Tag: open

open now

Promo picture for #OER16

Booking is now open for #OER16 . More than 100 papers accepted, some fine looking speakers, and some of the funnest people with whom you could ever care to discuss the minutae of copyright law.

Looking forward to it.


In this week we will also be launching our new Edinburgh University OER showcase website Open.ed, and celebrating the ratification of our OER policy by University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Committee.

an Edinburgh festival of digital education

Picture taken by me from Evolution House. No rights reserved.
Picture of Edinburgh castle taken by me from the balcony of Evolution House. No rights reserved.

Next year in April 2016 University of Edinburgh will host 3 major digital education conferences back to back. The city will provide a stunning back-drop for leading educators, policy makers and learning technologists to meet, share ideas and present their research. The calls for papers for each of the conferences is open now and the lists of keynote speakers and themes offer a tempting menu for anyone interested in open educational resources, learning analytics or the challenges of learning at scale.

The conferences are: the 7th Open Educational Resources: Open Culture. OER16 https://oer16.oerconf.org/, the 6th International Learning Analytics and Knowledge (LAK) Conference. LAK16 http://lak16.solaresearch.org/ and the 3rd annual meeting of the ACM Conference on Learning at Scale L@S

Where else would you want be?

the most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way.’

Commodore Grace M. Hopper, USN (covered) By James S. Davis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Quote usually attributed to Grace Hopper.

You may or may not be aware that ISG is pumping money into innovation projects designed to improve the services and offerings we make to the University.

We issued a call out to our staff for ideas- below are the winning projects I have funded from LTW.

All these projects are due to complete by August ’16, so if you see the name of an LTW person you know, or an idea you like, please do get in touch so that we can let you know what we are working on. The outputs of all these projects will be licenced CC-BY ( as far as practicable).

A comparative study between a low-cost capture agent and mobile devices -Marc Jennings
Augmented Reality and Learning (Microsoft Holo Lens) -Myles Blaney
Beacons of Knowledge: working with students to co-create geolocated virtual campus tours-Jo Spiller
Build a 3d Printer -Anne- Marie Scott
Developing student digital skills in the community -Amy Woodgate
Diversifying the curriculum with student-led remix and reuse OER- Jo Spiller
Drones: innovative media production -Amy Woodgate
Evaluating frameworks and toolkits for leading Learning Design Practice at University of Edinburgh -Fiona Hale
Exploring accessible Photogrammetry and 3D scanning -Stuart Nicol
Feedback on Feedback -Robert Chmeileswki
Learning Dashboards for professional development- Jenni Houston
Live Interactive Point of View Video -Euan Murray
Self-directed learning resources for spatial literacy -Gavin Inglis
Twitterbot – Pilot Service – Martin Morrey
Virtual Edinburgh Maker Platform Proof of Concept- Martin Morrey

be our Wikimedian in Residence

IMG_2147 copyDo you have an eye for detail and a love of facts? Are you an experienced Wikimedian with experience working with the Wikimedia community? What would you do to engage our staff and students in editing, contributing and sharing open knowledge? We are recruiting a Wikimedian in Residence to work in Information Services alongside our learning technologists, archivists, librarians and information literacy teams. Following our first successful editathon events we now need your help to establish a network of Wikimedians on campus and to embed digital skills and open knowledge activities in learning and teaching across the University.

Media coverage:

The Student Newspaper

Edinburgh Evening News

The post is offered on a fixed-term (12 months), part-time basis (17.5 hours per week).

Closing date: Thursday 29 October 2015 at 5pm

here’s looking at Euclid

Oliver Byrne. The Elements of Euclid, 1847 (c) University of Edinburgh http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/0524y8
Oliver Byrne. The Elements of Euclid, 1847 (c) University of Edinburgh http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/0524y8

Lots of discussions this week about the student digital experience and how our services support students. As you know, the name of the Student Information System at University of Edinburgh is EUCLID. As time goes by it needs looking at again.

We also have some elements of euclid in our library.

In this version of Euclid elements held in the university research collections coloured diagrams and shapes are used instead of letters for the greater EASE of learners. Its all about the interface.

If you are in to interfaces, we are recruiting a web interfaces service manager for our team right now:

Could you lead and develop our university web portal? Are you a creative enthusiast for interface design? Do you understand what learners and teachers want?  It could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

We are looking for an experienced web manager to join us and contribute to our digital student experience. You will have proven skills in interface design, web and mobile technologies, and user experience.

You will lead a small team delivering a mixture of central and consulting services including responsibility for managing the University’s web portal, MyEd, and overseeing a bespoke website development service. You will understand the need for continuous improvement for services and be confident in delivering IT projects with high quality solutions that meet both strategic objectives and customer requirements.

Full time, open-ended contract. Apply today: http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/ALN479/web-interfaces-team-manager/

It’s a crazy world. Anything can happen.

sweeping the common

Image copyright: Peter Stubbs peter.stubbs@edinphoto.org.uk Used with permission.

Our staff and students experience our physical estate and our digital estate. In the city of Edinburgh much of the housing stock is flats. Flats in a common stair.  Some of these flats are large, grand and very elegant. Nevertheless  they have equal shares and responsibility in common.

The experience of communal living in a shared common stair relies on  a shared commitment to hygiene: knowing when and where to put out your rubbish and taking turns to wash and clean the common.  Taking the time makes the place better for all. Each year, all across the city- notably in Marchmont and the southside- new households of students move into flats and the permanent residents begin again educating them on the mores of communal living.

Universities have large transient populations: new students and new staff each year. If it weren’t for the local community taking care of each other the whole place would fall into disrepair.

I expect you can see where I am going with this…. <whispers> it’s abit like that with OER.

technical debt for OER

Me trying to find a book on technical debt. Photo credit: LTW, University of Edinburgh CC-BY
Me trying to find a book on technical debt. Photo credit: LTW, University of Edinburgh CC-BY

Three weeks ago,  while preparing  my presentation for e-learningforum@ed conference I was musing on the similarities between ‘technical debt’ and what one might call ‘ copyright debt’.

I was thinking about institutional risks of not being open. Institutional risks are sometimes legal, sometimes reputational, sometimes financial.  Mostly, at IT directors’ meetings we talk about the need to mitigate risks early on, and avoid risks in the future.

Generally,  the risks of not engaging with open practice are reputational: Other institutions are doing it; we might miss out on this good thing; we should be seen to be bold in digital education and leading edge in our open research. There is a risk to our reputation if colleagues do not seem to be up to-date-on licensing and refer to online materials or data as ‘open’ when they are not. But most of those risks are easily hidden under a smear of open-washing and a vagueness about the definition of open in different contexts.

These are not risks which will ever convince a VP Finance and Resources to invest.

If you want to convince an IT director or a CIO to invest in systems which have built-in  open-licensing workflows,  protecting the institution against the risk of expensive copyright debt may be the way forward.

My definition of ‘copyright debt’ is based on my understanding of ‘technical debt’. Technical debt is a metaphor often used in IT to explain why it costs so much to replace IT systems. I  use it to explain why rather than spending my budget on new exciting learning and teaching functionality, I am having to spend it to replace something we thought we already had.

You can ready about technical debt on Wikipedia. It’s the cost of not doing something properly in the first place. From the moment you build a system poorly, without due attention to software code rigour and process, you begin to accrue debt and then interest on that debt. From the moment you don’t fix, patch and maintain the code, the same thing happens. At some point you are going to have to go back and fix it, and the longer you leave it the more expensive it will be*.

From the moment a colleague tells you that they don’t have time, or don’t care about the copyright licensing and metadata on their teaching materials and load them up into a VLE, online course environment, departmental website, online course-pack, lecture power-point slides, whatever, you start to accrue ‘copyright debt’.

Someone will have to go back to those materials at some point to check them, figure out who made them and when and check for 3rd party content. The longer time passes (or staff change) between the original materials   being uploaded in to the VLE the harder it will be to find the original source.

The cost will hit at the moment that you migrate from one VLE to another, or from one website to another, or from one media asset management system to another.  At that point lecturers and departmental administrators will be asked to confirm that they have copyright permission for the materials they are migrating, and they will say ‘ I have no idea, in fact I don’t even remember/know where all the bits came from’.

They will suggest that someone in a central service (usually the library) should do the checking, and that is where the cost hits. No-one in the library is super-human enough ( unless you pay them a lot)  to check all the hundreds of teaching and learning materials in your VLE, so most of it will just be binned and colleagues will be outraged that they have to make it all again.

I’d suggest the common causes of copyright debt include (a combination of):

  • Business pressures, where the business considers getting something released sooner before all of the necessary copyright searches are complete.
  • Lack of process or understanding, where the businesse is blind to the concept of copyright debt, and make decisions without considering the implications.
  • Lack of flexible components, where materials are not openly licensed, the re-use permissions are  not flexible enough to adapt to changes in course content.
  • Lack of time, which encourages colleagues  to do quick  google searches and take materials they find without checking the license.
  • Lack of metadata, where content is created without necessary supporting metadata. That work to create the supporting metadata represents a debt that must be paid.
  • Lack of collaboration, where knowledge of open practice isn’t shared around the organization and business efficiency suffers, or junior learning technologists  are not properly mentored.
  • Parallel development at the same time on two or more VLEs  can cause the build up of copyright debt because of the work that will eventually be required to move content from one to another. The more content developed in isolation without clear licensing , the more debt that is piled up.
  • Delayed reformatting – the  formats which were used for creating learning objects quickly becomes obsolete. Without clear permission to make adaptations it is hard for older TEL materials to be converted to new formats.  The longer that reformatting is delayed, and the more content is written to use the older format, the more debt that piles up that must be paid at the time the conversion is finally done.
  • Lack of alignment to standards, where industry standard features, frameworks, open technologies are ignored. Eventually, integration with standards will come, doing it sooner will cost less.
  • Lack of knowledge, when the content creator simply doesn’t know how or why to use open materials.

The challenge in all this of course, is that the individual academics making the materials don’t care about the longer term cost to the central services of this debt. This argument won’t persuade them to take the time to change their practice, so we must build rigour for open practice  into the workflows of our enterprise-wide systems and services as soon as we possibly can, making it easy for colleagues to make positive choices.

Or else we risk a whole heap of copyright debt.

*Basically it is the software equivalent of ‘ a stitch in time saves nine’.

(While I was doing this thinking, I bumped into  a session at #OER15 called  ‘the cost of not going open‘ by Viv Rolfe which also looked to quantify costs. Viv’s approach is to look at costs and savings around academic time spent creating materials, which complements my thinking rather nicely.)




Open shelving, University of Edinburgh Main Library.

I spent some of last week in sunny Cardiff at OER15. The conference was very good. Lorna and I have agreed to host it in Edinburgh next year. It’ll be a wonderful chance to  gather like-minded folks together in our own town to discuss open culture and cultures of openness.

Edinburgh will be hosting a veritable festival of digital education conferences around that time since the international learning analytics conference (LAK16) and Learning@Scale will be here too!

Put ‘Edinburgh in April’ in your diary now.

A Vision for Open Educational Resources at University of Edinburgh

Splendid poster made by Stuart for use at conferences.


The University’s mission is the creation, dissemination and curation of knowledge. As a world-leading centre of academic excellence we aim to: Enhance our position as one of the world’s leading research and teaching universities and to measure our performance against the highest international standards; Provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students; Make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing.

As a great civic university, Edinburgh …. will continue to look to the widest international horizons, enriching both itself and Scotland. (University Mission)

‘Educators worldwide are developing a vast pool of educational resources on the Internet, open and free for all to use. These educators are creating a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. They are also planting the seeds of a new pedagogy where educators and learners create, shape and evolve knowledge together, deepening their skills and understanding as they go.’ (Capetown Open Education Declaration)

  1. During academic year 2013-14 an OER Short-Life Task Group was established to explore possible ways to take forward an OER strategy for University of Edinburgh and to report findings and recommendations to Learning and Teaching Committee. This paper includes a proposed vision, policy, guidance and support level.
  1. The sharing of open educational materials is in line not only with University of Edinburgh’s mission but also with a global movement in which research- led institutions play a significant role. The proposed OER vision for University of Edinburgh has three strands, each building on our history of the Edinburgh Settlement, excellent education, research collections, enlightenment and civic mission.

‘For the common good’:

Teaching and learning materials exchange to enrich the University and the sector.

  • To put in place the support frameworks to enable any member of University of Edinburgh to publish and share online as OER teaching and learning materials they have created as a routine part of their work at the University (e.g handouts, teaching materials, lesson plans, recorded lectures, research seminar content, blended-learning content, datasets, problem sheets and tools).
  • To support members of University of Edinburgh to find and use high quality teaching materials developed within and without the University.

‘Edinburgh at its best’:

Showcasing openly the highest quality learning and teaching:

  • To identify collections of high quality learning materials within each school department and research institute to be published online for flexible use, to be made available to learners and teachers as open courseware (e.g. recorded high profile events, noteworthy lectures, MOOC and DEI course content).
  • To enable the discovery of these materials in a way that ensures that our University’s reputation is enhanced.

‘Edinburgh’s treasures’:

Making available online a significant collection of unique learning materials available openly to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural well-being.

  • To identify a number of major collections of interdisciplinary materials, archives, treasures, museum resources to be digitised, curated and shared for the greater good and significant contribution to public engagement with learning, study and research (e.g. archive collections drawn from across disciplines, e.g. History of Medicine/Edinburgh as the birthplace of medicine/Scottish history/social change).
  • To put in place policy and infrastructure to ensure that these OER collections are sustainable and usable in the medium to longer term.


  1. The expertise to deliver each of these strands exists within the University through partnership between Schools and Information Services. This vision builds upon work, custom and practice already in place within the University but offers an opportunity to take a strategic approach to publishing open educational resources at scale.
  1. The delivery of this vision is contingent on several areas of activity. The University is well placed to adopt an open licencing approach to learning and teaching materials for which the copyright is already held within the University.
  1. Information Services currently offer a limited copyright advisory service to academic colleagues and students, with additional resourcing this service could be enriched to provide an OER service including training, staff development and guidance to support colleagues in making informed decisions about licencing options for their OER.
  1. It is proposed that the service is resourced by IS for 2 years in the first instance. Once the support service is in place the ‘Common Good’ activity will be supported as part of business as usual though guidance and training.
  1. A new short-life task group will be established to consider the resource needed to deliver the other two strands of the vision.


  1. Establishing a clear vision for OER at University of Edinburgh will mitigate the reputational risk which may follow as a result of colleagues referring to online learning materials as ‘open’ when they are available under closed or unclear licence.
  1. The new support service in IS will mitigate the risk that colleagues are unclear about the decisions they should make regard to the licencing, sharing and use of online materials.


  1. OER contribute to sector-wide initiatives on openness, access, equality and diversity by enriching the knowledge commons and promoting sharing and reuse.

Student-led, OpenEd, and wiping away the open wash

University of Edinburgh Digital Image Collections CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
University of Edinburgh Digital Image Collections CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

This week I’ll be at OER15 in Cardiff. It will be lovely to see so many OER colleagues again.

The conference theme is ‘Mainstreaming Open Education’ and I’ll be talking about the development of OER policy at University of Edinburgh, which has been student-led from the start.

As 2014 opened, the EUSA vice president for academic affairs challenged University senior managers to explore how learning materials could be made open, not only for students within the University, but across Scotland and to the wider world.

These were heady days, the University was riding the wave of global interest in MOOCs, an NUS report was published to champion OER, there was an upcoming independence referendum and many in Scotland saw a strategic opportunity to contribute to a fairer society via open educational practice. A high level task group was established, including key opinion shapers, from around the University of Edinburgh.

By the close of 2014 the referendum opportunity had passed, but the impetus to push forward with OER policy remained. The University now has a strategic lead on Open Education with a vision, policy, support framework, and task groups focused on delivering more. There remains a lot of work to be done.

In this presentation for OER15 Dash, Stuart and I will draw on best practise, describe the process of linking OER to institutional mission and aims and explore the challenges of multispeed approaches; working with student leadership, University senior management, educational developers and academic innovators to deliver sustainable OER in a research institution.