From education to employment

The open course for teachers: flexible, free and open professional development in FE

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology

If you are seeking to enhance your learners’ experience by using technology for teaching or assessment, you and your colleagues will face the same challenges as institutions everywhere: keeping pace with technology, with how to make intelligent use of it – and to avoid costly mistakes. Providing professional development in Learning Technology internally can be difficult – from finding support that meets specific needs to fitting around other time commitments.

One of the ways our community is seeking to meet this challenge, is ocTEL, the Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning. Last year we ran the course, designed, written and supported by members of ALT, for the first time and 1200+ people registered. Within the first few days, hundreds of participants interacted with the course and its fledgling community in some way. Then, different patterns of engagement began to emerge from those who were actively completing activities to those joining live sessions, posting in forums, blogging, tweeting or lurking.

So this time round, with a slightly shorter course, and a focus on using Learning Technology in different educational contexts, how do we hope participation in the course will happen? The answer is simple: you cannot fail the course or fail to complete it. You can however participate in the course, or contribute resources to it – or you can re-use the course in your own institution in full or in part. Here’s how:


The course has an introduction week and 6 week-long modules (with a break in the middle). While you can participate from the first day to the last, there is no expectation that you do so. If you are re-using content you can use each module individually, or even individual resources. Modules, activities and live sessions don’t require you to have completed any of the previous ones, leaving you free to pick what’s most relevant to you, your role and your context. Each week there will be a “if you only do one thing” section, highlighting what we have chosen as a key activity. There will also be core activities, resources and a live session – and there is a new TEL explorer section for those of us who want to find out more about a particular topic.

Here is a list of the content of the course:

• Week 0: TEL & the future (induction) – 28 Apr 2014

• Week 1: Concepts and approaches – 5 May 2014

• Week 2: Learners and learning – 12 May 2014

• Week 3: Materials, platforms and technologies – 19 May 2014

• Week 4: Support, feedback and assessment – 2 Jun 2014

• Week 5: Leadership, management and keeping on track – 9 Jun 2014

• Week 6: Enhancement, review and evaluation – 16 Jun 2014

Whatever you choose to participate in, there will be a range of options for doing so, which you can choose when you register and change throughout the course, including various social media channels, the course platform itself, your own blog, an email list, notifications and so forth. Lurkers are welcome! Particularly if you find something that’s relevant to you.

We are also working on incorporating open badges into the course, so there may well be a badge or two to earn for those who are looking to have something to show for their participation.


You can contribute resources, become a tutor or help run one of the live sessions. The course is designed, written and supported by members of ALT on a pro bono basis. All its content depends on our community and your expertise, experience and know-how. You can also contribute to discussions, use the #ocTEL tag to share your own content across the web. Once the course is up and running and you spot a gap or have a good example which might help others, you can still contribute.

Re-use, re-share, re-mix

ocTEL is an open course. By open, we don’t just mean free or open to all (although it is both of these things), but its content and platform are openly published. All content of the course is published under a creative commons licence (CC-BY), which means that you can re-use it, share it and re-mix it. Thus, if a part of the course is particularly relevant to the staff development in your institution, you can download all the materials and use them in your own context.

We also collect data about the course and all related activity, with the permission of participants, which we then also publish openly for researchers and others to use.

We hope that as a flexible, open way to share and create knowledge about what works and what doesn’t, about the intelligent use of Learning Technology, you will find a way to make ocTEL work for you. If the course enables you to find out about something interesting, have a valuable insight or make a new connection between 28 April and the end of June, then the course will have been a success.

Join us, register for ocTEL

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), an independent membership charity whose mission is to ensure that use of learning technology is effective and efficient, informed by research and practice, and grounded in an understanding of the underlying technologies and their capabilities, and the situations into which they are placed

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