Open University celebrates 50th anniversary and launches first paid online course

The university is piloting the course with online education provider FutureLearn

The Open University (OU) will launch its first paid postgraduate course on its online social learning platform FutureLearn, in its 50th anniversary year, paving the way for similar initiatives to come.

The pilot will see the first qualification, a Post Graduate certificate in Open and Distance Education starting in February 2019, with registrations now open.

This initiative aims to offer learners a completely new experience; combining the OU’s expertise in Technology Enhanced Learning with FutureLearn’s market-leading delivery model.

The move will allow the OU to evaluate the opportunities that come from using the FutureLearn platform, including capitalising on its global reach and the potential to reduce costs. Further credit-bearing courses on FutureLearn are expected in the future.

The qualification will give learners hands-on experience of educational technologies and explore issues related to online learning. It is aimed at teachers in higher and further education as well as those conducting training in the workplace, who are keen to maximise the benefits of online learning.

Using innovative e-learning tools, learners will build practical skills in digital learning, teaching and training as well as taking part in critiques and discussions with world-class researchers and peers around the globe on current and future learning technologies.

The postgraduate qualification will feature a new “try it first” option allowing learners to take component programmes of Open and Distance Education — valued programmes in their own right — before registering for the full qualification.

It’s an occasion which reminds us how far higher education has come since the OU’s founding in 1969 — and how quickly it continues to change. Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn

The postgraduate certificate, which is conducted over 35 weeks and features four programmes on FutureLearn, is awarded on successful completion of the OU’s module: Technology-Enhanced Learning: Foundations and Futures.

Four further Post Graduate qualifications have been selected to follow this pilot, from October 2019 in: finance, advanced healthcare practice, development management and human resources.

Jonathan Nicholls, University Secretary of the OU and Chair of the Board of FutureLearn said: “The OU has always been a home for innovation and inclusivity in education and this collaboration with FutureLearn gives us the opportunity to do that to an even greater degree.

Supported distance learning is the OU’s core business and this programme will give more learners the latest tools, and the ability to swap ideas and collaborate through FutureLearn’s unique social learning environment. For the OU, we hope it will offer us new insight and allow us to continue to innovate and pioneer new forms of distance-learning education as we enter our 50th Anniversary Year.”

Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, said: “Today’s announcement marks the latest chapter in the evolution of FutureLearn’s relationship with its owner, The Open University, and it is fitting that it should coincide with such an important anniversary for the OU. It’s an occasion which reminds us how far higher education has come since the OU’s founding in 1969 — and how quickly it continues to change … From our first few ‘MOOCs’, to the portfolio of short courses, accredited programmes, and fully online degrees we have today, we have come a long way since our inception with the OU in 2012.”

“We’ve learnt a lot in the process too and, now as the leading online social learning platform in Europe, it is particularly exciting to be bringing the OU’s debut postgraduate qualification to FutureLearn on the subject of online and distance education.”

“In establishing FutureLearn, The OU bought its pedagogical expertise and experience of open distance education to other institutions. Now we’re passing on the baton to learners who stand to benefit from that same pedigree.”