Open Education and my adventure with learning

In the blog post where I introduced myself I spoke about my childhood obsession with information, or more precisely my obsession with gaining information. In my childhood, this meant hours spent in local libraries pouring through encyclopedias. This was so much a part of who I was, that almost every birthday and Christmas present I received was some form of encyclopedia, usually about a specific topic. As I got older and computers became a tool at home, the Encyclopedia Britannica was replaced with MS Encarta. My favourite topics to pour through were usually history related, I loved reading about  the Romans, the Vikings, how early civilisations traded and so knew all about other countries, people and continents way before modern transportation made this easy. I was like a sponge. Unfortunately though, any encyclopedia, even one on a CD Rom, is finite and only has so much information to give before it runs out.

The reason I’m sharing this memory with you now is that I want to talk to you about a fantastic initiative that I am whole heatedly behind. Lets start with the fact that I work for the University of Edinburgh (you may have noticed) and the University mission statement is

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)

It’s the first couple of lines that really strike a chord with me, ” the creation, dissemination and curation of knowledge”. As a kid or even as a teenager, this would have got me so excited so you can imagine my reaction both as an employee and as a student when the University announced it has created a policy for Open Educational Resources (you have to imagine the wide-eyed, 12 year old Eli saying this in a whisper).

So What Are Open Educational Resources (OERs)

Open Education Resources (OERs) are basically online resources that are freely available for anyone to use to nurture and support learning. It’s not just a University of Edinburgh thing either, they are part of a worldwide movement to promote and support sustainable educational development – the term ”OER” is attributed to a UNESCO workshop in 2002.

Ok so now you’re wondering why a university would want to encourage the giving away of its teaching? And that’s a really fair question to have and I think there are two answers to this.

  1. As an institution: this allows you to do something for the common good, to enrich the university sector. It also gives you the opportunity to showcase your wares, show potential students what you have to offer. To raise the University profile and increase its reputation.
  2. As an educator: you are responsible for nurturing learning by creating opportunities to learn and experiences to enrich learning,  but this doesn’t mean you have to develop all the materials yourself. If someone has already created the perfect materials that help you to encourage a learner then why not reuse them if they are available, freeing up your time to spend on the other aspects of teaching and learning. Making your materials available openly can also help to raise your profile and allow your resources to be improved by other users.

So what’s next on my learning adventure with open resources?

Next I’m going to learn about creating open learning resources using that one amazing encyclopedia that will never run out of information, Wikipedia. At the University of Edinburgh, we are really lucky to have a Wikimedian in Residence and I’m going to leave you wondering exactly what that means, but I will update you after I attend a training session with him and learn how to edit Wikipedia.

Until then, find out more about Open Educational Resources at the University of Edinburgh:

Watch this space.

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I'm Eli and I blog about the inane things which interest me namely gardening, cooking and cycling and occasionally geeky educational technology things. I live in sunny Musselburgh with my lovely wife Kate and our cats.