The Open University has a proud history providing access to education, which I think we can agree is positive. Where it can present difficulty is establishing a start standard for a diverse demographic. To be clear, I am not advocating less inclusivity, rather ensuring diversity is accounted for so that everyone’s needs are met.
I’m taking a course delivering vendor certification for Microsoft Azure. New presentations will always have teething difficulties and this gives opportunity to improve future presentations. It’s still early in the presentation but I’m already noticing some common themes:
- Where do I find my OU email address?
- I can’t register my Azure student credit! You don’t actually need to. All the practical activities in Microsoft Learn utilise a sandboxed mode, which is not billed. Being able to take learning further is important but make it clear to students it is not a requirement. Perhaps just put a note at the end of the introduction “If you want to experiment further, click here to claim a free credit for Azure Services!”.
- I’m overwhelmed, where do I start? Make it clear to learners what is required of them. Tutorials, Microsoft Learn, a dedicated personal web page – students tend to give equal weighting to the importance of each. There is a schedule on the student page, expand it into steps that the student can mark complete.
- I’m not used to the terminology and this is new to me. Make it clear to learners what they are expected to know before they start. Provide material to bring them to the start standard or accept that you must deliver that material.
What can we learn?
Learners can become overwhelmed, especially if they have been out of education for some time. Make it clear what they are expected to complete and when. If there is a technology that is essential, provide clear guidance and make it easily accessible. Conversely, if there is a useful but not critical technology, don’t give it equal weighting in introductory material. Lastly, use simple, clear and unambiguous language.
There is, rightly, a drive to reduce barriers to entry in technology and the Open University should be leading that drive.