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Open Learning Innovation Fund

This week the Government announced a £20 million Open Learning Innovation Fund to promote creative online learning and launched a taskforce to examine how to expand e-learning and access to online course materials, and to help ensure our universities become the first choice across the world for on-line distance learning.  The taskforce will be chaired by Dame Lynne Brindley, the Chief Executive of the British Library, with other members including the next Open University Vice Chancellor, Martin Bean, the British Council, Microsoft, Apple and the BBC.

The Fund, which is match funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), could help groups of institutions pursue new business opportunities and promote online learning including using open resources funded as part of the e-learning programme.  Universities will also be able to develop greater expertise in on-line teaching and create centres of excellence for the delivery of online learning, and transform the way people can get a degree.

The Open University, in its 40th year, is to receive an extra £12 million in funding to develop its role as a national leader in distance learning.

But don’t dismiss this as an HE only focused initiative. This could have a major impact on the training available to jobseekers as well as those who are in work, as organisations such as Universities should be making more free online courses available.  With that, and the available technology allowing easier and more convenient access, it could open the door for more returners to work to continue studying once they start employment.  Many currently cannot continue in learning due to the restricted hours available to them. It would also make it easier for those in employment to study for a career change.

In announcing the Initiative, David Lammy, Higher Education Minister said: 

“The use of mobile technologies such as PDAs and MP3 players means this can be done at a time and place that is convenient for the student wherever they are in the world.  This Open Learning Innovation Fund will help institutions develop new initiatives and exploit new opportunities to ensure we remain at the forefront of online distance learning as the international market develops”.      

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