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The OU gets shortlisted for two awards in the “Oscars” of higher education

The Open University (@OpenUniversity) has been shortlisted for two prestigious accolades in what is regarded as the “Oscars” of higher education – the Times Higher Education Awards (THE Awards) 2021.

They include ‘University of the year’ and ‘Knowledge exchange/transfer initiative of the year’ which relates to one of the OU’s new free online continuing-professional-development courses.

The course was developed by the OU in just 11 days, to support mental health professionals take their work online following the start of lockdown in March 2020.

Tim Blackman, Vice Chancellor of the OU, said:

“We are delighted to have been shortlisted in these two categories. In a year like no other, The Open University has empowered millions to change their lives through education.

“Through the pandemic, calling on 51 years of experience, our staff rose to the challenges presented, ensuring our students and the wider learning and teaching community continued to benefit from supported, flexible online learning.”

OU academics’ agile response was to produce targeted courses to enable the pivot to online. That included the CPD course on the OU’s Open Education Resource (OER) site OpenLearn Create, called ‘How to do online therapy: A coronavirus primer’, which has been shortlisted for a THE award.

The free online course for mental health practitioners was launched in April 2020 and by July the same year there were over 14,000 learners with more than 7,000 course-completion badges awarded. To date, it has clocked up 22,000 learners and 14,000 course-completion badges.

It was put together by Professor Naomi Moller, Head of Discipline in the School of Psychology and Counselling, and Dr Andreas Vossler, Deputy Director of Teaching (Counselling).

Professor Moller said:

“We are hugely pleased to have been nominated for THE’s Knowledge Exchange Award. While we are the course authors it could not have been launched without contributions from many other people not just from the school and elsewhere within the OU but the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.”

Dr Jean McAvoy, Head of the School for the School of Psychology and Counselling, said:

“In a time of urgent need, Naomi and Andreas created a vital resource for thousands of mental health practitioners and their clients who were then able to continue to access vital therapeutic support.  It is hard to overstate the number of lives benefiting directly from this amazing resource.”

Elsewhere, visitor traffic to the OU’s free OpenLearn platform surged during the pandemic as educators, parents and students sought access to assets designed with distance-learning in mind.

OpenLearn has received 2.5 million unique visitors since April 2020 and there were more than 1 million enrolments from the start of lockdown in March 2020 to 17 May 2020.

Other universities shortlisted for University of the year include Aston University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Sunderland and University of York.

The awards ceremony will take place on 25 November at London’s newly refurbished Hilton London Metropole Hotel.


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