The project began in August 2008, when Dr. Hannah Bartlett and Dr. Frank Eperjesi of Aston University attended the Tanzania Optometry Association AGM in Dar Es Salaam. At the conference, it was clear that many of the optometrists were keen to learn and to develop their understanding of all aspects of optometry. Despite their obvious enthusiasm, they have had little access to up-to-date books and training materials.
Before TOAonline: Aston University and Tanzania Optometry Association Partnership
A system of Continuing Education and Training has been active for optometrists in the UK for a number of years, and staff at Aston University have had significant experience in both developing materials for the scheme, as well as in working with web-based learning environments. Together with Raju Sagar of the Tanzanian Optometric Society (TOA), staff and students at Aston collaborated to develop TOAonline.
- Year 1: Tanzania
Tanzania has one of the lowest optometrist/population ratios in Africa with only around 250 optometrists for a population of 40 million, and is the only country in east and central Africa where optometry is a legislated profession under the Optometry Act 2007. The ultimate aim of the Optometry Council's new legislation is to encourage professional development and make continuing education a pre-requisite for registration to practice in Tanzania. TOAonline was created to facilitate continuing professional development for Tanzania's eye care professionals, and to allow users to accrue CPD points which ultimately will be required to maintain their registration to practice.
- Year 2: The AFCO partnership / International access.
In its first year, TOAonline proved to be a great success, and following presentation of the site by its designer Marcello Leucci at the 2010 WCO World Conference on Optometric Education in Durban, it was decided to make the site available to all eye care professionals worldwide with the African Council of Optometry (AFCO) currently supporting and promoting the site to its member countries. The site currently has members in more than fifteen countries worldwide and membership is free for all. The more members that enrolled, the more powerful the site became as a learning resource.
Year 3 and beyond: TOAonline becomes OptoCET.org
Following an extensive redesign and update, TOAonline was relaunched as OptoCET to better reflect the fact that the site is now used worldwide and no longer solely throughout Africa. A partnership with the Community Eye Health Journal was established in early 2012, with the CEHJ contributing a significant number of CET articles to the site.