We are pleased to announce that the BEST Network and Smart Sparrow will continue to be part of teaching in Medicine at UNSW beyond the BEST Network project period.

The Biomedical Education Skills and Training (BEST) Network is a community of biomedical schools creating an online repository of biomedical education resources – providing a valuable opportunity to share and collaborate. It inherits the leadership, philosophy and direction from the government funded BEST Network Project. As a not-for-profit entity, it will use income from institutional subscriptions to run and develop the Network.

The BEST Network community is steadily growing beyond the founding partners of UNSW Australia together with University of Queensland, University of Melbourne and James Cook University.

A launch at UNSW Australia on 26 June 2014 celebrated the continuation of the BEST Network beyond the original funding period and thanked the key participants.

UNSW academics celebrating the launch of the BEST Network.

With 635 registered members from 137 institutions and companies worldwide and nearly 12,000 visitors to the website since its launch in October 2013, the BEST Network is continually expanding.

Geographical distribution of BEST members at June 2014.

Professor Nicholas Hawkins, the chair of the BEST Network and head of the School of Medical Sciences at the UNSW Australia, reflected on the motivations behind starting BEST, with changes to the way education is delivered and the growth in collaborations between universities.

“Education is changing, our students are changing and their expectations about how they are educated are changing and that was a really important consideration when moving to a new way of teaching.” – Professor Hawkins

Professor Hawkins introducing the BEST Network.

The BEST Network is about sharing knowledge – not just resources and sharing not only with our students but also amongst teachers. In academia, researchers have been expected to collaborate for a long time, but it is only recently that universities have started joining together to collaborate in the education of their students. The BEST Network, with its mission to “improve biomedical education both in Australia and internationally by supporting the collaborative sharing of educational knowledge and resources” is actively doing this now and perfectly placed to support academics in the future.

Through project deployment trials, the collaborating institutions, UNSW Australia, University of Melbourne, University of Queensland and James Cook University have worked together as institutions, as schools and as departments leveraging the functionality and structures provided by the BEST Network. Importantly the universities have investigated and addressed the legal and ethical issues associated with the creation of a resource that is shared between institutions. Our partners in this vision, Smart Sparrow, provided support and created the technology that underpins in the network.

Having worked on the project since April 2013 when work on the medical image bank, Slice, first began, I had the opportunity to present Slice, and give examples of how academics and students can use it in class or remotely. With over 5600 images with descriptive data, UNSW Australia is currently using Slice as a long-term solution for sourcing and sharing biomedical images.

Stephanie discussing the content available on Slice.

This includes replacing UNSW’s in-house virtual slide repository and making campus museums (the Museum of Human Disease and the UNSW Anatomy Museum) available remotely through photography of their collections. As Slice is integrated into the Smart Sparrow adaptive eLearning Platform, academics are also incorporating these images into online tutorials for their classes, with over 70 tutorials currently available on BEST.

Breakdown of images and tutorials available on BEST in June 2014.

Diane Vukelic, the Project Manager has played an integral role in engaging project participants and has overseen the trial of the technologies at UNSW Australia, as well as at collaborating universities and professional bodies. Diane gave an overview of the experience of academics in creating and adapting teaching materials that are used either in class or for pre- or post-class revision. The project has involved over 30 academics in the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Science, and has given them experience in creating online tutorials; experience they will be able to build upon as UNSW provides more online material as part of its blended learning focus.

Diane presenting the use of virtual slides in project trials.

The event gave staff the chance to talk to colleagues, the Smart Sparrow team and the BEST Project team, and to see more examples that may inspire the creation of teaching materials or new collaborations.

UNSW Academics and content creators discussing tutorials.

More images from the launch: