New Free MOOC launched to improve flexible learning experience

1 September 2021

A new free course is being launched by the University of Derby to help other higher education institutions provide engaging flexible learning opportunities for their students.

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) used the experiences of students at Derby and collaboration with partner colleges to explore methods of teaching which suit all students, including many older adults entering the higher education system for the first time.

The aim is to help educational institutions to design and deliver more flexible online and blended modules ahead of the government’s planned launch of the Lifelong Learning Loan system in 2025.

Under the system every adult in the UK will have access to a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college, useable at any point in their lives.

The MOOC, available to all higher education institutions in the UK and Ireland, has been developed in partnership with Derby College, London College and Pearson Learning. It is one of 13 Collaborative Enhancement projects funded by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) to address areas of shared interest.

Its launch also coincides with a call from the Office for Students for short courses to be developed to address the issue of flexible learning.

Paula Shaw, Associate Professor of Online Teaching and Learning, said: “We have well-established digital learning frameworks at Derby, but the past year has forced most universities to adapt to online teaching to engage with their students.

“With the government’s plan to make lifelong learning more accessible, the sector needs to be ready to provide modules in a variety of formats. Understanding the experiences of staff and students who are already engaged in digital, flexible learning is vital.”

The project’s first stage is a virtual exhibition of flexible learning, using the University of Derby’s Atrium, library, classrooms and research spaces, sponsored by digital solutions company ThingLink.

The exhibition includes both student and academic perspectives of digital, independent and work-based learning taken from weekly video diaries and interviews carried out in spring 2021.

The second stage is the MOOC itself, designed by the University’s digital and enterprise learning team, hosted in D2L and which takes five hours to complete. It contains themes derived from the exhibition and recommendations for improving flexible learning in all modes of study.

Paula said: “We appreciate how busy colleagues in higher education are, so it was important to keep the course to a manageable length. But within the MOOC, practitioners will get a 360-degree perspective of digital learning experiences, with recommendations that will benefit their students.

“In addition to the classroom learning, the course shows you how to digitally integrate all elements of the university experience. This includes access to resources like study skills, library and careers support. It also integrates events such as virtual conferences and guest speakers, which can enrich students’ learning and help to improve outcomes.”

To access the MOOC, click here.

Visit the Digital Exhibition of Flexible Learning.

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