Health and Community Development Course Aims to Lessen Student Fees
It’s obvious that Joy Fraser is passionate about the revised Health and Community Development course that’s currently being created at Athabasca University. The Professor and Director for Health Administration knows first-hand the importance of community development, having worked with First Nations’ populations in Canada and with the World Health Organization (WHO) on international projects in Switzerland, Kuwait and the Caribbean to name just a few. She’s also worked with The Kigali Health Institute in Rwanda and the Dubai Health Authority.
In the past, the course used various expensive text books, and at several points had to be revised when the books became outdated or were no longer available from the publishers. It was an ongoing struggle. The solution was to create the course using completely open and free resources with the help of funding from the Open Educational Resources Initiative.
“In the past, the course used various expensive text books, and at several points had to be revised when the books became outdated or were no longer available from the publishers. It was an ongoing struggle.“
Fraser put a sabbatical on hold in order to develop the course, the content of which will be available online as an Open Educational Resource (OER) to anyone. Those who wish to take the course for credit, will pay still pay a fee, but the content is being completely revised and the new course will be available as an OER. And all of the reading materials will be from free resources such as government websites, articles by the WHO, peer reviewed sources and other journals published under the terms of Creative Commons Licensing, rather than costly academic textbooks.
Before submitting a proposal and at the planning stage, Fraser decided to use a community development approach to develop the Health and Community Development course, starting with Athabasca University’s own Course Development team (CDT) which was put together specifically for the project. She also invited her colleague Dr. Jane Arscott, coordinator for the Human Services Program, to help with project.
The course is currently being developed with input from the Multicultural Health Brokers Cooperative (MHBC) and with the help of Michael and Judie Bopp. The MHBC is an Edmonton based group of 54 multicultural health brokers who represent 22 cultural and linguistic communities in Edmonton.
“At the very first meeting with Yvonne Chui, Co-Director of the MHBC, it was clear that the brokers had much to offer, and they were excited at the prospect of contributing to the course,” says Fraser.
Meanwhile, the Bopps have had lengthy careers in community development, and are doing the writing for the course. They are allowing their book, Recreating the World: a practical guide to building sustainable communities, to be used in the course for free.
Many of the brokers have shared stories of their experiences in community development, which will become video clips within the course. “The videos will be used as exemplars of certain community development principles and issues,” says Fraser. One of the brokers shared a story about working to unite the Kurdish and the Sunni communities in Edmonton during a time of violence in Iraq — she learned about how to deliver the communities’ visions, helped secure funding to maintain their heritage language, while also finding citizenship and English language classes. “And now, the children, the second generation have developed healthy roots in the community, pursuing post-secondary education and effecting political change,” says Fraser.
Dr. Fraser says the goal of the revised course is to provide a realistic understanding of community development and the ways it can be undertaken. Fraser’s hope is that the new Health and Community Development course will be up-to-date, relevant and inspiring to students, while providing a real look at the issues surrounding community development without glossing them over.
“The goal of the revised course is to provide a realistic understanding of community development and the ways it can be undertaken. “
“There are so many communities in the world that live in conditions of poverty, gender inequality, violence and with many facing a lack of resources. The goal with community development should be to make the world a better place. And I actually think that because this course teaches people the process and the ethics and morals of working with communities, it can help reach that goal,” says Fraser.
- by Caroline Barlott