Executive Summary

The time has come. There is a strong consensus that we have to take significant steps “to ensure that veterinary medical education meets the needs of our changing society.”  The North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium is preparing an ambitious action plan to make this happen.

Tools to make it happen. While preparing, promoting and producing these important changes, the following tools may be helpful:

  • A strong, up-to-date, easy -to-use technological framework;
  • Up-to-date collaborative practices that can significantly improve collaboration outcomes while saving  time;
  • Business models that will make such change sustainable.

Up-to-date models. Researchers suggest that we need up-to-date models to create outstanding results in the Web 2.0 era. We should not rely on traditional business and collaborative models from “the Pre-Web 2.0 Era.” Those tools were created for the pre-Internet world and cannot deliver the desired results in 2011.

The perfect time to make a change. As veterinary professionals, we—much like our society, our students, our customers and partners — know that change is needed, and everything we need is well-developed and ready to use. As William Gibson so wonderfully noted, "The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed yet." In our context, that means that all the tools and practices we need have been created; we just need to connect and distribute them in the field of veterinary education.

1) Technological framework.

Four years ago, Dr. Bernardo (2006) wrote:

  • New means of collaborating to organize, share, and impart knowledge are proliferating and will be brought to bear on education, research, and service. We will have the tools at hand; we must also inculcate the necessary behaviors to operate more successfully in the future.

Today we have those tools at hand. For example:

[Moodle is the LMS of choice for VetICE; therefore, for this example we use Moodle.]

Community Hub. The new Moodle Learning Management System, Moodle 2.0, comes with the finalized Community Hub Framework. Through this Community Hub, users from all participating institutions can easily find courses or communities of practice of all the partners in their network.  It supports a single-sign-on option so students and teachers can roam from one school’s Moodle installation to another ‘s (subject to permission, of course). Also, educators from different institutions can collaborate on course development or share course templates.

Central and local management. Moodle and the Community Hub Framework provide a strong environment for local and centralized development and management. Each institution member of the Veterinary Community Hub can have one or more independent Moodle sites and multiple institutions can use the same Moodle installation. Therefore, each institution can join the network without fear that they will lose their sovereignty, yet numerous institutions (with absolute control over their local settings) can collaborate together, creating an extremely productive central organization.

Traditional structure and Web 2.0 options. The Moodle Learning Management System provides a structured environment where everything can be monitored and controlled. At the same time, Moodle 2.0 is an integral part of the Web 2.0 environment. Therefore, with Moodle 2.0, we can combine the best of both worlds to create a customized combination that will fit our needs.

ePortfolio and academic social networking. Mahara, an open source ePortfolio and social-networking Web application, already used by a few veterinary schools, is a new addition to the Moodle family. It provides users with tools to create and maintain a digital portfolio of their learning from their very first pre-veterinary course to advanced achievements in their veterinary careers.  Mahara also has social-networking features to allow users to interact with each other, with schools, and with employers and recruiters.

2) Practices. Online Collaboration, Openness, Peering, Sharing, and Acting Globally have become recognizable characteristics of global success. Google, Wikipedia, and Facebook on the Internet, and schools, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard and Yale, are among the most well-known examples.

Changing the way we do things is always a challenging task. However, we now have numerous good examples, a big population of users who already employ new practices, and powerful and easy-to-use tools.  Finally, it is becoming obvious that with new tools, we can reduce information overload (e.g. 20 e-mails per day), while increasing knowledge production.

3) Business model.  The new collaborative world of 2.0 is significantly different from the pre-Internet era. Therefore, traditional business models can have only limited success in this environment.  Instead, the new business model, Freemium, has created new economic giants such as Google and Facebook, and is a very useful part of business strategy used by such schools as MIT, Yale, Harvard and Open University. Of course, our goal should not be the development of a new Google or a new Wikipedia, but the combining of classic, proven academic practices with new, ultra-productive Web 2.0 features.

Freemium is a hybrid business model that combines a free offering with a premium, paid offering (free + premium = Freemium). In addition to premium services, revenue may come from a variety of sources: primary advertising, donations and user-generated value.

Freemium and the academic community. Freemium is deeply rooted in the academic community.  For example, academics regularly publish their research results – for free.   Although academics share the most valuable part of their work for free, premium services, such as teaching, consultancy or grants, can generate significant revenue.

Building momentum around a clear and shared vision, well-planned actions, collaboration and the involvement of stakeholders and leaders at all levels while being innovative, flexible, open and outcome-oriented can significantly increase the success of a project.

Sustainable improvement. To make the changes sustainable, we may consider strategic changes in: the technological framework, the business model, quality control, the organizational structure, partnerships, and administrative and academic procedures.

What is possible now? Two case studies on what is possible now, one from teachers’ and another from students’ perspectives are presented in the document.  A real-life example is available at www.hub.veted.net.

What the Veterinary Community Hub could look like?

What the Veterinary Community Hub could look like? Visit www.hub.VetEd.Net


Hub - search options. Source HUB.VetEd.NetThis example offers the following:

  • Find: Enroll or Download
  • Designed for: Students, Teachers or Administrators
  • Educational Level: Veterinary Technology, Pre-veterinary, Veterinary Students, Specialties, Educators, Continuous Veterinary Education
  • Subject: Numerous options (check the example to the left)
  • License: We can search for courses that are licensed in a particular way.
  • Language
  • Keywords: We can search for courses containing specific text in the name, description and other database fields.

Case Studies