Open for Good: Five Years of Open Education Resources at the University of Edinburgh

courtyard of a historic university with a domed building in the background and colomned lined buildings in the foreground. There's an orange sky and a road is running through the courtyard in an unrealistic way
Image Credit: Graphic Design by Joe Arton, Original photography University of Edinburgh Collections and Unsplash.

Welcome to March and April’s ‘Hot Topic’ Theme of Teaching Matters: Open for Good: Five Years of Open Education Resources at the University of Edinburgh. This theme is co-edited by Stephanie Farley, Open Education Resources Advisor, and Lorna Campbell, Service Manager – Learning Technology within Education Design and Engagement at the University of Edinburgh.

In this post, Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal Online Learning and Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services (LTW), introduces the series by reviewing the development of Open Educational Resources (OER) services at the University over the last five years.


I am very happy to launch this set of articles for Open Education Week at University of Edinburgh.  It is a perfect time to celebrate. The wealth of open learning materials which have been shared by University of Edinburgh colleagues over the last five years has more than matched the hopes we had when we started the service in 2015. Vice Principal Professor Jeff Haywood outlined a vision for the University of Edinburgh’s education in 2025.  The vision included digital education, lifelong learning,  open educational resources (OER)  and a significant growth in online delivery to on- and off-campus students.

In working towards this vision, I took care to build options for choosing Creative Commons licences into the workflows of our biggest learning technology systems, making it as easy as possible for content creators to make this choice.  I ensured that there was policy in place to support colleagues and training in how to do it right. We now have a collection of thousands of media assets and dozens of massive open online courses which can be used, re-used, adapted and re-shared in sustainable ways.  The services in ISG are designed to be cost effective, back in 2014 MIT were spending $3.5m per year on their open courseware.  Edinburgh has never spent that much, but our global impact has been significant. Alongside our channels for OER at scale, our curated sets of OER on Open.Ed showcase the best values which OER can bring to the University.

The OER team work closely with our big learning technology projects, and with small groups and individuals to see opportunities for OER to diversify their curriculum.  Our materials reach new audiences, go directly into the hands of teachers who are empowered to teach in new ways and engage in co-creation with students.

When I joined the University in 2014, the student leadership were lobbying hard to open up teaching and encourage sharing of materials across courses.  Since the Students’ Association were a large part of the driving force behind the initiative originally it has been particularly nice to have Open Content Creation Interns working with us over the summer each year to create and curate materials and to learn about how OER contributes to the University’s commitment to sustainable development goals. You can read their thoughts about this work experience in their blogs.

The articles in this series will cover a wide range of uses of OER in teaching, both the creation of materials for sharing and the re-use, and adaptation of materials created elsewhere. The generous position colleagues take to openly licencing their materials is one of the classiest things about this institution.  Thank you to all who do.

Except where otherwise stated, this blog post by Melissa Highton of the University of Edinburgh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 licence.


Melissa Highton

Dr. Melissa Highton is Assistant Principal Online Learning and Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services (LTW) in Information Services Group. Melissa leads services and projects in support of the University’s strategic priorities for digital and distance education on global platforms, blended learning on campus, virtual learning environments, technology enhanced learning spaces, the digital student experience and use of the web for outreach and engagement. She has particular interests in digital skills, open educational resources, equality and diversity and online media. Follow her on Twitter @HoneybHighton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *