Open Universities Australia MOOCs attract 100,000 students

Open Universities Australia* reached a remarkable milestone last Monday when it announced that its free online learning platform Open2Study had lured 100,000 enrolments, with 53,000 students from more than 180 countries undertaking one or more of its massive open online courses, or MOOCs.

Open2Study began by offering 10 free subjects in April, with each taking four weeks to complete.

Seven months on, 32 courses are available with 60% of enrolments now from overseas nations, and students from the top five overseas countries drawn from the United States, India, the United Kingdom, Spain and Canada.

Open2Study is Australia’s first free, high quality online education provider and, like its parent OUA, it offers anyone anywhere the chance to experience online tertiary and professional learning through a range of subjects “designed for everyday people”.

Courses on “Principles of project management”, “Food, nutrition and your health”, “Writing for the web”, “User experience for the web” and “Strategic management” currently attract the highest numbers of students. Lecturers from a range of universities and polytechnic-type institutions provide the instruction.

In May, the project team announced that completion rates in the Open2Study courses were exceeding 25%, almost four times higher than the industry average with research suggesting average MOOCs completion rates were generally below 7%.

“The major challenge for MOOCs and free online education is that despite attracting mass volumes of students, most people fail to complete the course and therefore do not achieve the learning objectives,” said OUA Chief Executive Paul Wappett.

“With one in four Open2Study students completing their subjects, we are proud to see that we are really engaging our students.”

Wappett said he believed OUA “understood the online student” and that the results proved Open2Study was delivering an outstanding experience compared to other free online education platforms.

“There are several reasons why Open2Study is different from its competitors and we attribute our early success to the academic quality of our subjects, high production values and, most importantly, our learning, teaching and assessment model which is designed with the online student in mind.”

Wappett said the Open2Study platform also enforced a high quality, consistent learning experience for students and that quality control was proving to be “very advantageous”.

“Finally, there’s our smart classroom design. It leverages social learning and provides an intuitive environment with all the resources students need to successfully complete their study in the one place,” said Wappett.

With new subjects added almost every month, the Open2Study team expects to have up to 50 free subjects available by the end of 2013.

In July, New Zealand’s Massey University became Open2Study’s first international partner, while it had already established a dozen relationships with Australian institutions and universities. Adding the New Zealand university was part of its strategy to provide its global student body with access to international educators, Wappett said.

Massey is New Zealand's largest university provider of distance and online learning, with about half its 34,000 students studying by distance.

* Open Universities Australia began as a government-backed distance education provider in 1991, was renamed Open Learning Australia as enrolments grew and then, in 2004, was given permission by the federal government to incorporate the term ‘university’ in its title and become Open Universities Australia.