UCF releases free online courses for teachers’ professional development

UCF has launched two new free online courses to support teachers’ professional development. The first course covers IPR in lecturing materials. The second free course covers introducing blogging projects into the classroom.

Online PR News – 26-September-2012 – Falmouth/Cornwall – The UK’s University College Falmouth (UCF) continues to blaze a trail in borderless education with the release of two free, open education courses aimed at higher education and further education academics. Today sees the formal launch of its Intellectual Property Rights for Educational Environments and Blogging for Educational Environments courses. Both courses are hosted on UCF’s open education course repository, openSpace.

There have been numerous articles and online discussions around the issues of IPR and the materials teachers use in the classroom and introducing blogging projects to students. These are two priority areas in terms of professional development for academics. UCF was keen to develop free online courses to benefit international HE and FE communities.

While UCF isn’t the largest player in providing free online university-level courses, its innovative approach has garnered accolades and international attention. UCF lecturer and openSpace Project Manager Alex di Savoia made the comment “We’ve focused more on the quality of the learning experience rather than on the volume of courses available. We take the feedback we receive from the public and embed this in the development of additional free courses. This approach is what’s made our open courseware so popular. The knowledge we’ve gained has also been applied elsewhere within the institution.”

openSpace courses are more than individual lectures, audio and reading lists. Each course comes with learning aims and outcomes. These help students understand what it is they should be learning. They also help learners measure their own learning achievements. The instructional design for each course acts as a virtual tutor, guiding learners through the learning process without a physical tutor presence. It’s this approach that makes UCF’s free online courses unique and distinctive.

The UCF-funded Blogging for Educational Environments course teaches higher education and further education academics how to embed blogging into their curriculum. It also steps teachers through how to successfully introduce blogging projects to their students and how to support students with blogging. The course: outlines the learning and teaching benefits of student blogging; introduces academics to the different ways blogging can be used within a course; provides templates, case studies, learning activities, reading and toolkits to enable tutors to embed blogging within course development and curricula; and provides practical steps covering the various aspects of getting students to blog safely and with confidence.

UCF received a £20,000 grant from The Higher Education Funding Council for England to produce the Intellectual Property Rights for Educational Environments course. The course project, managed by the Higher Education Academy and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), introduces academics to IPR and copyright issues and best practice when using materials they do not own in their lectures. It also supports lecturers who wish to create their own free to use education materials.

Flexibility is a fundamental aspect for both courses. Learners can study when they wish, where they wish on devices of their choice. Academics from anywhere in the world are also free to use, edit or host the openSpace course materials to supplement their own lectures. With steady traffic coming from India, Pakistan, Australia, Brazil and the United States, openSpace has a rich mix of international users. Its free screenwriting unit went viral in 2011 and has received accolades from the likes of the open source screenwriting software provider Celtx and the respected film and screenwriting blog FilmmakerIQ.com.

The merits of online education, and open education in particular, have been questioned in the news and print press in recent months. Questions have been asked about the quality of the learning experience. Andrew Upton, UCF’s Pro Rector of Learning & Teaching, said: “Technology has had a positive impact on higher education. Putting education online means people can study when they wish, where they wish at a time that’s convenient for them. Barriers to access have been lowered. Prospective learners who may have financial, life or work commitments which prevent them from pursuing full-time campus-based study now have convenient access to education.”

When discussing the benefits of using technology in higher education, Project Lead and Head of CPD Christina Bunce said: “Technology has had an additional benefit. Incorporating technology in education allows us to re-evaluate the process of learning and teaching. Online education doesn’t sit within an institutional vacuum. What we learn from online education informs how we deliver education on campus.”

Open education supports UCF’s belief in social enterprise and social entrepreneurship through the provision of free education. It benefits learners in the UK and around the globe who, through finances or personal circumstances, face prohibitive barriers to accessing formal education. Open education also provides a tangible expression of UCF’s innovative practices in higher education with its imaginative use of technology in education – proving that a specialist Art, Design, Media, Performance and Writing university can be a hotbed of technical innovation, a domain typically ascribed to university-level STEM subjects.