A growing number of universities are adopting a crowdfunding approach to support the innovative ideas of staff and students, and Oxford is no exception. With a grant from the IT Innovation Challenges run by IT Services, Isis Innovation has developed a crowdfunding platform, OxREACH. On 10 April the first project to take advantage of the platform reached its goal: £62,363 to develop a mobile app to teach healthcare workers in Africa to identify and manage neonatal emergencies.
Neonatal emergencies are responsible for more than a million deaths annually in Africa, many of them preventable. The app, aptly titled LIFE, is based on the concept of a serious game: that is, it uses ‘the motivation levers of game design – such as competition, curiosity, collaboration, individual challenge – and game media’ (http://lexicon.ft.com) to engage participants in complex tasks. Serious games are often used in professional learning: in the case of LIFE, to teach healthcare workers to follow structured care pathways. LIFE is being developed by Prof Mike English, Dr Chris Paton and Dr Hilary Edgcombe of the Medical Sciences Division, and will be tested in the field by their Kenyan partners Prof Grace Irimu and Dr John Wachira. Thanks to the app, healthcare workers in even the remotest locations will have the latest knowledge at their fingertips, allowing them to act correctly in an emergency. As part of their crowdfunding campaign, the project team produced a short video explaining the context and their approach to designing LIFE.
Academic IT Services is proud to have had a modest involvement in LIFE: Kate Lindsay, Manager for Education Enhancement, advised the project team on a strategy for crowdfunding as part of our outreach service. Another Academic IT colleague, Ylva Berglund Prytz, jointly co-ordinates the IT Innovation Challenges with Judy McAuliffe, and a number of other Academic IT staff help to review and score the ideas submitted in each round.
The next round of the IT Innovation Challenges is expected to be announced in Michaelmas Term and will be publicised (of course!) in News from Academic IT Services.
(Isis Innovation Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University, managing technology transfer and academic consulting. Parts of this article are taken from the latest issue of its publication ‘Innovation Insights’.)