12 Jun 2007

Half a million learners worldwide now use free content from OpenLearn

Openlearn hits landmark figure

Openlearn hits landmark figure

Half a million people in 160 countries are now using the free learning materials made available through OpenLearn, The Open University’s open content initiative.

The site, which launched in October 2006 as part of the OU’s commitment to broadening access to education, makes study materials freely available on the internet, with state-of-the-art learning support and communication tools to connect learners and educators across the globe.

New units of study are added each month and the site already boasts more than 2,500 hours of learning materials in the LearningSpace, and more than 4,500 hours in the more experimental LabSpace. OpenLearn units cover a range of subjects from arts and history to science and nature, at all study levels from access to postgraduate. The most popular units include those on network security, human resources, recruitment, Spanish and global warming.

OpenLearn publishes cohesive learning objects taken from high quality OU courses under a Creative Commons licence. This means that users can download and reuse the materials, amending them to suit their purpose and context.

Available to learners and educators throughout the UK and worldwide, the project is of particular significance in the OU’s efforts to widen access to hard-to-reach groups and tackle educational disadvantage both within the developed and developing worlds.

Professor David Vincent, The Open University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Strategy, Planning and External Affairs), said: “The philosophy of open access and sharing knowledge is proving popular around the globe and this is emphasised by the fact that OpenLearn this week attracted its 500,000th unique visitor. We’re seeing the formation of communities of learners and educators alike on the site; the materials are being taken, improved and reused and OpenLearn is very much the catalyst for people making new connections through learning.”

OpenLearn recently won a platinum award – the top honour – at the IMS Global Learning Consortium Learning Impact Awards 2007. The news was announced at the Learning Impact Awards in Vancouver in April. Twenty-five finalists from hundreds of entries from around the world were judged on learner achievement, impact on faculty adoption, financial return, impact on access, impact on accountability, and use of interoperability standards.

The OpenLearn entry received full marks from the award judges in the area of Expanded Access: Impact on reaching new populations, amongst others. The project's success in attracting a global audience since its launch was said by the judges to be a "true innovation in open access" which was to be "applauded".

Editor’s Notes
The Open University
The OU offers 580 courses. Subject areas are: Business and Management; Child and Youth Studies; Computing and ICT; Education and Teaching; Engineering and Technology; Environment, development and International Studies; Health and Social Care; Humanities – Arts, History, Philosophy, Religion; Languages – English, French, German, Italian, Spanish; Law; Mathematics and Statistics; Psychology; Science; Social Sciences – Politics, Sociology, Economics.

Top ten OpenLearn units to week ending 6 May 2007:
1. Network Security
2. Modelling object-oriented software - an introduction
3. Exploring distance time graphs
4. Diversity and difference in communication
5. Human resources: recruitment and selection
6. Design
7. Spanish: Espacios públicos
8. Finding information in information technology and computing
9. The meaning of crime
10. An introduction to business cultures

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