Leadership Award

Melissa Highton

University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)

A leader in the area of strategic support for OER at both institutional and national levels, demonstrating her long-standing commitment to open education within her current role as Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services and Assistant Principal Online Learning at the University of Edinburgh, as well as in previous roles at the Universities of Leeds and Oxford.

Melissa’s leadership and example in open education is far reaching. In the past 18 months alone: she has influenced the sharing of OERs for primary and secondary school children on TES Connect, proving particularly useful for home-schooling parents during the pandemic; enabled gamers to import any of the 40,000 images from the University’s Centre for Research Collections into the Nintendo game ‘Animal Crossing’; and facilitated the repurpose of content from the Masters in Critical Care so that more than 40,000 healthcare professionals working on the pandemic frontline could access resources for free. 

Melissa’s commitment to and support for open education is an inspiration. On joining the University in 2014, she embraced the call from the Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) for greater institutional engagement with open education. Her priority was to create a service to support the use of Open Educational Resources (OERs), helping colleagues to develop the skills required to share and reuse openly licensed teaching materials. She helped EUSA to map the wealth of OERs already available disparately across the University and bring them together under a single showcase website (https://open.ed.ac.uk/); where the wider community is most likely to find them.

The vision for openness at the University of Edinburgh is encapsulated under the three themes enshrined in the strategic vision that Melissa developed for OER and open knowledge at Edinburgh (the only university to have an OER service in Scotland). It builds on the University’s excellent education and research collections, traditions of the Scottish Enlightenment and the University’s civic mission: 

  1. For the common good – encompassing every day teaching and learning materials. 
  2. Edinburgh at its best – high quality resources produced by a range of projects and initiatives. 
  3. Edinburgh’s Treasures – content from our world class cultural heritage collections. 

Melissa also, successfully oversaw the adoption of an OER policy at Edinburgh in 2016 which enabled the creation of two additional policies 1) Lecture Recording Policy,  and 2) Virtual Classroom Policy.

Melissa’s teams established a media asset management system, Media Hopper Create, one of the largest publishers of ‘born digital’ academic video and audio content OER in the world. Users are empowered to create, publish, share and discover media content. OER routes built into standard workflows encourage users to publish their content with Creative Commons licenses.

Under Melissa, the University was the first university in the UK to appoint a university-wide Wikimedian in Residence as part of its institutional strategy to develop information and digital literacy skills for staff and students, and contribute to the creation and dissemination of open knowledge. She has pioneered the employment of student interns working in the open knowledge domain and in 2021 the University of Edinburgh was pleased to offer 5 roles to students covering open content curation and Wikimedia.

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About Leadership Award

This award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated significant leadership and longstanding involvement with Open Education. This person has made significant and clear contributions to the furtherance of the Open Education movement, with contributions to Open Education that have spanned regions and/or had a global impact.