OpenLearn is the UK’s largest online resource of free university learning materials, containing over 950 free courses enjoyed by over 70 million users since launch. Established by a donation from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in 2006, it now averages 800,000 visitors per month. It is a confidence building space for those who can’t afford education, and a ‘try before you buy’ space for those who are making decisions about what to study. Most importantly it’s a place that inspires first steps into learning with topical videos, interactive games, quizzes and articles.
The OU has stepped beyond providing its own courses for free and now provides a true innovation platform which helps others do the same. OpenLearn Create is the sister site to OpenLearn and provides a way for people to build and present their own, free educational courses, empowering anyone and everyone to be open.
In Ethiopia with UNICEF funding it has been used to provide free courses for community health care nurses. In the US, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it has been used by Community Colleges to build access courses in Maths. In Scotland it has been used to help support asylum seekers and is now being used to support the broader higher education sector develop free educational courses in collaboration with non-education partners (such as Parkinson's UK and Dyslexia Scotland). In India and Africa it is being used to host training materials to help support the teaching work force of these continents (for example TESSA, TESS-India, DIY Learn and OpenWASH).
Increasingly OpenLearn Create is also be used to host closed cohort courses for Continuing Professional Development for staff of various organisations such as the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the NHS.
OpenLearn reaches 10 million visitors each year, many of these are from disadvantaged background. 7.5% of those who visit go onto make some form of enquiry about studying with the OU. It also plays to our social justice mission and ensures our campus is truly open by bringing academic perspective to broader community interests. Both the reach and accessibility of OpenLearn make it a truly unique proposition.
For OpenLearn, we want to release more content, create a more effective and engaging learning experiences and to develop more partnerships to help more users to discover us. In short, we want to be more effective at being more open and extend opportunities for partnering and endorsement of OpenLearn content.
With increasing demands for more open/free education, through OpenLearn Create, we now want to support colleges and universities in Ghana, Nepal and elsewhere deliver quality education to those who would otherwise be excluded. We want to make sure our partners, especially the excluded, have access to the same high quality tools the OU has – as well as best advice about how to make a great, engaging and rewarding learning experience.
For an additional £200k we could provide 40 extra courses from the OU or 5 specially made courses each year on OpenLearn. With an extra £300k we could provide significant usability and feature enhancements to OpenLearn and OpenLearn Create (and we would be happy to supply a ‘wish list’ of features we would like to develop on request).