Beyond the Classroom: Promoting and Supporting EDI in Health Care Education with Open Education


Beyond the Classroom is a Q&A series where ALT-2040 project teams share their thoughts and experiences leading learning transformation at UBC Okanagan.

This Q&A features:

Lead Applicant:  Dr. Zoë Soon

Project:  Development of Open Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology Instructor and Student Resources that Promote and Support EDI in Health Care Education

Please provide a short overview of your project. 

The project is an ambitious one. Undertaken in collaboration with UBCV and BCIT, we set out to create the first-ever set of Open Education Resources (OER) for Pathophysiology designed for students and instructors of Health Care Professional Programs. Pathophysiology is a core course required by multiple programs (including Nursing and Medicine) at every institute worldwide. Together, the OER resources we are creating are being organized in a Pressbook. This Pressbook will be an e-textbook covering the most common diseases and disorders in Canada that includes the following features:

  1. An EDI guide to facilitate and improve both instruction and patient care, using more appropriate and respectful terms regarding biological sex and ethnicity instead of terms that are gender-binary or racially-based. This provides a much-needed update to current publisher-produced textbooks.  
  2. Sets of engaging and interactive student resources involving practice Q&A, case studies and 3D images, which encourage student curiosity, reflection and mastery of each topic. While each activity is incorporated into the Pressbook we are creating, they have the added benefit of being embedded into LMS platforms by instructors and are equipped with auto-feedback & marking.
  3. Sets of instructor-friendly lesson plans and ideas for demos and activities to support student active learning. Each set has associated learning outcomes (LOs) listed so that instructors can pick and choose which topics and sections for their class based on LOs, as well as report these LOs to their institute or other stakeholders if required.
  4. Knowledge Spotlights that highlight research contributions to this field by traditionally marginalized peoples, including overlooked Canadians, to inspire students and increase exposure to hidden role models in the field. The idea is to raise student awareness regarding IBPOC and LGBTQS+ contributions as well as to increase exposure to and encourage more diversity in STEM. 
What inspired you to pursue this project? 

So many things inspired me to pursue this project:

  • The need for a cost-free textbook accessible to all students.
  • The need for current (up-to-date), interactive and engaging student-centric study resources and tools that are both valuable and enjoyable for students. This also means that lessons would be embedded with relevancy and connections to current healthcare settings. I am cognizant that today’s students have different skill sets, needs and expectations than in the past. I believe it is important that the student resources are modern.
  • The strong need to improve inclusivity by updating the language currently used in textbooks regarding terms such as biological sex, gender and race. It is vitally important that all resources support IBPOC and LGBTQ2+ individuals (including students, faculty and future patients). Resources need to use appropriate, culturally sensitive and inclusive terms.
  • The need to promote and encourage diversity in STEM by developing Knowledge Spotlights which shine a light on the contributions of traditionally marginalized and overlooked people to their respective fields. Additionally, we will be using these spotlights to increase student exposure to potential role models (and perhaps future graduate student supervisors) as well as encourage diversity in STEM.
  • The need to incorporate universal design and accessibility features into Pathophysiology course materials to ensure access and multiple means of knowledge acquisition for all students and instructors.
  • The need for student-centric activities and texts that can be used in any classroom (in-person, online) across the globe that are flexible, as well as easy to update and improve in the future.
  • The desire to reframe undergraduate academic program design in terms of learning outcomes and competencies. This also serves to improve the academic program design in terms of embedding EDI components as well as learning outcomes and competencies that therefore facilitate the articulation of courses from one institute to another.
  • The desire to provide learning opportunities for students. This ALT-2040 project exclusively funds the hiring of students. As such, this fund has provided the opportunity to mentor and train students in many facets: literature review, academic writing, current pedagogy, online lesson development, software design, 3D-image laser scanning and photogrammetry as well as a chance for students to review and master course content (human anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology). This project has involved collaboration with faculty members across three campuses as well as staff members at UBC Studios Okanagan and UBC Okanagan STAR. All members involved have gained valuable, hands-on learning. Students were able to develop many skills as listed above (including communication, group work and time management) as well as the opportunity to explore various academic, career and personal goals and directions.
How has your project impacted student learning?

Although this project is in its infancy, we have already started seeing an impact on student learning. Amazingly, in less than one year, we have already had 13,888 unique visitors to our Pressbook from all over the world (including Canada, India, the USA, the Philippines, Australia, Egypt, the UK, Malaysia and Thailand).   

Additionally, I hope the students we have hired have learned a lot, too.  So far, I have been fortunate to have three student volunteers and have hired an additional 10 part-time students from UBC Okanagan. These students have been involved in several aspects of the project depending on their interests, including learning how to create citations, review literature, create academic & textbook writings, develop software activities, create hand-drawn illustrations and electronic images, and become familiar with current pedagogy, curriculum and lesson design.    

So far, these students have written an EDI guide for students and instructors as well as eight Knowledge Spotlights.   

Over the last two months, with student insight, I have been most involved in the creation of interactive student learning activities within the Pressbook as well as topic content. So far, I have created 18 activities and each one has had between 50 to 250 unique visiting participants earlier this year.

Why is learning transformation important to you? 

Helping students to learn tricky concepts in an inviting, inclusive and engaging manner is very important to me. I am grateful to be part of this project which has allowed me to start crafting resources that will be free for students all over the world, as well as helpful and valuable in their understanding of human anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology.     

What has been the biggest surprise or biggest takeaway from your ALT-2040 project? 

This project is very time-consuming, but very rewarding at the same time. I hope to continue being able to contribute to the development of these valuable Open Education Resources that I know will be of value to so many courses, including my own. My happiest moments have come from students who are thrilled to be working on EDI pieces for the project. As well, the first-year students in my current Human Anatomy and Physiology course have been loving trying out the interactive activities that I have been creating for them. I didn’t think we would be able to publish anything so soon, but I’m so glad that we did. Students have already expressed that these resources have helped them to prepare for their midterm exams this termI very much appreciate the support of the Department of Biology, the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science as well as the UBC Okanagan ALT-2040 fund.   

How did the collaboration of your project team support the success of this project? 

Every team member on our project has been so valuable and helpful. We have many members (faculty, staff and students) on three campuses supporting the development and coordination of the proposal. We have been fortunate to have individuals who have OER, EDI, and curriculum design knowledge to provide important insights and support. We have UBC librarians assisting with the Pressbook design, OER data storage and copyright information. Media studios at UBCV, UBCO and BCIT are helping to create videos and images as well as helping to train students.  

Basically, all of our members have been helpful in creating some aspect of the materials for our Pathology Pressbook (e.g., text, 3D images, photographs, interactive activities and illustrations).   

The key to success is having a group of individuals who are caring and compassionate, and who work well together and support each other. Time, generosity, kindness and excellent communication have permeated and cemented an excellent collaboration that I’m sure will continue well into the future.    

What advice would you give to someone who is considering developing an ALT-2040 proposal? 
  1. Be sure to have a novel idea that has a wide impact.
  2. There are excellent staff and students at UBC Okanagan to support all aspects of projects (e.g., development and implementation)
Is there any additional information you would like to include? 

Our Pathology Pressbook project is a work in progress. However, it has many completed pieces, containing all of the OER materials we have developed so far. It can be viewed at: 


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