UCL was not directly ‘MOOCing’, instead we developed our own public-facing online learning environment called UCLeXtend. Built to support anything that’s not credit bearing (i.e. part of a taught programme of study) UCLeXtend aims to cater for nearly any other organisational e-learning requirement. Our rationale was loosely based on supporting CPD and short courses but we wanted to build a facility where potentially anyone can register for access to an online learning environment for anything resembling a course. This opened many new opportunities for internal engagement with stakeholders and further development of our offering for non-credit bearing activity. It also allows us to experiment with approaches, or technologies which can filter into to the university’s increasingly blended core of credit-bearing education.
To understand the diversity/opportunity for UCLeXtend courses the central e-learning team collated all ‘types of offering’ and created an ‘Extended Learning Landscape’. Offerings include CPD, short courses, tasters and open resources. We then outlined the potential impact of the various offerings which includes audience size; revenue; reputational impact and potential for enrolment to continued study. For UCL four significant challenges arise from this emerging mixed-mode landscape;
1. Ensuring the learning experience of participants reflects the university’s aspirations, culture and style.
2. Learning from new audience types to ensure that external activities and offering are evaluated and disseminated internally.
3. Managing the ‘digital estate’ to enable a seamless, coherent and platform-agnostic experience for learners.
4. Institutional oversight and coordination to ensure that all developments align with emerging strategic priorities.
Issues, barriers and opportunities
Opening up the learning landscape coincides with tackling three key emerging issues of; quality, financial and legal. These areas are distinct, but linked to one another. For quality; by moving a varied selection of activities into blended learning we are seeking to develop new models of pedagogical design. Financially the university is engaging in a new set of business planning discussions that have rarely seen much exposure before. Lastly, legally this is a new field for many – as existing copyright guidelines do not apply to the more open, or potentially commercial space. We’ve got some answers, and more questions for these three areas. Exposing our extended landscape opens up opportunities for educational exploration, conversation and enhancement – but it’s not without its challenges. We at the very least we have something to refer to, showing how expansive the assortment is, and a wider range of opportunities for UCL.
Dissemination and other perspectives
By sharing this approach with the ALT-C audience we will be encouraging an opportunity for participants to create their own landscape. They’ll list out their areas of activity and then map them in a similar way to UCL. Critique and questions will be encouraged during the session which we recognise is short and only the start of a wider discussions of how e-learning aligns to a wider remit of university activity.
We will close the session with oversight gathered from UCL being active in this area for the past three years and what our next steps are.