New University of Edinburgh OER Policy approved

seven green and red leaves hanging from a string against a white background.

The OER Service is immensely proud to announce the launch of the University’s new OER Policy, which was approved by Education Committee at the end of September.  This Policy revises and updates our original OER Policy, first approved by Learning and Teaching Committee in 2016.

The new policy strengthens the University’s position as a world leader in open education and reiterates our commitment to openness and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Five years of OER at the University of Edinburgh

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 considerably. We now have a collection of thousands of media assets and dozens of massive open online courses that can be used, re-used, adapted and re-shared in sustainable ways.   This includes:  

  • Over 4,900 open licensed videos on Media Hopper Create. 
  • 223 open resources and collections shared through the Open.Ed OER Showcase. 
  • 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 and won three awards.   
  • Our How To Guides have been accessed 109,502 times. 

Policy Review

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 in order to curate, quality control and monitor the impact of the resources their faculty create. The University of Edinburgh does not have a single central OER repository as they are often unsustainable, and it can be difficult to encourage engagement.  Instead, the Policy continues to recommend that OERs are shared in an appropriate repository or public-access website in order to maximise their discovery and use by others. The OER Service provides access to many channels for this purpose: 

Some universities mandate that any resource considered for internal teaching awards must be open by default.  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 do not propose enshrining this in policy.  

A third approach we observed is that some institutions specify 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 are open licensed.  We are confident that existing processes for supporting academic colleagues to create resources are well-developed and appropriate for encouraging open practice.

As a result of the OER Service’s digital skills programme of workshops and events, there has been an increase in understanding of the benefits of using and creating OERs and knowledge of copyright and open licensing among both staff and students. The OER Service will continue to offer this programme, updating it on an annual basis to meet requirements.  Bespoke training for schools and colleges is also available on request. 

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.  These policies specify how staff and students appearing within a recording made on the lecture recording or virtual classroom services can licence their rights to allow that recording to become the basis of an OER.  There is also a suite of standard recording agreements that external contributors, guest lecturers and colleagues contributing to MOOCs or free short online courses are encouraged to sign so recordings can be released under open licence with the appropriate permissions and attribution.

With the increase in media being recorded, widespread knowledge of data protection requirements among content creators has become essential when making and releasing open content.  The new OER Policy clarifies that the names, images, voices and personal opinions of individuals are all classed as personally identifiable information.

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. You can download the policy here: University of Edinburgh OER Policy 2021.

This blog post was written by Lorna M. Campbell and Neil McCormick.

Header image by Chris Lawton on Unsplash