Open Education Practice at the University of Edinburgh

23 Things for Digital Knowledge

23 Things for Digital Knowledge is an award winning, open online course run by the OER Service’s Charlie Farley. 23 Things was adapted from an open course originally developed by Helene Blowers of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, in North Carolina. The course is designed to encourage digital literacy by exposing learners to a wide range of digital tools for personal and professional development. Learners, who are free to dip in and out of the course as they please, spend a little time each week building up and expanding their digital skills and are encouraged to share their experiences through short reflective blog posts.  These blog posts are then aggregated on the 23Things blog list. All course content and materials are licensed under a CC BY licence and the University actively encourages others to take and adapt the course.

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OER Assignments

A number of courses around the University have integrated open assessment practices, including assessed blogging assignments and OER creation assignments, these include the Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) in Academic Practice and the Digital Futures for Learning course, which is part of the MSc in Digital Education.  Commenting on this OER creation assignment in a recent blog post, course leader Jen Ross said

“Experiencing first-hand what it means to engage in open educational practice gives student an appetite to learn and think more.  The creation of OERs provides a platform for students to share their learning. In this way, these assignments can have ongoing, tangible value for students and for the people who encounter their work.”

Digital Futures for Learning: An OER assignment, Dr Jen Ross

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Student-Led, Individually-Created Courses (SLICCs)

Student-Led, Individually-Created Courses (SLICCs) offer a reflective framework for students to gain academic credits for co- and extra-curricular experiences and to develop their own set of personal and professional skills and attributes through professional development, internship, work experience or a research project of their choosing during their summer vacation.  While undertaking SLICCs, students are expected to blog regularly and submit a final reflective report on their learning outcomes at the end of the course. Students receive formative academic feedback from their SLICC tutor at the proposal stage, on their interim reflective report, and then a mark and feedback on their final report. Students are also linked up with peers to support each other in a SLICC ‘community of practice’.

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Reflective Blogging

Over 500 blogs have now been set up on the University’s centrally supported academic blogging platform,, many of which are Creative Commons licensed.  Some of these blogs have been set up by professional and academic colleagues to share their research and professional practice, other are maintained by research centres or courses, and some, such as The Nursing Blog, ISG Student Employee Blog, and Stories from Vet School are community focused group blogs where students can share their achievements and reflect on their experience of working and studying at the University of Edinburgh.

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Wikimedia in the Classroom

Contributing to the global pool of open knowledge by editing Wikipedia is a form of open practice that benefits staff, students and the general public more widely.  Working together with our Wikimedian in Residence a number of colleagues from schools and colleges across the University have integrated Wikipedia and Wikidata editing assignments into their courses, including Translation Studies MSc, World Christianity MSc, Reproductive Biology BSc, Data Science for Design MSc and Global Health MSc.  Editing Wikipedia provides valuable opportunities for students to develop their digital research and communication skills, and enables them to contribute to the creation and dissemination of open knowledge. Writing articles that will be publicly accessible and live on after the end of their assignment has proved to be highly motivating for students, and provides an incentive for them to think more deeply about their research. It encourages them to ensure they are synthesising all the reliable information available, and to think about how they can communicate their scholarship to a general audience. Students can see that their contribution will benefit the huge audience that consults Wikipedia, plugging gaps in coverage, and bringing to light hidden histories, significant figures, and important concepts and ideas. This makes for a valuable and inspiring teaching and learning experience, that enhances the digital literacy, research and communication skills of both staff and students.

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MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses are freely accessible and open-licensed short courses, delivered to large cohorts of learners fully online. To date, more than 2 million people have signed up to Edinburgh courses across a broad range of subject areas, and they form part of the University’s commitment to knowledge exchange and community outreach.  Generally, MOOCs run over three to six weeks, with approx. 1-2 learner study hours per week, and feature a range of high-quality media including video, audio, animations and a number of interactive activities. MOOCs can be tutor led, running a number of times per year, or on-demand.  Although developing, teaching and facilitating MOOCs may be regarded as a form of open practice, MOOC platforms are not necessarily open as most require users to register, and provide only time limited access to resources.  In order to ensure that all MOOC materials remain open and accessible to all Creative Commons licensed MOOC videos are made available to download and re-use on Media Hopper Create.

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Edinburgh Data Share

Data Share is a centrally supported repository service, managed by the Research Data Support team which allows University staff and researchers to upload, share, and license data for online discovery.  Many of the data sets deposited in the repository are licensed with Creative Commons licenses enabling them to be shared and re-used.

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Open Journal Hosting

Open Journal Hosting is a service supported by the University Library to support the publication of academic and student-led Open Access journals.  All supported journals are fully open access, providing permanent free online access to their content so that it can be read by anyone, without price barriers. This helps to foster collaboration within the research community and allows journals to reach the widest possible audience, increasing their visibility, usage and impact.  Sixteen journals are currently hosted on the platform including FORUM, a peer-reviewed journal for postgraduate students working in culture and the arts, Lifespans & Styles which highlights outstanding undergraduate work in sociolinguistics and Concept, the Journal of Contemporary Community Education Practice Theory.

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[Featured Image: –open–, Jeremy Brooks, CC BY-NC, flickr]