One of the Centre for Inclusion and Collaborative Partnerships' key achievements has been the development and production of the Openings Programme. These modules were created to encourage new and under-represented audiences into higher education by removing some of the barriers often faced by these groups.
Openings modules are short, introductory Level 1 (Framework for Higher Education Qualifications Level 4) modules that have been specifically designed to give a gentle introduction to OU study and a chosen subject. They are ideal for people who are worried about their ability or the time they have to commit to studying and so provide an ideal starting point. No special qualifications or experience are needed so the modules are accessible to all. Each Openings module starts by focusing on students' own life experiences, and they gradually build up to the kind of work expected at university level. These modules help to develop study skills and build confidence thus providing ideal preparation for longer Level 1 modules. There are no examinations to worry about and students receive support from a personal tutor who helps every step of the way.
What next after an Openings module?
All Openings modules feed into our main, longer Level 1 modules and provide good preparation. For instance, Understanding health (Y178) is an ideal preparation module for An introduction to health and social care (K101). Towards the end of their Openings module students receive help and advice, including details of the main module that follow their chosen path.
Some models of support
Openings modules need to be flexible to the needs of widening participation audiences and we have therefore developed a range of models of support.
Students receive telephone support from their own personal tutor at regular intervals throughout their Openings module. Tutors are proactive in making their calls rather than reactive, which helps us to support any struggling students who might not otherwise have asked for help.
Students receive the telephone support as above but in addition also receive some face-to-face tutor support, which focuses on generic study skills, the module material or both.
Students communicate with their tutor via email rather than telephone. This model is used for a variety of reasons including disability, culture and accessibility.
Students communicate with their tutor via correspondence. This model is used mainly by our students who are in prison.
We work with a number of partners including prisons, schools, trades unions and community organisations to find ways of supporting the needs of their communities. Partner organisations can offer their own support to students including such things as providing funding, a venue for studying, access to IT equipment and childcare.