The Open University has launched a new online hub called ‘Transition to Higher Education in Northern Ireland’ to provide support for new students moving into higher education in Northern Ireland this year regardless of where they are studying.
The new hub, which has been funded by the Department for the Economy, provides short online courses to support new students with study skills, wellbeing and mental health, and student life as well as short courses on a range of subjects including healthcare, business and management, arts, humanities and STEM.
The materials have been curated from The Open University’s OpenLearn platform. OpenLearn has been the home of free learning from The Open University since 2006 and has attracted over 80 million visitors worldwide to date. Content is written by academics and subject specialists, spanning the breadth of The Open University curriculum as well as cross-curricular content like study skills, careers and employability.
There are over 1,000 courses on OpenLearn including courses extracted from Open University modules. Up to 5% of the content of each Open University module is released on OpenLearn in support of The Open University’s social mission. In 2019/20, some 131,974 citizens across Northern Ireland used free online OpenLearn materials.
Welcoming the initiative Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “The coming academic year will see a new intake of students into the HE sector who will have experienced significant challenges over the last eighteen months. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, this cohort have had long gaps in their structured learning, which may have affected their confidence, study skills and good habits, which are enablers of academic success.
“It is vitally important to address this in order for Northern Ireland’s HE sector to continue to produce high calibre graduates who will go on contribute to the future productivity and innovation of the local economy.
“I am therefore delighted with the launch of The Open University’s new online hub, which is funded by my Department and which I’m sure, with The Open University’s expertise in online support for students, will be invaluable help for new students transitioning to higher education this year.
“I would encourage all new students to take advantage of this resource to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to get the most out of their time at university.”
The Open University’s Director in Northern Ireland, John D’Arcy said: “We are delighted to be working with higher education colleagues across Northern Ireland to support students entering higher education this year. The hub has over 50 short courses at present and we look forward to working with our colleague universities and colleges to add additional content over the coming months. As well as subject-related courses, the hub includes content on wellbeing, study skills and other skills for student life, including a course developed with MoneySavingExpert to help people of all ages develop skills and knowledge to master their finances.”
Ellen Fearon, President of NUS-USI said: “This is a fantastic and very welcome initiative from The Open University. After an uncertain year for those in education, extra support for the transition to higher education is essential. The introduction of a hub with so much relevant information and supports in one place shows both a fantastic approach to student-centered education and the recognition of the need for increased support for students at this time. I have no doubt many students will find this resource beneficial to the start of their higher education journey”
This hub is part of a wider programme of support for new students this year.
Professor David Jones, Pro Vice Chancellor for Education and Students at Queen’s University Belfast said “This is a wonderful intervention by The Open University that will be invaluable for all students entering Higher Education for the first time in September 2021. The online resources provided by The Open University will provide students with a range of packages (both academic and skills based) to support students’ learning following the most challenging year. Queen’s University Belfast strongly recommends that all new students to Higher Education should use these superb resources freely to complement their academic learning.”
The hub can be found at: https://www.open.edu/openlearn/transition-higher-education