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Badging free content at The OU

Through the development of a curriculum of assessed, badged open courses (BOCs) The OU is augmenting its employability and outreach offering for both informal learners and its students via the OpenLearn platform project aligns with the University’s priorities and core values in that it:
  • Aligns with the Journeys from Informal to Formal Learning strategy.
  • Helps to provide accessible routes into education for students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate.
  • Supports The OU Charter: … to promote the educational well-being of the community generally.
  • Aims to deliver a high quality student experience in relation to careers services and employability skills development.
The OU is building on years of knowledge, experience and research in OER as these particular courses have been developed in response to the needs of informal learners who are seeking recognition for their informal learning. BOCs are different from MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) because they are perpetual - enabling students to return to them at any time to refresh their knowledge, unlike MOOCs which have a set start and finish date. The courses address the issue of skills development required for subject-based study and professional development. They complement the OU’s extensive existing and growing portfolio of free learning on OpenLearn and reward successful learners (for free) with an OU digital badge and Statement of Participation.

Open University Badged Open Courses

Subject and study skills mastery

Career development


Scottish Law

Coming soon:

Subject and study skills mastery

  • Learning to learn languages (2017)
  • Understanding mental capacity assessment (2017)
  • Forensic psychology (2017)

Career development

  • Working in diverse teams (2017)
  • Communication (2017)
  • Personal branding (2018)
  • Mentoring and coaching (2018)
  • Working with people in sport and fitness (2018)
  • Professional development in the primary school (2018)
  • Teaching tricky topics (2018)
  • Online and distance education (2018)


  • Understanding autism (2017) [Sponsored by Dangoor Education]
  • Exoplanets (2017) [Sponsored by Dangoor Education]
  • Microgravity (2017) [Sponsored by Dangoor Education] 
  • Moons of the solar system (2017)
  • Smart cities (2017)
  • Learn to code for data analysis (2017)
  • Maths for science and technology (2017)
  • Manufacturing (2017)
  • Computers and computer systems (2017)
  • Discover chemistry (2017)
  • Nutrition and healthy eating (2017)
  • Renewable energies (2017)
  • Getting started with programming using Javascript (2017)
  • Digital thinking tools (2018)
  • Antibiotic resistance (2018) [Sponsored by Dangoor Education] 
  • Astronomy with an online telescope (2018) [Sponsored by Dangoor Education] 
  • Climate change (2018) [Sponsored by Dangoor Education] 
  • The science of alcohol (2018) [Sponsored by Dangoor Education] 

Recognition of, and motivation for, learning

Currently, learners enrolled on any of the hundreds of short courses on OpenLearn can keep track of their learning on an individual course via their MyOpenLearn profile. Each course carries an Activity Record to print or to share online and a Statement of Participation for completed courses. Digital badges issued with each BOC and accompanying Statement of Participation are a different marker of achievement: learners will have not only read full online courses but will have passed online quizzes to earn their digital badge and OU Statement of Participation. 

Our research has shown that this:

  • helps learners build confidence
  • delivers key skills and knowledge
  • provides motivation for learning
  • enables learners to obtain a record of achievement which they can share. 

Learners can display their completed badges publicly or privately in their My OpenLearn profile and link to other platforms, such as LinkedIn, WordPress, Twitter and Facebook. OU students will shortly also be able to see these particular achievements on their Student Record. Digital badges are a form of so-called 'micro-credential', that can be used to augment formal qualifications.

Open University Badged Open Courses have received the following awards:

  1. Finalist in the Times Higher Education Award for Widening Participation Initiative for the Year (2015).
  2. Winner Open Education Consortium: Creative Innovation Award (2016).

More information

For more information, please contact Patrina Law, Head of Free Learning, The Open University.

All OpenLearn free courses

Follow OU Free Learning on Twitter @OUfreelearning

'Old school learning' image courtesy of Bryan M. Mathers CC-BY-ND.