26 Feb 2015

New partnership opens up OU free learning to over 200K new learners worldwide

Badged Open Courses now available!

Badged Open Courses now available!

The Open University (OU) is widening access to its free educational materials even further by partnering with OERu (OER Universitas) – a free open educational resource channel accessed by over 200,000 people from around the world each month. News of this partnership also coincides with the launch of the University’s innovative new free Badged Open Courses (BOCs) scheme which will be available via both the OERu and the OU’s platform for free learning, OpenLearn, enabling informal learners to get recognition for completing free online courses.

Both of these exciting new developments build on the OU’s mission to be open to everyone, allowing all learners access to free learning content regardless of their previous learning or educational experiences. Since 2006, OpenLearn has been accessed by over 37m learners worldwide. The OU continues to forge relationships and partnerships in Open Educational Resources (OER) to improve access to academic study and research as part of its widening participation mission.

Both the OERu and the OpenLearn platforms allow users to republish their materials freely, enabling as many people as possible to access them. “This is an exciting new partnership for The Open University as it enables us to widen access to our free learning materials to a significant number of new learners across the globe.” says The OU’s Open Media Unit Director, Andrew Law. He adds “Both the OU and OERu recognise that learners benefit from accessing information in a variety of different ways, this is why we have ensured our materials can be shared freely, enabling as many people as possible to benefit from them.”

The first five BOCs are already available on OpenLearn and cover a range of skills and subjects designed to prepare learners for further study, from introductory maths and English to a course on how to succeed with learning. BOCs will be different from MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) because they are continual, enabling students to return to them at any time to refresh their knowledge, unlike MOOCs which have a set start and finish date. Learners who have completed OpenLearn courses by reading the online materials and completing the quizzes that accompany them will earn a digital badge and OU certificate which they can share publicly or privately in their My OpenLearn profile and link to other platforms, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

The introduction of free BOCs builds on years of OU knowledge, experience and research into OER and is in direct response to feedback from learners who are seeking to have their online study recognised. Pilot research has shown that the introduction of markers of achievement, such as digital badges, helps informal learners build confidence and motivation for learning, providing a record which they can share with friends, learner communities, employers and educational institutions. “We have listened to the changing needs and requirements of our informal learners using our open platforms” says Andrew Law. “Badged Open Courses will complement the OU’s extensive and growing portfolio of OER on OpenLearn and provide learners recognition for their achievements through assessment – for free.”

Over the next few months the OERu platform will be linking to the new OU BOCs and open courses on OpenLearn. The first to be released will be as Beta, to gather user feedback which will help improve the experience for learners and further BOCs will be made available over the coming months.

Notes to the editor

1. Follow OU Free Learning on Twitter @OUfreelearning

2. About OERu
OERu is an Open Educational Resource channel that offers free access to learning materials from 32 post-secondary institutions around the world. The OERu platform reports access to 217,000 unique monthly visitors from around the world. For further information visit:

3. About OpenLearn
OpenLearn aims to break the barriers to education by reaching millions of learners around the world, providing free educational resources and inviting all to sample courses that OU registered students take – for free. The OU launched OpenLearn in October 2006 thanks to a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. In 2010 OpenLearn merged with, the Open University website that has supported OU BBC broadcasts since 1999. OpenLearn gives access to topical and interactive content, from expert blogs, to videos and games, samples of over 800 of the OU’s courses, plus whole, free courses. This 'open media' often links to OU television and radio programmes produced as co-productions with the BBC.

4. OU BOCs currently available:
- Succeed with maths – Part 1
- Succeed with maths – Part 2
- Taking your first steps into higher education
- Succeed with learning
- English: skills for learning

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