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Educational Design and Engagement

Educational Design and Engagement

Enriching the student learning experience & supporting development of on campus and online courses.

The day we Open.Ed a new website

The past couple of weeks have been pretty significant in terms of the development of open education at the University of Edinburgh. On the 4th of February we launched Open.Ed, a website devoted to showcasing OERs at the University. In the week prior to that an OER policy was approved by the Learning and Teaching committee; the full text of which will be published on the Academic Services website shortly (I’ve provided the main points below).

The Open.Ed website

The Open.Ed website

The policy is significant because it demonstrates the University’s commitment to sustainable teaching and learning practice through the use of OERs. Edinburgh is the second University in Scotland to adopt an OER policy – the first was Glasgow Caledonian last year – however, rather than adopting it as a library policy, Edinburgh has adopted OER as a learning and teaching policy.

To me OER should be about ground up rather than top down and, even though we have a policy, it’s intended to be an enabler – not a prescriber. It’s short, with 7 points describing our position and 7 on guidance, and it’s suitably flexible to enable those who wish to share and reuse teaching and learning materials.

The Open.Ed website is the other side of the policy. It’s significant because it shows to the world what we are doing on the ground to support practice. It’s not necessarily going to showcase the big attention grabbing things that are often associated with open education at Edinburgh. There’s no denying how important MOOCs have become (not least in terms of research into open education), but the difficulty is that very few of our MOOCs are truly open; and by open I mean openly licenced’ for reusing and remixing.

Although probably inspired by the success of MOOCs, our shift towards OER and open educational practice primarily came from the student body. Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) have been campainging for the University to open up its learning and teaching materials for some years now. Much of the work to benchmark the use of OERs at the University was funded by the principal through EUSA. We helped EUSA do that at the start of last year, and many of the OERs featured in the Open.Ed website were surfaced out of that review.

This is version one of Open.Ed. It’s purposely straightforward and it’s there to be built upon. We’re looking for your feedback on what’s useful and what’s not. We’re looking for more OERs to add to this collection under the themes of our OER vision. I’m really glad that we had several speakers at the launch event whose work features on the site, and I enjoyed hearing people’s reactions and thoughts on the policy and the website. Here are the people who helped us launch the site:

  • Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services Division. Melissa has been integral to driving forward the OER initiative at the University, and a lot of this work has come as a result of her perseverance.
  • Prof. Clive Greated from the School of Physics and Astronomy. Clive has been producing an impressive number of teaching videos, on a range of topics, and his work is featured heavily on the Open.Ed website. His Flowave video is a minor hit on YouTube with 779,238 hits (as of the morning of 4th Feb 2016)!
  • Prof. Neil Turner talked about his training sources for Renal Medicine and the Edinburgh Renal Education Pages. These contain OERs that are not only useful for clinical and healthcare staff, but also patients. EDREN has been online since 2000.
  • Dr. Ellen Spaeth Spoke about the 5 minute teaching videos she helped created with the Institute for Academic Development – in which staff briefly discuss the values that underpin their teaching.
  • Lorna Campbell, OER Liaison – Open Scotland, talked about the wider open education context in Scotland and the support the University is providing for the Open Scotland initiative.

The University of Edinburgh OER policy


The University is committed to participating in a scholarly community characterised by world-leading teaching, research and practice across a range of disciplines. We promote and support the development and continuous improvement of our courses and programmes to provide our students with the optimum learning experience, which is distinctively an Edinburgh experience.

Our staff use a wide range of self-generated teaching materials to support exceptional teaching, including teaching notes, hand-outs, audio, images, animations, multimedia materials and others. Staff also provide students with resources generated from elsewhere within the University to support learning, for example from the University library, museums and collections. In addition, resources are available from beyond the University to support student learning. These may include images, audio/video resources, animations and other digital resources.

Open educational resources (OER) are digital resources that are used in the context of teaching and learning (e.g. course material, images, video, multimedia resources, assessment items, etc.), which have been released by the copyright holder under an open licence (e.g. Creative Commons) permitting their use or re-purposing (re-use, revision, remixing, redistribution) by others. Staff and students at the University of Edinburgh may wish to use OERs to enhance learning and teaching whilst contributing to “a vast pool of educational resources on the Internet, open and free for all to use … creating a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge”[1].

University position

  1. The University encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience, provided that the resources are fit-for-purpose and relevant.
  1. Use, creation and publication of OERs are consistent with the University’s reputation, values and mission to “make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing.”
  1. It is expected that OERs used, created or published by individual staff and students will normally be single units or small collections (e.g. podcast episodes, small collection of images etc.).
  1. Whether or not OERs are used or published in a School, Department or Service is ultimately a decision for the Head of School, Head of Department or Head of Service as appropriate. Unless stated to the contrary, it is assumed that use, creation and publication of single units or small collections will be allowed. Where use, creation and publication are to be restricted, Schools, Departments and Services are encouraged to identify and communicate a rationale for restriction. It is expected that justifications for restriction will normally be based on protection of commercial interests.
  1. University policies on IPR must be adhered to. When using OERs, students and staff must comply with the terms of the licence of use.
  1. All OERs used and created must comply with University policies on inclusiveness.
  1. The University reserves the right to remove resources that do not comply with its policies, and/or request removal of resources from external repositories/sites.


  1. It is the responsibility of staff and students to ensure that they have the necessary rights to publish an OER and that all resources published comply with all relevant policies (e.g. copyright, IPR, accessibility).
  1. Staff and students are advised to publish OERs using a Creative Commons attribution licence (CC BY). Other Creative Commons licences (for example to add a non-commercial use or share-alike element) may be used if the creators feel this is necessary or appropriate for their particular resource, or to comply with the licence of any third party content used in the resource.
  1. When creating and publishing OERs, the copyright owner(s), author(s), date and Creative Commons licence applied must be visibly attributed. The copyright owner will normally be the University of Edinburgh for OERs created at the University. Author(s) should also be properly acknowledged, giving recognition for work undertaken, along with date and Creative Commons licence applied so that others can clearly understand what permissions for reuse are being granted. An example of good attribution would be:© [Author Name], University of Edinburgh 2016 CC BY
  1. The University recommends that written and interactive digital teaching resources should be published in an appropriate repository or public-access website in order to maximise discovery and use by others. Where OERs have been created as part of an externally funded activity, any storage and/or repository locations mandated as a condition of the funding should be used.
  1. The University recommends that audio/video based OER teaching resources should be published in the University’s multimedia repository, Media Hopper.
  1. Staff and students are encouraged to collect data where possible on usage of their OERs.
  1. Where students are producing OERs as part of their programme of study or within a staff-directed project, these guidelines should be followed and OERs should be checked by a member of staff before publication.

Adapted from University of Leeds OERs (, incorporating additions from the GCU Interim OER Policy ( and the University of Greenwich Position in relation to Open Educational Practices 2015-2017 (

Published by the University of Edinburgh under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.


[1] Cape Town Declaration. (2007). Cape Town Open Education Declaration: Unlocking the Promise of Open Educational Resources. Retrieved from:


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