AU researchers launch open educational resource to combat misinformation
Animated video, co-created by AU researchers and Alberta youth, is an open educational resource that can support confidence in making complex health decisions
A new open educational resource (OER) intended to increase vaccine confidence and help youth understand how to make difficult decisions is now available for anyone to use.
When the global COVID-19 pandemic came to public attention in March 2020, what followed was a flood of misinformation, disinformation, and skepticism around the science of vaccination. This prompted a call from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for resources and events to encourage Canada’s confidence in vaccination.
In response to this challenge, an interdisciplinary group of AU researchers came together with a group of Alberta youth. They created an OER that speaks directly to youth confidence in making health decisions and understanding what may be misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation.
“We work to create collaborative, interdisciplinary resources addressing real-world problems. We thought OERs are a really good way to do this, and vaccine confidence is one of those real-world problems,” said Dr. Stella George, an assistant professor of computing and information systems in the Faculty of Science and Technology.
An OER is intended to be freely used and distributed by learners and educators. Many, like the OER George and her colleagues launched, are released under Creative Commons licenses.
“We wanted to address the complexities facing all youth in terms of making health decisions—not just about vaccination, but places where the information that’s out there may sound credible, but isn’t necessarily credible.”– Dr. Stella George
By youth, for youth
George said it was clear early on that to create something relevant to youth, they would need to involve youth in the process right from the start.
She and Dr. Connie Blomgren, an associate professor of education in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, reached out to Dr. Karen Cook, an associate professor in the Faculty of Health Disciplines. Cook’s nursing background and experience working with youth in health-care research were important in addressing the specific topic of vaccine confidence.
The researchers enlisted the support of Pulp Studios in Edmonton to create an animation. They worked with youth from Vista Virtual School in Calgary and the Sinkunia Community Development Organization in Edmonton, which works with new African immigrations, specifically looking at supporting youth. They collaboratively planned and executed the work in a way that would resonate with youth struggling with questions about making difficult health decisions, such as vaccination.
“We wanted to address the complexities facing all youth in terms of making health decisions—not just about vaccination, but places where the information that’s out there may sound credible, but isn’t necessarily credible,” George said. “So there’s a digital literacy component involved in that, too.”
An open educational resource
The end result of this collaboration is an 8-minute animated video, Vaccine Confidence, which follows the protagonist Kori as they navigate complicated decisions around vaccination.
The video, voiced in part by youth co-creators, shares important information about how to sort the misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation from good, reliable information—including providing several easy-to-understand steps anyone can take to help make well-informed decisions.
“The storyline, how the characters play out within that story, and what the characters are like, was all conceived by our youth co-creators,” George said. “Connie, Karen, and I put structure around it.”
But it wasn’t always a straightforward process, with so many co-creators at the table bringing their own different perspectives: youth, researchers, and animators.
“You have to go with what you have, the input from youth and their perspectives,” Blomgren said. “There was so much ongoing collaboration, not just 1 and done. It was a constant reiterative process, and there was a lot of learning form all of us about what it means to work alongside 1 another.”
At a June 7 virtual launch event for the video, Vista Virtual School associate principal Frank McCallum said that while many students were initially cautious about getting involved, that changed as the project evolved and students began to understand the goals and outcomes.
“There was a certain momentum that developed over time; it was kind of like a rock rolling down a hill,” he said. “What we see here is a polished version of what we have talked about through so many planning sessions.”
“We want to try to continue to build it out a little bit now, provided we get the funding to do that.”– Dr. Connie Blomgren
Sharing the message about vaccine confidence
With the OER now released, the researchers are looking for opportunities to present the video to groups and build awareness of the benefits of this type of OER, including a planned presentation in October 2023 at the Open Education Global Conference in Edmonton.
They will also look at other funding opportunities that could support the creation of some written resources, other interactive activities on the topic of vaccine confidence, and further study from a pedagogical perspective on how to do this kind of collaborative work efficiently and effectively.
“We want to try to continue to build it out a little bit now, provided we get the funding to do that,” Blomgren said.