Earlier this month I went along to the ALT Scotland SIG‘s annual conference, which was held at Dundee and Angus College’s fabulous Gardyne Campus and Learning Lab. This year the theme of the event was Sharing Stories: enablers and drivers for Learning Technology in Scottish Education. I spoke about how the University of Edinburgh is supporting engagement with learning technology through open education, and my colleague Susan Greig gave a presentation about how the university is supporting staff to become Certified Members of ALT.
I’ve linked the recording of the afternoon session below along with my slides, and the recording of the morning session can be accessed from ALT’s YouTube channel.
For once in my life I actually wrote my presentation in advance of the event so I’ve copied my script below too.
Supporting Engagement with Learning Technology Through Open Education at the University of Edinburgh
Earlier this year the University of Edinburgh launched a new strategic vision which outlined where the university is at present and where it intends to be in 2025.
Central to this vision is increased provision of world-leading online distance learning.
It’s an ambitious vision that aims to see up to 10,000 students, learning online by 2020, through MOOCs and postgraduate online learning programmes, and open education embedded right across the institution.
I’m not going to talk today about MOOCs and online masters programmes per se, what I want to focus on today is how the University is supporting engagement with learning technology through a range of open education initiatives and services, focusing particularly on OER.
The University of Edinburgh’s vision for open educational resources builds on three strands:
- The history of the Edinburgh Settlement.
- Excellent education and research collections.
- Traditions of the Enlightenment and the University’s civic mission.
The University has established an OER Service that will create an OER exchange to enrich both the University and the sector; provide support frameworks to enable staff to share OER created as a routine part of their work, and enable staff to find and use high quality teaching materials developed within and beyond the University.
The service will also showcase Edinburgh at it’s best, highlighting the highest quality learning and teaching; identifying collections of learning materials to be published online for flexible use, and made available as open courseware, and enabling the discovery of these materials to enhance the University’s reputation.
And as a contribution to the University’s civic mission it will open access to Edinburgh’s treasures, making available collections of unique resources to promote health, economic and cultural well-being; digitising, curating and sharing major collections of unique archives and museum resources to encourage public engagement with learning, study and research.
In order to ensure Edinburgh’s OER Vision is sustainable and supported across the institution, the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee has approved an accompanying OER Policy that encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience and to help colleagues make informed decisions about creating and using OER in support of the University’s OER Vision.
The Edinburgh OER Policy will look familiar to many of you as it’s based on the policy developed by the University or Leeds and already adopted by Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Greenwich. Edinburgh has made a number changes to this policy including adopting a more active and inclusive definition of OER.
“Digital resources that are used in the context of teaching and learning, which have been released by the copyright holder under an open licence permitting their use or re-purposing by others.”
By focusing on the context of use, this definition encompasses a wide range of resources including multimedia, courseware, and cultural heritage resources.
In order to provide access to its open educational resource the university has launched Open.Ed, a one-stop-shop which provides access to openly licensed content, the OER Vision statement and OER Policy, together with practical support for staff and students in the form of workshops, advice and guidance on finding, using and creating OERs.
I should add that this is not a formal repository Open.Ed is built on WordPress and aggregates OER from other repositories and sites across the university.
In addition to Open.Ed, the University has also launched Media Hopper a new multimedia asset management system which provides all staff and students with space to upload media and publish it to VLEs, websites and social media channels. Not all the content in Media Hopper is openly licensed, but student interns currently working to develop feeds to pull openly licensed content out of Media Hopper and into Open.Ed.
Edinburgh is also working to enhance the biggest open educational resource in the world; Wikipedia. Building on long term engagement with Wikimedia UK, the University has become the first in the UK to employ a dedicated Wikimedian in Residence. As an advocate for openness the WiR delivers training events and workshops to further the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital literacy, through skills training sessions and editathons.
The University is also committed to supporting open education across the sector and last year announced it’s support for Open Scotland. Scotland is a cross sector initiative that aims to raise awareness of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources, and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. Part of my role as OER Liaison – Open Scotland will be to continue promoting the Scottish Open Education Declaration and hopefully bring it to the attention of the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.
And of course last, but not least, earlier this year we were very privileged to host the OER16 conference with the support of ALT. The theme of the 7th OER Conference, and the first to be held in Scotland, was Open Culture and the conference focused on the value proposition of embedding open culture in the context of institutional strategies.
So to conclude, open education is being used as a key driver to encourage and embed engagement with education technology right across the institution.
The University of Edinburgh’s vision for open education provides a strong foundation for developing a sustainable model for online education at scale, encouraging engagement with learning technology and OER within the curriculum, and improving teachers and learners’ confidence and digital literacy with regard to teaching and learning online. In addition, this affords the University a valuable opportunity to scale up its community engagement, to disseminate the knowledge created and curated within the institution to the wider community and to help shape conversations about the role of learning technology and the future of open education in Scotland.