Supporting formal and informal, non-traditional learning in the workplace through CPD-related OERs
Stephen Gomez, Pete Watton, Holger Andersson & Pete D Watton, University of Plymouth, UK
Conference Theme: Impact
Summary: OER impact on supporting professional development of part-time learners on an innovative degree framework
Abstract: Higher Education (HE) currently caters mostly for traditional learners (ie full-time students, progressing from school to university). However, there is much HE can offer non-traditional learners (ie part-time or occasional students). By delivering tertiary education to learners in the workplace, universities can play a vital role in supporting the knowledge economy through upskilling and updating a nation’s workforce. However, delivering HE to informal learners presents numerous challenges for universities, which are geared towards discipline-focused, mass education delivered at set times of the year. Universities do not consider it always economical to address the needs of learners who request bite-sized amounts of learning on point of demand, outside normal teaching hours and at any time during the year. Plymouth University has addressed some of the challenges involved in meeting the needs of informal learners in the workplace. It has addressed this challenge on two levels. One way is by providing a work-based focussed academic framework for informal learning. The second way is by making educational materials available electronically for distance learning. The first approach mentioned above involves the production of a flexible modular framework comprising two, continuing professional development (CPD) degrees at Bachelors (undergraduate) and Masters (graduate) levels. These degrees offer a ‘shell’ framework which allows informal, non-traditional learners to study on a bite-sized, modular basis. Learners take only those modules relevant to their work or their employers’ needs. The curriculum for these awards is work-related rather than discipline-focussed. Learners can earn credit piecemeal that accumulates towards a degree qualification. The way we have addressed accessibility to learning materials was through the production of numerous open educational resources (OERs). A market research survey of the learning needs of employers and employees throughout the South West of England revealed that the following areas were of greatest value to businesses: leadership, management, mentoring, coaching, research and work based learning. A grant from the Higher Education Academy/JISC funded a project called Learning from WOeRK (cpdoer.net) which produced 360 credits of OERs covering the above mentioned subject areas to support informal learners in the workplace. Initially, the OERs were intended to support other educators so they could re-purpose the material for their own CPD-teaching context. Because we decided to produce support material (ie detailed content) for the OERs and self-contained videos, much of the material could be used directly by learners. The presentation will outline the structure of the flexible framework and then demonstrate some of the OERs produced to support the framework. Through audience participation we will explore the applicability of the CPD OER approach in the context of the delegates.