Friday, February 8, 2008

Writing a proposal for Open Access midwifery education

I have been asked to write a proposal to make two courses Open Access that we run at Otago Polytechnic School of Midwifery. Both courses are aimed at overseas midwives who emigrate to New Zealand and who are required by the Midwifery Council of New Zealand to complete modules that will prepare them for practice in New Zealand: 'Pharmacology and Prescribing', and 'New Zealand Midwifery for Registered Midwives'. They have to have completed these courses before they are given full midwifery registration here.

Otago Polytechnic is one of several institutions in New Zealand that run these courses. Both courses are delivered online in BlackBoard, which means they are only accessible to the enrolled students. The Pharmacology and Prescribing course also attracts New Zealand midwives but on the whole, the number of enrolled students are very small.

The courses are continuous or roll-over enrollment: they deliver material which the student works her way through, and the student's knowledge is assessed by assignments which she submits for marking. There are also formative worksheets that the student can work through for her own learning and development. There is little or no interaction with lecturers, and because the enrollments are continuous rather than a fixed time frame, there is no interaction between students.

I have to admit I do not know much about Open Access apart from my own personal experience of joining an Open Access Course. I know that Otago Polytechnic has an Open Access policy but haven't really looked at it in any great detail. So here's my chance to find out more.

I have been asked to include in my proposal:
  • what the advantages are;
  • what would be involved with moving to Open Access
  • why would Otago Polytechnic School of Midwifery want to do this?
My initial thoughts are that it:
  • would give midwives free access to information that will inform their practice and professional development
  • may help increase our enrollments, although I am skeptical about this
  • will help us to maintain our claim that we are 'a leader in midwifery education' because as far as I can see, there are very few Open Access midwifery courses available
  • will provide research/evaluation opportunities and outputs for us as we monitor the success or otherwise of this venture
  • will allow midwives to prepare their assignments before they emigrate, which will save them time when they get here. Many midwives find they are very busy settling into their new homes/jobs when they arrive and it takes them ages to complete these courses.
How would I do it? Not too sure. Would probably move all the material over to a blogging platform.

So I would be grateful for any suggestions or feedback about what to include into my proposal, including any great references or research.

Is Open Access really as desirable or achievable as it is being mooted at the moment?

What evidence is there to support the idea that people interact with Open Access education material for their own professional development and learning?

What is the best way of presenting Open Access material for people who have only basic computer skills?

Do you know of any Open Access midwifery or health courses?

Image: 'Free 2 Run'


Anonymous said...

A comment from a lay position: the lack of interaction among students and among lecturers seems a disadvantage, especially for people entering NZ from overseas, as this course looks like one directed very much at the cultural as well as structual aspects of NZ midwifery. Cultural issues and ideas like cultural safety sound like they would be best taught in seminar mode and through contact with NZ inhabitants. If you do want this to be aimed at people studying long-distance, wouldn't this be an ideal use of the virtual envronments and networking tools you are exploring? This might also be a way to link open access courses to more traditional courses as midwives entering by different routes could exchange perspectives, and the problem of people entering at different times needn't be a problem for this sort of exchange - perhaps key topics could be discussed on rotation with newer and more experienced students offering their questions and experiences. There would be an issue of how to credit this kind of activity, especially for midwives hard-pressed for time - it couldn't just be an informal extra, but then again it would be hard to assess. I would suggest a simple obligation to contribute on a given number of occasions, with a corresponding lightening of another assessment obligation; but it depends on your course structure.

Sarah Stewart said...

You're absolutely right about this lack of interaction - it's something I have always been uncomfortable about. The trouble is, I am only getting between 4-6 students a year which makes that interaction very difficult. So it is something I am going to have to put some thought to. What I could do, which would be interesting, is to record midwives talking about their experiences of emigrating to NZ or their thoughts about cultural safety, and post them for students to listen to. What do you think of that as an idea?

Anonymous said...

I think that sounds like an excellent idea. It would be even better if there were some opportunity for students to ask questions of those talking about their experiences, but that would again be hard to arrange with so few students. You can have a decent discussion with four or five - in fact I would consider this an ideal group size for a discussion, too small for anyone to be left out - but are they all around at the same time? I don't have an idea better than the one I gave above, which was that you could use online networking tools for your mainstream students and allow open access students to drop in.

Good luck!

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you for responding to my questions. The major problem that impedes communication and interaction, especially in a synchronous way, is that the students are not usually enrolled at the same time - so it is usually only me and the student. Thats why I'm thinking that maybe recordings are as close as I am going to get to 'real-life' interactions in this situation.

Anonymous said...

is otago poly the only place that offers this course to midwives in NZ sarah? just wondering if there is any competition for these students - or is this the only avenue for progressing to NZ registration?

Sarah Stewart said...

We are in competition with other institutions. My understanding is that the pharmacology course is cheaper at other institutions but not so involved or detailed as our course is. What I do not know (but should be able to find out) is how many midwives come to the country and need to do these courses.

Carolyn said...

I do not believe it si only midwives who coming to the country that are interested in the pharmacology course. Perhaps it is with the other one. Pharmacology a topic is of interest to a wide group of praciticing midwives I believe. I think it could also be of interst to midwives practicing overseas even though the legislative and prescribing information would be from a New Zealand framework.

David McQuillan said...

Hi Sarah,

Just about to hit the hay after a long week, but I was caught by this posting :-)

Advantages to having open course materials

If you're planning on blogging the courses, you'll presumably want to build resources to WikiEducator or some other type of collaborative platform. The benefits of this approach are potentially pretty impressive (depending on how many people uptake the idea).

With my Massage Therapy Educational Resources project, I've approached other massage educators in NZ, Australia, the US & the UK, and while some have been bemused by the idea, a few have been quite excited. I believe that after about a semester or so of pouring our resources into the wiki, others will start to see the benefit of collaborating on the platform.

Think of how amazing it would be have 5-10 other midwifery educational institutions pooling course development, lesson plans, libraries of online learning resources, research resources with you. What about 1/3 of the midwifery educational institutions from around the world?

David McQuillan said...

I should add that the WikiEducator platform doesn't necessarily need to be used to teach online.

They're recently implemented applications to convert the wiki pages into .pdf documents, or other formats. This means that they can be more easily utilised in a traditional classroom context.

You can have open access without online. :-)

David McQuillan said...

Re: benefits of online teaching.

It's a bit hard to answer this type of thing without really knowing your normal student profile. I imagine that many of your students are mature, with children of varying ages. Many probably work part-time. If this is true, then the increased flexibility of an online programme will probably suit them.

I imagine that midwifery students are somewhat similar to massage students in that they are probably often fairly kinesthetic & technophobic. Is this a fair assumption?

I expected that students would be a bit more reluctant than they have been to the idea of studying partially online. For most students the increased flexiblity of the programme seemed to far outweight the fear of computers. The few students that seemed to have concerns about the use of computers became happy fairly quickly once it was explained that we had a course at the start of the programme designed to support their computer literacy development.

We will also have at least 3 students studying in Central Otago this year, which was previously impossible.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks for taking the time for all your comments David, I really appreciate them. The idea of a collaboration between a myriad of institutions is exciting and certainly we are trying to encourage that here in NZ as we develop our new curriculum. Being collaborative is slightly different from being totally open access though?

Writing a Research Paper said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.