This activity has to date (since 2006) resulted in over 900 free courses being made available on OpenLearn, totalling over 15,000 study hours and covering every topic from microbes to management (The Open University, 2016a). ebooks were made available for every course in 2016, as a direct response to requests from disabled learners (23% of OpenLearn users) for course material in alternative accessible formats (Law & Jelfs, 2016).
Increasingly, the release of open educational media also supports other business activities, noteably including conversion of informal learners to formal learning (The Open University, 2016b). Of the 5-6 million OpenLearn visitors each year (45 million in total since OpenLearn’s inception in 2006), 13% go on to make a formal enquiry about studying with the OU. Additionally, around 150,000 OU students use OpenLearn each year to increase their confidence, get a taste of online study, inform module choice, and augment their studies (Law & Jelfs, 2016). With significant development of the site in 2016-17 it is anticipated that visitor numbers will continue to grow, and with it the importance of providing quality, impactful courses which deliver on both the University’s social and business missions.
In this context and for the purpose of this presentation, ‘impactful’ courses are defined as those which attract high numbers of learners spending a meaningful amount of time studying a course, particularly from underserved groups including disabled, unemployed and carers (social mission), and/or are successful at converting informal learners to formal learners (business mission). This presentation will explore metrics for the most popular mainstreamed OpenLearn courses in 2015-16, presenting an overview of these courses and profiling others in greater depth. We will highlight common features of the most impactful courses and begin to consider the extent to which course design (in particular the guiding principles of course design for OpenLearn courses adapted from OU modules identified by Law & Jelfs (2016)), good search engine optimisation (SEO) and particularly topical subject matter contribute to open course impact.
Law, P. & Jelfs, A. (2016) Ten years of open practice: a reflection on the impact of OpenLearn. Open Praxis, 8(2), pp. 143-149. Retrieved from http://www.openpraxis.org/index.php/OpenPraxis/article/view/283
The Open University (2016a) Free OpenLearn Courses [online] Available at: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/free-courses [Accessed 17 November 2016].
The Open University (2016b) Open Educational Media Operating Policy [online] Available at: http://open.ac.uk/about/open-educational-resources/what-we-do/open-educational-media-operating-policy [Accessed 17 November 2016].