11 Sep 2007

A sporting chance to improve your career with The Open University

Sport and Fitness

Sport and Fitness

The Open University is introducing a new range of sports and fitness related courses and qualifications following huge interest from students and to meet demands of the sports and fitness industries.

The two new courses for 2008 are Exploring Sport Online (Y164), a 20-week introductory course and an Introduction to Sport, Fitness and Management (E112), a nine-month course which forms the entry point to the Certificate of Higher Education in Sport, Fitness and Management and the Foundation Degree in Sport, Fitness and Health.

The Foundation Degree aims to provide students with an understanding of the theoretical and practical knowledge relevant to professional practice in leadership and instructional settings in sport and fitness. It will also provide additional expertise in health, the psychology of exercise and working with groups with special exercise needs, such as those with medical conditions.

It will be delivered in collaboration with YMCA Fitness Industry Training, one of the UK’s leading providers of Exercise and Fitness instructor training, and will allow students’ access to the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) at Level 3.

It is proposed that the degree will incorporate the fitness industry recognised level 3 related vocational qualification Advanced Fitness Instructing (Gym).

Ben Oakley, senior lecturer in sports studies and course leader at the OU, said: "The growth and development of the sport, health and fitness industry and related courses has been phenomenal over the last 20 years. We believe there is a demand for flexible distance learning to meet the development needs of people currently working in the industry or those simply interested in the subject.

"Our initial research also suggested that employers are looking for new, innovative ways to develop their staff without losing them for long periods of time.

"Some may ask if sport or fitness related courses can be taught by distance learning methods. The answer is: absolutely! There is a great deal of background knowledge that underpins the subject. For example, on the scientific side there is the theory of how the body adapts to exercise, whilst on the management side there is knowledge of how the sector is organised and customer care is implemented. These subjects and many others are well suited to distance learning since ultimately people can study themselves or an organisation they are familiar with.

"For example, students learn about the role of the heart and blood supply in exercise, they use the specially commissioned films on our DVD, consult our and others' websites and undertake activities using the heart rate monitor we supply – and that’s just one topic. The possibilities for interesting study tasks are endless.

"In researching and developing these qualifications we consulted with and obtained the support of three major organisations. YMCA Fitness and Training (YMCAfit) are a leading provider of health and fitness training courses and they are working with us to provide some practical elements of the foundation degree. These practical elements are recognised by the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) which nationally accredits exercise professionals at a range of levels to assured standards. We have also consulted with the Fitness Industry Association (FIA) to ensure that the content of our qualifications is relevant and meets employers’ needs."

Robin Gargrave, Executive Director of YMCAfit, said: "The development of a fitness related foundation degree which is vocational and work-based has been a long-term aim of YMCAfit. We feel there is a real need for an accessible HE qualification in this area and are delighted to be working with The Open University on this exciting project.

"We feel that YMCAfit and The Open University share similar aims and values which make it natural for us to work together on this project. Both organisations are working to address an important skills gap in the industry and to promote inclusivity in education".

While this is the first time the OU has offered courses in sports and fitness, many international and high-profile sports stars have already studied with the OU including footballers Fabrice Muamba from Birmingham City, Derek Stillie from Gillingham and Marino Keith, ex-Plymouth Argyle; New Zealand All-Black Mark Mayerhofler and England cricketers Vikram Solanki and Mark Butcher. In addition the majority of the British Universities water polo team are currently studying OU courses.

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