OERu/Planning/MVP task force/Fourth meeting/2018 Learning in a Digital Age

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Consistent with the OERu Council of Chief Executive Officers’ decision to proceed with a “soft-launch” of the OERu 1st year of study, the OERF launched the first offering of Learning in a Digital Age comprising four micro-courses in March 2018. The soft-launch approach is designed to pursue realistic but conservative targets to validate the technology delivery platform and to collect data to inform decision-making for scaling-up delivery as the OERu builds brand awareness.

Inaugural offering of Learning in a Digital Age

The Learning in a Digital Age pilot included 703 registered (and 659 unregistered) participants from 60 different countries. The Saylor Academy, one of the OERu partners, adopted a copy of the Learning in a Digital Age course for their own platform providing a proof of concept for developing a decentralised OER technology ecosystem with the capacity for distributed, institutional-based learner groups to interact with each other. Assessment options are currently available in the United States and New Zealand with credit transfer recognised towards the Certificate Higher Education Business (OERu) in the United Kingdom.

To minimise the risks of oversubscribing the course before testing the technology platform in an authentic delivery context, marketing of the course was restricted to mentions via personal Twitter accounts of OERF staff and a site-wide notice on the WikiEducator website.

The Learning in a Digital Age pilot attracted 703 registered participants from 60 different countries. The top thirteen countries according to the number of registrations were: India, United States, Canada, Fiji, Nigeria, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Uganda, Australia, Egypt and Kenya. Site analytics recorded 1,362 users visiting the course websites during the active cohort period, indicating that 48% of visitors chose not to register for course announcements. The course sites generated 19,839 page views with 9,083 being unique for the active cohort periods.

The component based technology platform performed well with learners using the full range of interaction technologies. It became evident that learners were experiencing difficulty in specifying the blog feed urls used for aggregating posts from their learning portfolios. The OERF therefore developed a blog feed finder service plugin for Wordpress, which will be integrated into future OERu course offerings (and, as open source software, is already being adopted by other OER groups). We are now confident that we can move forward and scale-up for larger numbers of learners by progressing with a phased launch of the business courses for the Certificate of Higher Education Business (OERu).

Who are the OERu learners?

An optional New OERu Participant Survey was administered. While the sample is still too small (N=59) to generalise findings for the OERu, the following data provides some insight into the learners who participated in the inaugural cohort. Learners ranged from 25 to 60 years of age, with one in five respondents falling in the 46 - 52 age group. Half of the learners indicated English as their primary language. Respondents who chose to identify their gender identity, demonstrated that 64% were female. The majority of respondents (66%) are in full-time paid employment. Professional development (50%), followed by reskilling for a new career (17%), and personal development (17%) were cited as the main motivations for taking an OERu course.

Approximately one in three respondents confirmed that they were planning to acquire a micro-credential, and an equal number indicated they were thinking about completing a micro-credential. Clearly, the micro-credential model is of interest to the individuals who completed the survey, with only 12% confirming that they were not interested in pursuing microcredentials.