1 Overview of the course


Online learning is a fact of modern life. A simple internet search finds thousands of freely available or paid for online courses, while online learning is also found within workplaces, as professional development activities, or augmenting traditional face-to-face learning.

This free course, How to make an open online course, has been designed by the Free Learning team at The Open University to give you the skills to design, structure and produce an open online course. It explores planning and design for a course planned to be freely open to the public. It includes: developing content, use of assessments and social learning, consideration of production aspects such as hosting platforms, editorial, testing and evaluating your course. Opportunities are available throughout to explore examples of online learning from a range of providers, and to experience elements of course design first hand.

Included within the course are a number of resources which will help you to design your own online course. The focus is primarily on learning design, course structure and production processes. Examples are given of free or commonly available software and hosting platforms, with some key features of OpenLearn Create and Moodle explored in more depth in order to help you to understand and apply the theory of course design and production. Detailed technical aspects of online production, such as the use of specialist software to edit video or code interactive assets, are not covered in this course.

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Figure 1 The Free Learning team at The Open University. From left to right: Anna Page, Sas Amoah, Jane Roberts, Rosie Storrar, Matthew Culnane, Hannah Parish, Matt Driver, Patrina Law and Simon Hull.

Listen to the following audio recording in which Patrina Law introduces the course.

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Transcript: Course overview

Patrina Law
Welcome to our course on how to make an open online course.
It has been written by the Free Learning team at The Open University in the UK and is based on our experience of writing courses for OpenLearn, the University’s free learning platform. OpenLearn has been in existence since 2006 and reaches over 5 million people a year. The platform showcases the best of the University’s teaching by way of courses, short videos and learning activities. Many of the hundreds of courses hosted there are adaptations of our formal curriculum taught to our undergraduate and postgraduate students.
As a team, we are all excited by open online learning and the impact it can have, and commission and develop innovative new free courses every day. For us, this activity is about open online learning as an outreach mechanism, for professional development and in support of our students.
We decided to write this course because developing an online course, specifically one for open use, is something we are frequently asked to advise on. It can be different to writing for closed groups, classroom settings or, for that matter, massive groups. The course will explain how best to plan an open online course, the basics of assessing online, the basics of social learning, where to find and reuse existing free content, how to approach publishing and platform hosting, and the tips and tricks of search engine optimisation – in other words, getting your course found.
We hope you find it to be a useful tool in planning and developing your course.
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Course overview
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Learning outcomes