Ford School student Kathleen Ludewig and her U-M Health Office of Enabling Technologies teammates were selected to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University

March 26, 2009

U-M students invited to present their strategy for making comprehensive health curricula available as open educational resources (OER) to healthcare educators and students.

Nejay Ananaba, School of Dentistry; Stephanie Munz, School of Dentistry; Matt Simpson, Medical School; and Kathleen Ludewig, School of Information and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy were among eleven U-M students selected to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University, which was held at The University of Texas at Austin from February 13–15, 2009.

Building on the successful model of the Clinton Global Initiative, which brings together world leaders to take action on global challenges, the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) hosts a meeting for students, national youth organizations, and university officials to discuss solutions to pressing global issues. Out of 3,500 applications, nearly 1,000 students were invited to implement their proposed "Commitments to Action" in five focus areas: education, energy & climate change, global health, peace & human rights, and poverty alleviation.

The commitment outlined by Ananaba, Munz, Simpson, and Ludewig presented a plan to make comprehensive health curricula available as open educational resources (OER) to healthcare educators and students. Increasing the number of trained healthcare workers and providing up-to-date continuing education materials for practicing healthcare professionals, are key to improving the practice and delivery of healthcare. As the team stated in their commitment, "The inadequate density and distribution of healthcare providers negatively affects health outcomes around the globe. In Africa in particular, too few health care professionals are being trained to meet local needs. A key barrier in both developed and developing countries is the lack of instructor capacity to teach both basic and clinical sciences, complicated by the duplication of effort in developing learning materials that can be shared as OER."

The U-M Health OER Student Team proposed projects encompassing both education and global health in Ghana, South Africa, and Liberia – with a longer-term commitment to making health OER available to developing countries around the world. As Simpson explained, "Our action plan includes publishing the entire first and second year, pre-clinical U-M Medical School curriculum as OER by December 2009." This is familiar territory for Simpson, as he currently participates in the dScribe process, an innovative system which leverages student/faculty interaction to gather, vet, and publish course material on an OER Web site. The dScribe process and health OER initiative receives funding from the Medical School’s Office of Enabling Technologies and a William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Grant.

The Office of Enabling Technologies is also funding a 10-week summer internship in Ghana for team-member Ludewig to develop the OER program and institutional policies with Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Ludewig elaborated, "While OER provides the potential to positively transform teaching and learning practice, its success and sustainability depend upon meaningful integration into the institutional processes of a university." Accordingly, we will offer participating universities practical support in the mapping and review of their existing policies with regard, for example, to intellectual property rights, materials development, and remuneration.

Another key component of the commitment presented at CGI U is to establish the first dental school in Liberia, and use OER as the basis for its curriculum. According to World Health Organization estimates, there are only three dentists in Liberia. The Dental School’s Liberia Dental School Project Team hopes to address that issue. Ananaba explained, "Before the civil wars, Liberia sent students abroad to train in several professions, including dentistry. Unfortunately, the students did not return after receiving their training, leaving Liberia with a huge deficit of professional expertise." Having a dental school established in Liberia will be an opportunity to train and educate dentists in that country.

The Clinton Global Initiative paid for the students' lodging and meals, however team-member Munz was not able to attend in person. "I had to stay in Ann Arbor to study for my dental board exams," she explained. No matter, Munz will have plenty to do as the team moves forward on implementing their plans through December 2009.

By Susan Topol
Publications Manager, Office of Enabling Technologies