Open Educational Resources and Copyright

[This blog post is part of a series written for the Edinburgh Teaching Award (EdTA) to achieve accreditation as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. ]

I’ve been working in Higher Education for six years now. Originally starting at The University of St Andrews as a Library Assistant an interest in copyright and learning technology has seen my career move from library learning services (University of Edinburgh Library), to my current role as an Open Educational Resources (OER) Advisor for the Educational Design and Engagement (EDE) team within the Learning Teaching and Web (LTW) Services division at The University of Edinburgh. It’s quite the mouthful which is why we use a lot of acronyms.

My current role is focused around raising knowledge and awareness of copyright, licensing, and specifically the use, creation, and sharing of open educational resources (OER) in teaching at the University. OERs are digital resources used in the context of teaching and learning (e.g. course material, images, video, multimedia resources, assessment items, etc.), which have been released by the copyright holder under an open licence (e.g. Creative Commons) permitting their use or re-purposing (re-use, revision, remixing, redistribution) by others. I create and deliver training, guidance and workshops, support institutional learning technology changes and rollouts from a copyright and licensing perspective, contribute to ISG and University wide events, and provide consultancy to Schools and individual teaching and support staff.

A university is a not a silo, we are beholden to the wider Scottish, UK, and international laws, not to mention a responsibility towards ethical practices.   As technology grows and changes improving access to digital materials, so too does the way in which we need to be mindful of our appropriation and use of materials and resources created by others. It’s incredibly important that our institution, it’s staff, and our students, understand the responsibilities and legal ramifications of actions when re-purposing and using works created by others.

When I first started in this role I assisted with finalising the University of Edinburgh’s Open Educational Resources policy. The policy outlines the institutional position on OERs, provides guidance for the use of OERs in learning and teaching at the University, and guidelines for practice in learning and teaching. Recognising that use, creation, and publication of OERs are consistent with the University’s reputation, values, and mission to “make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing”, my work centres around implementing the policy by encouraging staff to openly licence their learning and teaching materials, and to seek out OER already created elsewhere in order to enrich their teaching.

The training of teaching staff requires an active lack of assumption regarding existing skill level and knowledge. I’ve provided training to academic teaching staff with high level understanding and technical knowledge of the virtual learning environment they’ve taught on, but minimal knowledge regarding websites, browsers, bookmarks, and browser tabs. I also regularly request feedback regarding my training sessions and apply suggested improvements to future sessions or create alternative training methods. In reading one of the suggested resources for the EdTA, I realised that much of my approach towards training and educating in this area aligns with that of authentic learning. Particularly in providing authentic contexts, tasks, and activities related to how the knowledge will be used in learning and teaching here at the University.  I’m now reading further into this approach to see where I can use this to improve my teaching.

In addition to the events I run around OER, I’ve been collaborating with a colleague from the Library’s Scholarly Communications team, Eugen Stoica, on a campaign to raise copyright awareness and literacies among staff and students across the University. We run monthly copyright and licensing training sessions at a variety of levels and locations in order to provide access for different needs, and secured funding to create a series of posters that are now going up across the campuses. The campaign had a slow start in early 2017, but as word of our training and workshops spreads, so too has demand, and we now regularly receive invitations to speak at School and Departmental forums and to run tailored sessions.






Authentic Learning: Resources and ideas about authentic learning and authentic e-learning, 

Open Educational Resources Policy, (2016) University of Edinburgh,


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