The Open University is adding to its suite of free courses on the UK Government’s website to help build skills in the wake of the pandemic and aid vital recovery efforts among employees and employers.
From today (Tuesday June 2) two extra courses will go live on The Skills Toolkit platform and cover entry level bookkeeping and an advanced course in computer networking.
The Government’s Toolkit launched last month to share free learning has seen tens of thousands of course starts in free digital and numeracy learning across the country. Among them are the OU’s existing three courses in beginner’s maths, cyber security and learning to code as well as more by its partner FutureLearn.
The two new courses are among four being added to the platform by the Government. They are: Introduction to Bookkeeping, giving an introduction to the essential skills and concepts of bookkeeping and accounting and Discovering Computer Networks: a hands on in the Open Networking Lab (in collaboration with Cisco), an advanced level course covering how computer networks operate and how data is sent around the internet. Both can be found on the OU’s free online learning platform OpenLearn
Since the launch of the Toolkit the OU has seen high numbers of registrations onto its existing three free courses Everyday Maths has seen the highest volume of visitors (over 30,000) with Learning to Code next (26,000) followed by Cyber Security (11,542).
The Skills Toolkit is available to everyone and has a range of courses from introductory to more advanced levels. Feedback from those who have already accessed the OU’s free courses on the platform is very positive.
Thirty-five-year-old Richard from North Yorkshire completed the Learn to Code free course while he was furloughed for eight weeks during lockdown. He said:
“I was very pleased there was an option to do something like this, that would brush up on my skills and top up my CV. I found the course easy to manage and very useful, suitable for all levels. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone facing these tough times.”
“82% of all job openings requesting digital skills”
Speaking about the success of The Skills Toolkit, Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills said:
“I’d like to congratulate the tens of thousands of people who have already taken advantage of the range of high quality courses The Skills Toolkit has to offer. We’ve had a fantastic response so far with more than 136,000 starts on the courses featured since the platform launched last month. The good news is we have now added four new courses, expanding the range of free digital and numeracy courses available.
“It is a difficult time for everyone, but we want as many people as possible to be able to continue to gain the skills and confidence that could help them to get ahead. With 82% of all job openings requesting digital skills, I’d encourage anyone looking to learn something new, or any employers keen to help their employees keep up their development, to take a look and see what’s on offer.”
Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University
“The incredible volume of numbers starting these courses is proof that providing digital learning to sharpen skills is both needed and welcomed, and we are absolutely delighted to be adding two more free courses to include entry level bookkeeping and computer networking.
“Whatever your circumstances, whatever your level of educational background, The Open University allows you to gain new skills, improve your knowledge and increase your skillset ready for work and for getting on in the workplace.
“We are proud to be working with the UK Government and indeed with all the OU’s nation governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Together these collaborations form part of the OU’s ongoing support to share our knowledge and expertise in the development of high-quality online teaching, supported by academic research.
“We hope learners continue to benefit in their hundreds and thousands from these free courses, and for employers to back them too.”
A recent survey by the OU taken up among more than 2,000 adults taken between April 28 and May 1st, commissioned by The Open University found a quarter (24%) of the UK workforce are learning new skills to mitigate against coronavirus uncertainty.
The results suggest that younger employees are particularly fearful that their skills could become obsolete. Over a third (39%) of 18-34-year-olds agreed that they would put their own money towards development opportunities if it made them more employable.
Success across the nations with OU free learning
The OU’s OpenLearn site has 15,000 hours of online courses and content offered to all, free of charge. Since the lockdown, the number of overall visitors per day to the site has trebled, with 2.5 million unique visits in April compared with an average of 0.8 million per month and more than 1 million course enrolments in the 8 weeks between lockdown beginning on 23 March and 17 May.
The success of the UK Government’s Toolkit forms part of a bigger picture of similar successes in initiatives with the Welsh Government, Scottish Government and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland, all reaching out to those who may be affected by the impact of the pandemic on their employment or in looking for work.
The Open University is working in collaboration with Governments throughout the UK to share its free learning courses on OpenLearn to those who may be able to benefit at this time.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Welsh Government has compiled e-learning resources for furloughed workers to improve their knowledge and skills, support their mental wellbeing and help them to prepare for the future. The package of support includes links to OpenLearn courses.
The Open University in Wales is also working with the Welsh Government supporting post-16 education for schools and colleges while they are closed. They have also been supporting teachers at Cardiff Council and Tenovus Cancer Care to access free online learning. More news on their site here.
Audiologist Amy James, 28, from Cardiff, is currently on furlough leave. Before using OpenLearn, she had never done any distance learning. She has enrolled on OpenLearn’s Managing my investments course, which focusses on things like personal savings accounts, bonds and shares.
“There’s so much choice on there. I’ve been thinking about one of the management courses next, but for now I’m focusing on improving my personal finance knowledge.
“Everyone will find something that they’re interested in. I’ve only been doing this for two weeks now, and I’ve already got one of my friends doing a course.”
Commenting on the Northern Ireland scheme with NIDirect, Director of The Open University in Ireland, John Darcy said:
“The OU is proud to support the Northern Ireland Executive with free online training provision for people across Northern Ireland who are furloughed or have lost their job as a result of coronavirus.
“Being able to support the local economy by providing free online learning, opens up education and support to all who really need it at this time and who want to develop their skills and help them look for work.”
“These courses in digital skills, employability and essential skills such as Maths and English are enabling many people to acquire the skills they need to succeed and contribute in an innovative way to their workplace.”
And Louise Casella, Director of The Open University in Wales said:
“The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone. Many of us have been cut off from our closest friends and family, and we’ve been confined to our homes for much longer than we’re used to.
“It’s encouraging though that so many people in Wales are seeing the benefits of online learning and are trying something new through OpenLearn – all for free.”
In Scotland, course number starts have soared, with latest figures showing more than 24,500 unique visitors to the OpenLearn pages since the OU connection with MyWorldOfWork run by the Scottish Government.
Susan Stewart, Director of The Open University in Scotland, said:
“OpenLearn is a fantastic resource and I would encourage people across Scotland to try what’s on offer, whether it’s just for fun or to find out whether they’d like to take an Open University course in the future.”
Some of the most popular courses on OpenLearn for people in Scotland include Forensic Psychology, Understanding Autism and Introduction to Cyber Security: Stay Safe Online. Read more about the scheme in Scotland.