Open Content and Courses: Food Safety Resources for Developing Countries

Award Winner: 
2011 Sloan-C Effective Practice Award
Author Information
Karen Vignare
Gwyn Shelle
Sunnie Kim
Deepa Thiagarajan
Leslie Bourquin
Hamish Gow
Christine Geith
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Michigan State University
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Food Suppliers in Developing Countries
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

The Food Safety Knowledge Network (FSKN) was created to provide cost effective technical resources in order to promote food safety in developing countries and small companies. FSKN uses a competency based model including a framework, open educational resources (OERs), and assessments which support face-to-face and fully online training in India, Egypt, China, and other developing countries. The online, open resources are searchable by topic or through an open online course.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 
At Michigan State University, considerable effort has been directed at new ways to address global issues in agriculture, especially to improve food safety and to increase access to markets for developing countries. We have developed a model centered around OER and the use of mainly open software tools that focuses on solving an issue critical to consumers, industry, and higher education. The use of OER, open software and available online was intended to make these resources and training more affordable for company employees in developing countries. This model directs content that is focused on the dissemination of best practices to address the growing need for individual competency understanding at the food manufacturing level.
The Partnership of Food Industry Development (PFID), located in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University, and MSUglobal have teamed with industry partners and foundations to support the Food Safety Knowledge Network (FSKN) project which focuses on training, information sharing, and capacity building in developing countries. This project is generously funded by the Hewlett Foundation and USAID. To date, FSKN has accomplished the following activities:
·         Developed a competency framework with industry experts from around the world
·         Developed and aggregated resources aligned with the 13 key areas outlined in the competency framework
·         Developed a competency-mapping tool
·         Developed a bank of test items assessing the 13 competency areas
·         Piloted the model through online learning and face-to-face trainings in developing countries
Project Details
The FSKN project is based on a competency model including a framework, OERs, and both pre- and post-assessments. FSKN gives participating suppliers the opportunity to achieve higher levels of food safety which in turn could ultimately allow suppliers to gain certification to the Consumer Goods Forum – Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognized schemes.
Competency Framework

The Food Safety Knowledge Network Pilot Group, jointly led by the GFSI and Michigan State University (MSU), began the development of competencies of individuals (those responsible for food safety management systems within their organizations). From December 2008 to January 2010 stakeholders held several meetings to develop the competency statements for each basic level requirement. The stakeholder group included faculty, government representatives, and private industry experts in the area of food safety.
Learning Resources/OER
A flexible, yet sustainable approach for developing learning resources was directed by the MSUglobal team of online learning experts and instructional designers. This team developed a procedure document for developing OERs in order to streamline the content development process. Learning resources were derived from recording face-to-face workshops in China, India, and Egypt. The lectures were recorded using software allowing for immediate output types including PowerPoint, video, and an audio file. The PowerPoint slides were made available as PDF and open office documents.   Training manuals and transcripts were also developed. The resources were initially produced in English but were later translated into Mandarin Chinese and Arabic.
Additional content for supporting the competencies was researched by the MSUglobal team and reviewed by food safety experts. Resources were found from other universities and non-governmental organizations. The online resources are searchable by topic or through an online course on the project web site:
At least four test items were created for each competency statement by industry experts. Once the first draft of the test items were created, they were internally reviewed and randomly selected for a pre- and post-assessment. Each assessment consisted of approximately 130 test items in addition to 10 demographic questions.  Pilot groups received the assessments for free through generous support from multiple funders. If corporations wish to use assessments currently, there is a fee.
Pilot Groups
Five pilot groups collaborated with the Food Safety Knowledge Network for training resources and assessments. The pilot groups allowed the FSKN team to develop content, test the pre- and post-assessment instruments, and also introduce the competency framework to the food safety industry. The pilots used both face-to-face and online materials and allowed for the translation of some resources into Mandarin Chinese and Arabic. The pilot groups consisted of face-to-face training in India, Egypt, and China and online training to individuals in India. Examples can be found at: and
All of the pilot programs demonstrated effectiveness of the nearly 90 training resources developed through the FSKN pilots. There was a 6-16% increase in score between the pre and post-assessment. The pilot members did vary by experience, education level, and previous training. Those with the lowest scores on the pre-tests showed the most improvement. The online learners preferred the audio files resources when compared to video. Since the materials were developed in an open format they were easily adaptable into different languages. Currently, the resources are freely available and are being used by individuals in the food industry.
Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 
The FSKN team has made significant progress in improving the availability of online, open resources relating to food safety. Achievements include the development of over 100 competency statements, the creation of over 90 OERs relating to food safety, and the development of assessment instruments. Five successful pilot programs were launched with nearly 350 participants.
The Food Safety Knowledge Network web site serves as the source for the open resources and open course. The site has seen an international audience from India, United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, China, Philippines, and Brazil.
How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

This model is innovative in the area of open educational resources. Food safety resources which previously were not accessible to the public are now openly available under a creative commons license. The model can be replicated at various levels depending on the needs of the audience and financial resources that are available. This project has an international scope especially focusing on developing countries. Potential impacts include an increase in food safety and new markets for small companies in emerging markets.  

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 
The required equipment for a project similar to the Food Safety Knowledge Network will vary depending on the audience and goals of the project. High end projects including video output synced with the presentation materials may include video capture with high quality video cameras and microphones. This will require the use of video editing software, lecture capture software, and web site development tools.
This project could be replicated using a more cost effective model if audio of the presenters is captured instead of video. This model still requires the use of capture software and a microphone. A web site could be developed using an open source platform.
Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 
The costs associated with this model will depend on the scope of the project. A high end international lecture project may cost around $10,000 per day including the capture of presenters, web site development, and production of DVDs. A more basic lecture capture project including audio instead of video may only include the cost of lecture capture software and the time of an instructional/technology designer.
References, supporting documents: 
Geith, C., Vignare, K., Bourquin, L., Thiagarajan, D. (2010). Designing Corporate Training in Developing Economies Using  Open Educational Resources. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks,   Vol. 14 (3). Available at
Geith, C., Butcher, N., Vignare, K., Yergler, N. (2010). AgShare: Building Community and Content with Multiple Partners. In Proceedings OpenEd 2010: Barcelona, 7th Annual Open Education Conference November 2-4, 2010.
Geith, C. & Vignare, K. (2008). Access to education with online learning and open educational resources: can they close the GAP? Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 12 (1),
Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Karen Vignare
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Effective Practice Contact 2: 
Gwyn Shelle
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Effective Practice Contact 3: 
Sunnie Kim
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