04 Apr 2014

Shadow Universities Minister visits The Open University

Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Minister for Universities visits the OU

Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Minister for Universities visits the OU

The Open University (OU) has welcomed Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills to its campus in Milton Keynes. The MP met with senior leaders from across the city of Milton Keynes and saw first-hand how the University is leading the way in innovative learning technologies and ground-breaking research.

Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. It has a vast “open content portfolio” which includes free study units on OpenLearn - a site which received 5.2million unique visitors in 2012/13 - plus materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 60 million downloads.

To further expand access to free educational material the University also recently launched FutureLearn, bringing together leading UK and international universities to offer free online courses worldwide. Since the launch in September last year, FutureLearn has learners in more than 190 counties including China, India and the US. One of the strengths of FutureLearn is how peer to peer learning has been integrated into the courses.

Speaking about his visit to The Open University, Liam Byrne MP said: “Our country needs an 'earn while you learn' revolution – combining work with study. The OU’s flexible approach to learning must be part of the future of Britain. Combining work and study allows students to develop personally and professionally at every stage, earning whilst they learn.

“Student experience is vital and having seen first-hand the technology that the OU is developing and enhancing, it is clear that student experience is at the heart of everything it does.”

As part of the visit, Mr Byrne was given a tour of the University’s Knowledge Media Institute (KMI) which develops new technologies to assist learning.

Professor Peter Scott, Director of KMI said: “With our teaching available to students on their mobile or tablet via platforms like our award-winning OU Anywhere App, we can easily demonstrate that current OU learning technology is at the first class. Yet more importantly, with the UK now leading a fast-moving learning market, we want to show how new internet technologies, big data, student analytics and a more semantic web will ensure that the OU students’ learning journey is one which is social, interactive and exciting.”

Rajay Naik, Director of Government & External Affairs at The Open University said: “It has been a pleasure to show Liam how we are promoting social mobility and economic growth through high quality online learning, our pioneering broadcast partnerships and growing commercial partnerships around the world. The OU is incredibly proud of its roots in Milton Keynes and the successes we have enjoyed together over the past 40 years. Working with colleagues from all sections of society, business, politics and academia we are looking forward to continuing to expand access, up skill workers, support businesses and innovate to keep UK higher education at the vanguard of the world.”

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