Our commitment to open source

Working in the open has been a long-standing part of our culture. We have supported and participated in events, used and contributed in open source technologies and resources, and recruited roles focussed in support and adoption of open platforms and practices. It is with great pleasure to see these efforts not only been sustained over years, but scaling up further and aligning with the University Strategic plan.

Using open source to power our web presence

One of the main milestones in our engagement with open source was the move from a vendor supplied solution to use Drupal as the platform behind the University’s central Web Content Management System (CMS), EdWeb. Technology was not the only reason supporting this move. Our long-term aim in embracing open source platforms was to inspire collaboration and knowledge sharing, putting focus on common use of tools and ways of working across the University. Drupal’s code of conduct echoes these values and principles in a very clear way.

Following up on this strategy, since launching EdWeb in 2015, we have run three Drupal 8 contribution days as well as 5 EdWeb code sprints. We have extended participation to non-developers and have run a contribution day in collaboration with the University of Dundee. Furthermore, we have sponsored and hosted local Drupal events, including the annual DrupalCamp Scotland conference, monthly meet-ups and the introduction of a Drupal Scotland Business Group which brings enterprise level users together. These efforts have recently been recognised by the Drupal Association publicly.

The University has had close collaboration with further open source projects & communities. One of the most prominent is Apereo, which is a leader in education-related open source technologies. Our student & staff portal, MyEd, has been build using the uPortal technology through to its latest release last summer. During the development of the Notifications service, which is another component of the central Portal services, additional time and thought was given which enabled us to open source the code, using Apereo’s incubation process. By doing this, we have ensured that the Notifications’ service backbone could be shared and used across the higher education sector. This project is now part of Apereo’s projects, having the name Fiosan.

Last year, the University’s academic blogging platform was launched, powered by another open source platform: WordPress. This allowed easier content migration from existing blogs, a lot more flexibility to build, maintain and enhance and a more efficient use of existing skills across our organisation. More than 2000 users are currently publishing the posts in more than 1100 blogs, while further integration with the wider web estate is planned.

Beyond platforms

But, it’s not only about the technology and platforms used. Our open culture has been expressed in more ways: Ongoing effort and promotion for creation and use of Open Educational Resources in our publications, including teaching & learning. Hosting a Wikimedian in residence, to support teaching & learning an promote and empower staff and students to learn new digital skills, how information gets online, and how to communicate their scholarship with the world through editing the largest open education resource in human history, Wikipedia. Running dedicated events, like Open Edinburgh last September, promoting the wider aspects of open-source. Recruiting students with a role to champion use of open source, strengthen ties with the student community and liaise with organisations promoting open approaches.

Staff & students during the morning Wikipedia Editathon during the Open Edinburgh event.

Staff & students during the morning Wikipedia Editathon during the Open Edinburgh event. Ewan McAndrew, our Wikimedian in residence, has organised many similar sessions. Publishing under Creative Commons Licsnse CC-BY-SA, Ewan McAndrew.

A clear strategy promoting open thinking

The University’s Strategy 2030 and our Web Strategy put a strong emphasis in collaboration, self-improvement, and contribution to a local and global level. Under the theme of people, Strategy 2030, promotes the value the contribution of every individual, regarding of their affiliation to the University. The Web Strategy highlights the need to move in an environment that takes advantage of sharing and reusing tools, data, content and best practices in an open environment.

On our behalf, we will definitely look into further opportunities to build on our open source commitment and grow our current activities. Our clear aim is to maximise the positive impact of open source in the University, while engaging with local and global  communities sharing the same principles.

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