate.

Best wishes for 2014!

Details of other websites can be found on my blog:


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Viv talks about open education at the Queen’s visit to De Montfort University.

I was delighted to be able to bag a spot to talk about OPEN EDUCATION as part of De Montfort University’s Queen’s Diamond Jubilee visit! This was on Thursday 8th of March and it was quite a challenge being usually accustomed for talking for at least 50 minutes to have to cram everything into just 3 minutes!

open education lecture

Image: Viv giving it some on speaker’s corner for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee visit! Creative Commons BY SA.

Speed was of the essence but I successfully talked about OPEN EDUCATION and how it started, and how it is now spreading around the globe, as academic institutions are opening their doors and sharing their learning materials. I said that the key to opening the doors was the Creative Commons open licence, and explained to the audience of students, staff and visitors, to look out for the CC LOGO on the internet.

I spoke about our THREE OPEN EDUCATION PROJECTS – VAL (Virtual Analytical Laboratory) which started way back in 2008. SCOOTER – this current website – which started in 2009 to support sickle cell education, and this year, our new project HALS OER (Health and Life Science Open Educational Resources) which is releasing all sorts of life science learning materials from biomedical science, to forensic science to midwifery.

In my talk I mentioned my favourite email ever received – from a trash collector in the USA who had visited VAL and looked at our microscope videos and animations. He said he always wanted to know how a microscope worked, and thanked us for the resources. I finished my talk with perhaps our greatest open educational resource of all time – Frank Livingstone’s book on the genetics of haemoglobinopathies. I am so grateful for his daughter Amy to have given us permission to release this book – it is a great endorsement of the OPEN EDUCATION movement and what it represents.

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Sticky: Welcome to our website!

This website contains FREE and OPEN LICENSED learning resources about the blood, and has been developed in particularly to support the understanding of sickle cell disease. This website contains NEWS and BLOG articles by me, (Dr Viv Rolfe), and OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES – OERs we call them – that you can use, reuse, download and share for FREE.

Please browse our OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES by going to the “OERS” link, or you can use the left hand navigation bar to search. All our resources are available to view from this site and download. The resources are also often located externally on YouTube and Flickr. All are licensed under Creative Commons.

The NEWS articles are all about sickle cell, and also contain my experiences of being involved in open education for a number of years now. This project started in 2010, and OERs are still being contributed to the site, and the visitor rate on this website, YouTube and Flickr is in the hundreds of thousands.

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