By Rach Montejo, Programme Manager, UC Online
Tuihono UC |UC Online – you may have heard about it and are wondering what exactly it is? What makes it different from just any distance offering at UC? These are great questions – and you’re not alone!
Almost every university in the world was forced to move much of their learning online during the pandemic – we typically refer to this online shift as ‘emergency online remote teaching.’ However, this type of online teaching is distinctly different to the type of online teaching being proposed by UC Online, and there are two main reasons for this.
The first is that UC Online is designed for a different student type. UC’s typical classroom learner is a secondary school leaver. They’ve recently graduated from high school and are ready to dedicate the next few years of their lives to university study. Typically, this learner is younger and is better suited to the on-campus experience, gaining far more from this experience than just the qualification.
The UC Online student type is globally referred to as a ‘learner-earner’. They tend to be over 25 years of age and well into their working career. They often have a family and are trying to balance the people they care about most while maintaining a consistent income. The flexibility of a fully online programme or course is their only option to upskill or reskill. For them, re-entering academic life will be quite a juggle! These learners are likely to be unsure whether they can handle studying around their busy lives. Their time is precious, and they will want to use it wisely. They’re not going to be studying during typical work hours because, well, that‘s when they’re working! Instead, they’ll squeeze study into weekends or after the family has gone to bed. That said, they are likely to be dedicated learners because they know how education can change their lives for the better.
The second difference between UC Online and emergency online remote teaching is that most of these courses were not specifically created for the UC Online student type . As you know, UC courses were very quickly converted into an online format during the pandemic (we often called these ‘lift and shifts’). Our amazing community here at UC did this to get courses up fast. We wanted to help our current students to continue learning despite the emergency – and did an amazing job! This meant that our usually campus-based learners were able to continue learning, and the starting point was often an in-person lecture, which of course was quite familiar to this group of learners. UC Online courses are specifically designed for online learners – the ones described above who need flexibility in the way it is offered. Our team of experienced instructional designers structure courses so that learners can actively engage with learning that fits with their lifestyle, often structured in bite sized chunks of learning that they can do anytime, anywhere and on any device.
A moment on where it all began…
UC’s first foray into online education specifically for online learners focused on our production of MOOCs (Mass Online Open Courses) through the edX platform. These were very short courses, typically free, that leveraged a variety of academic topics delivered by some of UC’s academic experts. UC had some excellent outcomes with these. Ben Kennedy and Jonathan Davidson won the 2021 edX Prize for exceptional contributions in online teaching and learning for ‘Exploring Volcanoes and their Hazards: Iceland and New Zealand.’
The ‘Mental Health and Nutrition’ MOOC designed and developed by Julia Rucklidge ranked in the top 40 for number of enrolments worldwide across all MOOC platforms – pretty excellent results for our first year in market! We’re now almost at a milestone of 100,000 learners enrolled in UCx courses – from 190 countries.
What has UC Online been doing in last 9 months and why?
The last nine months have been, to say the least, busy! We have been working to set up the foundations for a soft launch at the end of October. In order to do this, we have had to recruit a team of experts in academic development, student support, marketing, process management, and other areas, to create a university experience that is appropriate for a digital environment.
We have also needed to stand-up all of the digital platforms required to support this. To do this quickly, we have adopted new tools to enable: easy on-line enrolment, digital marketing that helps learners become aware of new programmes on the horizon, and a new learning management system (LMS) that is designed for adult professional learners. It’s still Moodle-based, so we’re building on the excellent platforms already in place. All of these, of course, need to speak to each other and the digital team is helping us to create fluid data transfers as each fortnight (or ‘sprint’ for us) passes.
The last, critically important piece that we have been working on is developing our course and programme portfolio. Most of what we have developed this year are short courses and micro-credentials. We have worked with the academic community and Future Learning’s team of instructional designers, animators, videographers, and education technologists to identify and create a suite that is needed by professional learners and practitioners. Our portfolio will always be a work in progress, and we look forward to feedback from learners that will help enhance it with time.
So, what’s next for UC Online?
Moving into 2023, UC Online will be focusing on developing larger programmes – certificates and degree level qualifications mostly at post-graduate level. We’re looking to establish 4-6 flagship programmes to go live in Q3 and Q4 of 2023. Some of these will be existing programmes, but they will be aimed at a different market so will not impact on-campus intakes except to have additional online materials that lecturers can draw on for flipped learning, if they would like. We are currently working with faculties across UC to determine which are the best programmes to focus on drawing on information about domestic and international demand. We will continue to pursue MOOCs, short courses and micro-credentials, but they will be limited to those that create pathways into our larger programmes.
You might be curious what our broader list of programmes in development and on the horizon may be – if so, here is a link to that map!
And, if you’re keen to see who is a part of the UC Online whānau, check out this page.