Distance learning: Open University shares its wisdom

The OU has launched a new distance learning course for educators grappling with distance learning due to coronavirus

The Open University (OU) is to share more than 50 years of experience and expertise in a new distance learning course for educators.

The online teaching microcredential aims to equip academic staff in the higher and further education sectors with the practical skills to successfully create engaging online courses and teach online, both during and after lockdown.

It covers online assessment, supporting diverse learners online, selecting learning technologies and designing accessible and engaging online activities.

Available on the OU’s social learning platform, FutureLearn, the course is worth 15 academic UK credits at postgraduate level.

This course unites decades of successful experience with the latest research, as well as insights based on current practice around the world

“In putting this course together, we are able to draw on the experience and expertise from within The Open University, which has pioneered distance learning for more than half a century,” said Rebecca Ferguson, senior lecturer at the OU and lead educator on the microcredential.

“This course unites decades of successful experience with the latest research, as well as insights based on current practice around the world. We are delighted to help everyone who studies the course develop and apply the necessary skills in a way that is safe and accessible for a variety of learners.”

“With more students learning online across the world than ever before, it is crucial that they are still able to receive a high quality education,” said Finola Lang, global education lead at FutureLearn, which the OU founded in 2012 and now co-owns with The Seek Group.

“This means going beyond the initial rush to migrate teaching and assessment material online, to delivering a more inclusive and inspiring learning experience. We are delighted to be working alongside The Open University, who have long been pioneers in distance learning, to create a microcredential for higher education teachers that equips them with effective strategies for implementing online learning that will help both with the response to the pandemic and in the longer term.”

The OU is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, thanks to innovations such as its pioneering, multi-award-winning OpenSTEM Labs.

Marking its half-century in December 2018, then vice-chancellor Professor Mary Kellet told University Business: “The OU’s method of delivery was always – and still is – different to the norm.

“From the OU’s earliest years, people fondly remember tuning into BBC Two in the early hours of the morning for a maths lecture delivered by a kipper-tie-wearing professor; while kitchens transformed into labs as science kits, complete with items for dissection, were posted to people’s homes.

“Our network of associate lecturers (still key today to our students’ success) supported thousands of learners with residential schools, tutorials and phone calls to discuss their latest essay. This sort of learning was new – and people embraced it in their thousands.”

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