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12 Nov 2010

OpenLearn wins award for best use of social media for learning

OpenLearn wins award

OpenLearn wins award

OpenLearn, The Open University’s open educational resources portal, has won an E-Learning Award from e.learning age in the new category, best use of social media, for its 92 Rewind project.

92 Rewind was launched in the run up to the 2010 General Election with the aim of driving traffic to political content available on OpenLearn and open2.net.

Laura Dewis, Head of Online Commissioning, explains: “We wanted to engage the public in learning about politics and to encourage critical thinking and debate on political issues influencing our vote. We also wanted to raise awareness of the courses The Open University offers in this area, for those who want to pursue their interest.”

The project was launched amongst heightened public interest and media coverage, and the team was aware that they would be competing with other excellent websites and online offerings from national newspapers and the BBC. Their challenge was to deliver something unique, which capitalised on expertise at The Open University in both the subject area and online learning content.

92 Rewind delivered regular tweets on news headlines from the 1992 election that occurred at the same point in time in the election cycle, reflecting on similarities and differences. Tweets were supplemented with short blog posts on the open2.net website, a podcast series, short videos on YouTube and links to politics courses.

Commenting on the award, the Judging Panel said: “We were thrilled that in the first year of this category we were able to give recognition to what can be done with freely available social media tools, some creative thinking and a willingness to experiment. We were impressed by the completely open nature of OpenLearn’s project, the use of a variety of supporting media, and the way it mixes planned activities with an immediate response to current events, such as the use of Twitter to parallel the ongoing course of the 2010 election with its 1992 predecessor.”

Laura Dewis concluded: “92 Rewind was a big success; our followers on Twitter increased by over 400 during the six week period we ran the project. Our tweets were re-tweeted about 50 times, including by respected social media political sites. Visits to the 92 Rewind home page led to a spike in content on the open2.net society blog. To also receive public recognition for our project through the E-learning Award is certainly a great accolade!”

Editors’ Notes

The Open University (OU) is the United Kingdom's only university dedicated to distance learning. OpenLearn is the OU’s major contribution to the open educational resources (OER) movement, providing a participatory learning environment where the public can engage with free learning materials and communicate with other users of the website.

The OpenLearn platform was developed using Moodle, an open-source Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) platform. The self study multimedia learning material taken from its courses are provided online for free, for anyone to study at any pace anywhere in the world. The study units span 12 topic areas and there are 6000 hours of learning ranging from introductory, through to undergraduate and postgraduate level. Study units are open to everyone, include self-assessment and can be printed or downloaded in several formats to adapt and reuse under a Creative Commons license.

The website, launched in October 2006, saw 70,000 visitors in its first month and now averages over 400,000 visitors a month. OpenLearn has had over 14 million visits (11 million unique visitors) with 55% coming from outside the UK.

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