Mini-series: Inclusive community engagement at the Centre for Open Learning

In this post, Dr Sally Crumplin, a Course Organiser at the Centre for Open Learning (COL), highlights how COL is aspiring to make their Short Courses as inclusive as possible for the Edinburgh community… 

Short Courses at the Centre for Open Learning (COL) aims to provide educational opportunities to all adults, regardless of formal experience. We’re proud of the diverse student body that we have long worked with, on a broad range of courses. But we realise that we could strive to be more actively inclusive, especially in areas of the city where there is less engagement with The University of Edinburgh.

Over the past year, we’ve been developing a range of workshops and courses that we can take to the Edinburgh community. Our aim has been simply to provide a positive, engaging and rewarding learning experience, and to nurture this relationship between COL and various Edinburgh communities. Courses and workshops have therefore focused on the local, ensuring that participants can feel involved and have a sense of their ownership of the learning experience.

We’ve already run courses based around local history and archaeology. A Festival of Creative Learning workshop at the Braidwood Centre in Dumbiedykes took historic maps as a starting point for discussion about how Edinburgh has changed over the centuries. We have also offered a series of classes at Royston Wardieburn Community Centre covering the history and archaeology of the area, and we’ve worked with this community group on designing an accessible archaeology course, funded by a Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme grant. And we’re working on a series of workshops to take place at The Welcoming – an organisation supporting newcomers to Scotland with language classes, educational, social and working opportunities.

Of course, the groups that we work with may have very different requirements, depending on such things as available time, knowledge of the city, and specific location, so we try to discuss these with the community group before agreeing on what we will offer. We intend to revisit groups and communities that we have already spent time with; it feels important that we maintain the ties we have made, and groups have expressed how valuable this continuity would be for them.

Our aim now is to develop other locally-themed offers, looking at Edinburgh literature, Scottish music, Scottish politics and Edinburgh Philosophers. We are also working on workshops introducing participants to venues around the city, such as the National Museum, the National Galleries venues, and the National Library. Our intention is to have a variety of experiences to offer on a one-off basis or as part of a series, and to take these to more parts of Edinburgh, melding the skills at COL, the knowledge and energy of the community, and the rich environment of the city.

Sally Crumplin

Dr Sally Crumplin is a Course Organiser at the Centre for Open Learning. She is responsible for History and Art History in the Short Courses programme, and works on the International Foundation Programme, the Certificate of Higher Education, community engagement projects and on connections with museums and galleries around Edinburgh.

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