Interest in open educational resources (OER) can be said to have moved from open-license material creation, to repositories, to sharing open practice. OER reuse and repurposing grew slowly, due to quality concerns and lack of a sense of materials ownership (ICDE, 2010). At the same time, learners and educators were discovering free online materials (YouTube, Kahn Academy, iTunes U) (Weller, 2015), considering open licensing when they ran into problems.
TeachMeAnatomy matches the second description. Beginning with one medical student who crowdsourced helpers through social media, it grew into a sustainable, internationally popular website/app with articles vetted by its user community. It is a product of open culture.
Purpose: TeachMeAnatomy addressed a clear need; a free, user-friendly anatomy resource, tailored to the needs of medical students.
Method: The website was built using open-source WordPress. To rapidly develop content, the writing process was crowdsourced via social media to anatomists, medical students and junior doctors. Public-domain and Creative Commons images were sought and adapted. Adverts were eventually incorporated to fund further development. This allowed a new design to be commissioned, attracting more visitors and increasing advertising revenue enough to fund development of an app.
Impact: TeachMeAnatomy currently receives over 30,000 daily worldwide views, 33% of users from outside the Americas and Europe. The resource is intentionally optimised for use with phones and basic computers, and 39% of users access it via mobile devices.
In a survey of preclinical medical students at , 69% of respondents described the website as more effective than other anatomy textbooks, and 92% more effective than other anatomy websites. Qualitative feedback emphasised the concise, structured nature of the resource.
In keeping with its open culture, users from various organisations have repurposed TeachMeAnatomy content in their own work, including Oxford University, Missouri School of Medicine, Springer Publishers and Össur UK.
Conclusion: TeachMeAnatomy is a uniquely profitable and popular openish resource (Pearce, 2012), built by learners for learners, which “leap-frogged” over difficulties experienced by earlier OER initiatives. The drawback of its model is in quality assurance difficulties, since resources were curated and written by students and practitioners not in a position to approve materials for use by, for example, the Leicester Medical School. This issue is beginning to be addressed, and different ways of enlisting the help of experts into the user community are being tried in new resource development.
Future plans involve the development a surgical resource, launched in August 2015. The authors also plan to further analyse user behaviour on the resource, and better optimise the site for CC-licensed open content sharing.
ICDE (2010) ‘Open Educational Practices » Open Educational Quality Initiative – OPAL’, ICDE Website, [online] Available from: http://tinyurl.com/p9y4msx (Accessed 5 November 2015).
Pearce, N. (2012) Developing students as OER content scavengers, [online] Available from: http://www8.open.ac.uk/score/developing-students-oer-content-scavengers.
Weller, M. (2015) Webinar on impact of Open Education – Findings from the OER Research Hub, Online United Kingdom.