OpenLearn, the free learning platform delivered by The Open University, has been named as a winner in the Open Education (OE) Global 2021 Open Education Awards for Excellence, due to its impressive response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The team won the Open Resilience Award which recognises the exemplary leadership and open educational practices implemented during the first stages of the pandemic when it “empowered” more than 2.7 million people to enrol and learn through free online courses.
Open Education Global said OpenLearn had cemented its parent university’s reputation as a global pioneer in distance learning and showcased its academics’ cutting-edge research and were worthy winners of this year’s award.
Patrina Law, Head of OpenLearn commented:
“It was a Herculean effort on behalf of everyone to not only keep the lights on as our user numbers surged five-fold overnight, but also rapidly commissioning responsive, topical and much-needed content to keep people afloat career-wise and in support of their mental health. This award is a reminder – to the dedicated OpenLearn team and its contributors – of an appreciation of their efforts.”
During the pandemic, OpenLearn built on its pioneering experience in distance learning at scale to empower more than 2.7 million people to enrol and learn through free online courses. The platform also gave a further 18 million people access to vital and relevant educational resources and activities to help them develop new skills since the UK first locked down on 23 March 2020.
Its 22-strong team collaborated with the OU’s academics, as well as government officials, employers and unions across the country to meet the population’s rapidly developing learning and support needs.
Simon Rea, a media fellow who works closely with OpenLearn for WELS, said:
“Many congratulations to the OpenLearn team and everyone associated with OpenLearn. You really pulled out all the stops to support students and engaged learners across the world during the pandemic. This included quickly getting packages of resources together to support school teachers and pupils. The engagement figures were astounding and they reflect the diversity and quality of the content that has been produced for the site.”
OpenLearn includes over 1,000 free courses, plus other content such as educational games, videos and academic articles, reaching an audience of over 14 million a year. Free open content from the OU is also available across a variety of other online formats including YouTube, and iTunes U, Amazon Kindle and Google Play.
Another award winner was the TIDE project, which won the 2021 Open Practices Awards (Open Collaboration category) of the Open Education Awards for Excellence.
Launched in 2018, Transformation by Innovation in Distance Education (TIDE) project was a 3.5 year partnership of UK and Myanmar institutions, led by The Open University, working in Myanmar to improve the quality of distance learning in Higher Education (HE) and enhancing it through an understanding and development of open educational practices.
TIDE was part of the UK aid-funded Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR) programme (www.spheir.org.uk). SPHEIR is managed on behalf of UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office by a consortium led by the British Council that includes PwC and Universities UK International. The TIDE project was brought to an early closure following the escalating situation in Myanmar in early 2021.