BEST Network selects OpenLearning as its new technology and operating partner

November 23, 2020

Higher education technology company OpenLearning Limited (‘OpenLearning’) and the Biomedical Education Skills and Training Network (‘BEST Network’) are pleased to announce that OpenLearning has signed a five-year agreement with UNSW and The University of Queensland, the two governing members of the BEST Network, for OpenLearning to be its new technology and operating partner.

The BEST Network is a not-for-profit network of academics and biomedical schools developing and sharing next-generation courseware and technology. The Network’s vision is that every educator and every student, wherever they are, will have access to the best biomedical education.

Originally established as a government-funded project in 2012, BEST Network’s Founding Members created the online Network ( as a not-for-profit academic collaboration in 2014. The development of the Network has, to date, been strongly underpinned by the innovative technology and professionalism of Smart Sparrow Ltd (‘Smart Sparrow’). Today, BEST Network is comprised of its two governing members (UNSW and The University of Queensland) as well as five other Australian universities and five international universities, including University of Massachusetts Medical School and Kings College London. Smart Sparrow has recently been acquired by education giant Pearson, creating the opportunity for OpenLearning to take on the role of technology and operating partner for the Network.

OpenLearning is a Sydney-based, ASX-listed, education technology company that provides a scalable online learning platform and learning design services to education providers; and a global marketplace of world-class short courses and online degrees for learners. It has partnerships with 143 higher education providers, corporations and government agencies who utilise its platform to deliver courses to more than 2.6 million learners worldwide, with a focus on short courses and micro-credentials.

The BEST Network’s most widely used application is Slice, a curated collection of over 21,000 medical images. Slice, an innovative cloud application, functions as a kind of “Google Maps of biomedical images”. Its capacity to display and annotate “virtual microscopy” images enables faculty at the world’s top universities to provide their students with images of human, animal and microbial tissues, both in health and disease. This knowledge is central to a wide range of life sciences including medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary science and biology. Users of Slice can annotate, share, organise and upload their own images to the database, allowing for real-time collaboration with other experts, no matter where they are located in the world.

OpenLearning plans to focus its efforts on expanding the capability of Slice to solidify its position as the world’s leading tool for teaching with biomedical images. At the same time, OpenLearning will work to ensure the long-term sustainability of the BEST Network by streamlining its membership model and improving its technology so that it operates independently of Smart Sparrow and can integrate fully with leading learning management systems and platforms.

At the same time, BEST Network will establish the Global Scholarship and Development Fund (GSDF), which will be a competitive grant program open to all members of the BEST Network that will provide funding for research and development in the field of biomedical education. The GSDF will be overseen by a new committee that will be established by the BEST Network Management Committee. The BEST Network will announce more details about the GSDF in due course.

BEST Network will be governed by the BEST Network Management Committee, which includes representatives from UNSW and The University of Queensland, BEST Network Director Prof. Nicholas Hawkins and starting from the 23rd November 2020, OpenLearning founder and Group CEO Adam Brimo.

OpenLearning Group CEO & Managing Director Adam Brimo said: “We are very pleased to sign this agreement with UNSW Sydney and The University of Queensland to be the new technology and operating partner of the BEST Network and to work closely with its director, Professor Nicholas Hawkins. The founding vision of the BEST Network closely aligns with OpenLearning’s mission to increase access to higher quality education and we are committed to supporting the network, and in particular Slice, to reach its full potential.”

BEST Network Director Professor Nicholas Hawkins said: “We are excited about the opportunity to work with OpenLearning to grow the BEST Network globally, and to further enhance Slice, our online image tool. Slice empowers teachers and learners to create and share knowledge about complex biomedical images online. The opportunity to build on the success of Slice is particularly timely, given the importance of virtual learning in today’s physically-distanced world. We also take the opportunity to thank the founders and staff of Smart Sparrow Ltd., who have worked tirelessly over many years to help us create the systems and tools that now power learning for our members.”

For further information, please contact:

Cherie Diaz

Managing Director, Australia

BEST Network
Stephanie Dowdell, PhD
Network Manager

About BEST Network

The BEST Network began as a government funded $4.5M project in 2012 to establish a network of leading biomedical schools and peak industry bodies set to revolutionise biomedical education by addressing a critical need in biomedical education world-wide: the need for easy sharing of knowledge, expertise, courseware and technologies.

In 2014, the BEST Network’s Founding Members - UNSW, The University of Queensland, University of Melbourne and James Cook University - established the Network as a not-for-profit venture. The BEST Network institutional membership fees cover running costs of the network with the remainder used for further improvement of the Network’s shared resources.

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About OpenLearning

OpenLearning Limited (ASX: OLL) is a Sydney-based education technology company that provides a scalable online learning platform to education providers and a global marketplace of world-class courses for learners of all levels.

OpenLearning’s platform enables the delivery of project-based, social learning to encourage interaction among users and foster a community of collaborative learners. The company’s unique service provides a complete learning environment for all types of online education - from short courses through to micro-credentials and online degrees.

With more than 2.6 million learners worldwide across over thousands of courses provided by 143 education providers, OpenLearning is at the forefront of a new wave of online education delivery.

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