The Open University recently launched an initiative aimed at allowing people around the nation to outsmart the recession by topping up their skills. The launch of a new website, which gives access to free educational resources, top tips for getting jobs and advice about accessing financial assistance for fee-paying courses, coincides with the New Year’s Jobs Summit hosted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The Open University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Brenda Gourley, who attended the summit, says the unveiling of “Re-launch” is evidence of the OU’s commitment to helping to educate the UK out of the recession. As Vice-Chancellor of the largest university in the UK and Ireland, Prof Gourley says currency of skills and having a quality education is essential for individuals and businesses to weather the current economic crisis.
“This really is crunch time for many as they worry about keeping their jobs or seek to get back into work,” she said. “Re-launch is a purpose built website of educational resources, all tailored to provide information to individuals who may be feeling the effects of the global economic climate,” she said.
Re-launch will provide basic tips like CV building and skills assessment, while also offering advice on free courses and how to access funding for higher level courses.
“Re-launch is an easy to use resource for people wanting to either improve or secure their employment prospects, which allows people the flexibility to learn at their own pace in a location convenient to them,” she said.
“As the only national distance education university, the OU is able to provide high quality education to almost anyone anywhere, and our unique blend of supported learning means that people who are hesitant about returning to study will be supported in their goals,” she said.
“Further, through Re-launch people who have not previously undertaken higher education will be able to access high quality educational resources for free, providing them with greater skill currency and knowledge to better position them in competitive employment sectors,” she said.
As part of its remit to providing open education and raising its profile, The Open University is one of the world’s largest contributors to free and open educational content, through its award winning Open Learn service. Covering all educational disciplines in the university, Open Learn provides free access to materials ranging from undergraduate to postgraduate level.
Established in 2006, with a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Open Learn has a full range of Open University subject areas from access to postgraduate level and has seen more than 2 million visitors since its launch.
Open Learn currently has more than 5400 learning hours of content available for the public to view online and for free, and more than 8100 hours of content available for reuse globally.
Additionally the OU has recently developed OUView, a dedicated YouTube channel and was one of the 3 UK and Irish universities involved in the ITunes U launch. Late last year, OU View had seen more than 30 000 hits, making it the most popular higher education channel in the UK and the sixth most popular higher education channel in the world (based on public stats available through You Tube). The University plans to also launch a YouTube Research Channel in 2009.
The OU was one of the first universities involved in the launch of the Apple iTunes U education channel. More than 2.3 million free items have been downloaded, and at least one new person visits the site every 45 seconds.
Prof Gourley is one of the business leaders, senior government officials and sharp economic minds who have been invited to attend the Jobs Summit, designed to look at ways of boosting employment and preserving existing jobs.
“Education is not only a basic human right, but also an integral need for the economic prosperity and job security,” Gourley said. Re-launch is an open resource for anyone seeking advice, services, information, practical help or tools during this continued period of economic uncertainty.