Public Health Capacity-Building and Web 2.0 – the Peoples-uni

Author(s): R. F. Heller1
Affiliation(s): 1Peoples-uni, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Key messages:

1 – There is a wealth of educational resource freely available on the Internet, but to be really useful it needs to be set in the context of an educational programme.
2 – Peoples-uni helps to build Public Health capacity in low- to middle-income countries, using volunteers to develop and deliver modules and courses which use Open Educational Resources, and which are of much lower cost than courses offered by universities.
3 – The experience of the Peoples-uni so far, suggests that this model of capacity-building has considerable potential, even if there are difficulties in realising the full potential of the concept of Web 2.0.

Summary (max 100 words):

The Peoples-uni (http://peoples-uni.org) aims to help build Public Health capacity in low- to middle-income countries (LMIC). It is based on the existence of high quality, online Open Educational Resources (OER) freely available through the Internet. Use of OER and volunteer staff allows costs to be kept to those that can be met by the target audience. A group of nearly 70 volunteers are helping develop course modules, covering major Public Health problems and the foundation sciences of Public Health, leading to certificate and diploma awards to be offered by the UK Society of Public Health. A single course module covering Maternal Mortality, aimed at Public Health professionals, was piloted with 38 health professionals from 8 countries, using the open source educational platform, Moodle. An evaluation revealed that gaining knowledge and skills were rated as more important than academic credit, and the academic value of the course was judged excellent or good by the majority of the respondents, with a majority also reporting that this module was relevant to their job or career and that they would enrol in more course modules. In the spirit of Web 2.0, we have invited the students to recommend the topics of future course modules and to join in the course development and delivery, although most students so far have found it difficult to go beyond the role of the traditional student. We wish to be responsive to the real capacity-building needs of the communities in LMICs, and to ensure that the education is appropriately localised. For this purpose, and to ensure that we add value to local LMIC organisations, we seek to engage partners and collaborators in these countries.

Conclusion (max 400 words):

Peoples-uni is an Internet-based educational initiative, using Open Educational Resources, to assist with Public Health capacity-building in LMICs. A pilot course module was well received, and an international faculty has come together to develop and offer courses to the certificate and diploma level. Collaboration and participation between teachers and students, and with organisations in LMICs, are key goals.

Lessons learned:

On-line education, taking advantage of Open Educational Resources and volunteers, has considerable potential to contribute to capacity-building in low- to middle-income countries. Taking full advantage of the possibilities of Web 2.0 is difficult in the educational arena.

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