A new OER Policy for the University of Edinburgh

This post originally featured on the University of Edinburgh’s Teaching Matters blog. 

In September 2021, the University of Edinburgh’s Education Committee approved a new Open Education Resources (OER) Policy, which revises and updates our previous 2016 policy. Supported by the central OER Service, the policy encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience, expand provision of learning opportunities, and enrich our shared knowledge commons. Investing in OER and open licensing helps to improve the sustainability and longevity of our educational resources, while encouraging colleagues to reuse and repurpose existing open materials expands the pool of teaching and learning resources and helps to diversity the curriculum. As one of the few universities in the UK to have an OER policy, the new policy strengthens the University of Edinburgh’s position as a world leader in open education and reiterates our strategic commitment to openness and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Five years of OER at the University of Edinburgh

“Staff and students at The University of Edinburgh produce huge amounts of teaching and learning materials every year. The OER policy helps us to help you make them available for sharing with teachers and students all around the world.”

Dr Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal and Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services (LTW)

In the five years since the first OER Policy was approved, the quantity and quality of open educational resources produced by staff and students across the University has increased enormously. We now have a collection of thousands of media assets, hundreds of OERs, and dozens of massive open online courses that can be used, re-used, adapted and re-shared in sustainable ways. This includes almost 5000 open licensed videos on Media Hopper Create, 243 open resources and collections shared through the Open.Ed OER Showcase, 84 free short online courses, and 67 student-created OERs for school teachers on TES Resources, which have been downloaded over 60,000 times.  The OER Service has run over 230 digital skills workshops, employed ten student interns, won three awards, and our How To Guides have been accessed 109,502 times.

Policy Review

The OER Policy review and revision was undertaken by Neil McCormick, Education Technology Policy Officer, and Lorna M. Campbell, OER Service Manager, both based in Learning Teaching and Web Services in ISG. In reviewing this policy, we considered developments at several other UK and European universities with existing OER practice.

Some institutions mandate the use of a single central OER repository to curate, quality control and monitor the impact of the resources their faculty create. Here at the University we trust colleagues to quality control their own teaching and learning resources, and we do not have a central OER repository because they are often unsustainable, and it can be difficult to encourage engagement. Instead, the Policy continues to encourage colleagues to share their open licensed teaching and learning materials in an appropriate repository or public-access website so that they can be discovered and re-used by others. The OER Service provides access to many channels for this purpose, including the OER Showcase, the Open Media Bank on Media Hopper Create, the Open.Ed Shop on TES Resources, and various channels on Flickr, YouTube, and Sketchfab.  We also have an @OpenEdEdinburgh twitter account that we use to share news, highlight OERs created by staff and students across the University, and connect with the global open education community.

Some universities mandate that any resource considered for internal teaching awards must be open licensed. While we encourage all colleagues to share their resources under open licence, and the sponsors of awards to consider OERs in their award criteria, we didn’t enshrine this in policy.

A third approach adopted by some institutions is that any resource produced in cooperation with the central learning technology service must be open by default. This is often the case in practice here at the University of Edinburgh; the majority of the teaching and learning resources created with support from the Online Course Production Service for our free short online courses are open licensed and are available on Media Hopper Create. In addition, the OER Service’s digital skills programme helps to increase understanding of the benefits of using and creating OERs, encouraging open practice, and improving copyright literacy among both staff and students.

Policy Updates

Following current global practice, the policy has adopted a new definition of OER from the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Education Resources.

“Open Educational Resources (OERs) are learning, teaching and research materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright that have been released under an open license, that permit no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution by others.”

The update also brings the OER Policy in line with our Lecture Recording Policy and Virtual Classroom Policy. With the increase in media being recorded, knowledge of data protection has become essential when creating and sharing open content. The policy clarifies what personally identifiable information colleagues should be aware of when creating open resources, including names, images, voices and personal opinions of individuals.

Policy Licence

As with our previous policy, the new OER Policy has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) to enable it to be shared, reused and repurposed by others.

Visit the University’s OER Service at Open.Ed to find out more about the new OER Policy and what it means for you.

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