Open Microcredential Development Grant FAQs

Over the last three years Open Universities Australia has supported its university providers by making available $3 million to develop degree programs across a wide range of disciplines. The success of the uptake, development and return in student numbers to our university providers has been more than $19 million.

From July 2020, the Rapid Development Fund (RDF) is changing to give our university providers greater opportunities to access more resources across different areas.

The following information answers frequently asked questions to support universities with accessing grant funding.

These FAQs relate primarily to the Open Microcredential Development Grant. For further information on the Open Degree Development Grant (the renamed Rapid Development Fund), refer to our brochure, Rapid Development Fund: new resources for university growth.

 

 

There has been an ever-present need for the higher education market to have access to market ready, microcredentials. Given the events of 2020, this need has become even greater.

It is for these reasons that Open Universities Australia and OpenLearning have come together to create a grant that gives university partners access to microcredentials—leveraging the strength of OUA’s leading marketplace and OpenLearning’s courseware development and OpenCreds framework.

We believe that this is one strategy that may assist the sector in diversifying their revenue streams, reaching new markets, and be able to develop industry-current courses in a quicker fashion than traditional programs.

Our announcement in July formally launched a joint initiative between Open Universities Australia and OpenLearning—the Open Microcredential Development Grant.

Offering both the support of a grant and the structure of the OpenCreds framework, through the Open Microcredential Development Grant universities can access up to $25,000 in funding and courseware development to support the delivery of online microcredentials.

We believe that the Grant will deliver great value to university partners for many years, and our intention is to make it available to the market for as long as it is wanted.

Our recent announcement marks the official start of the Open Microcredential Development Grant journey, with $750,000 allocated to support the Grant in financial year 2020/2021. The first applications will be reviewed from 13 August 2020 to support the first courses going live in September 2020.

Applications will then be reviewed on a regular basis until the funds are exhausted.

Open Universities Australia and OpenLearning both have a shared interest in delivering the best access to education for students, by supporting them with a pathway to leading online university courses.

With this shared interest, we saw an opportunity to combine our complementary strengths—OUA’s position as a leading online marketplace, and OpenLearning’s proven strengths in online learning via its lifelong learning platform and courseware development—to bring the market the Open Microcredential Development Grant, which gives our university providers the opportunity to develop microcredentials and go to market quicker than they could have previously.

Students will be studying microcredentials from their chosen university via OpenLearning, a lifelong learning platform designed with social constructivism at its core. You can learn more about OpenLearning's educational foundations at their Learning Philosophy webpage.
Similar to studying a normal course via the Open Universities Australia platform, students will be directly enrolled with the university from which the course is taught. The only difference for students undertaking study as part of the Open Microcredential Development Grant is that the learning delivery will be managed by OpenLearning.

The term ‘microcredential’ has long been bandied about in the higher education space. However, in the context of the Open Microcredential Development Grant, microcredential refers to a short course delivered by a university.

A microcredential may be a stand-alone course, designed to provide value to a learner independently of a formal qualification, or it may interact with a formal qualification in the following ways:

  1. As a pathway to a formal qualification.
  2. As a credit-bearing component of a formal qualification.
  3. As an industry-recognised way to maintain continuing professional development requirements.

Universities listing their short courses as part of the Grant will be offering students the opportunity to undertake 50-150 hours of learning, accessed via open.edu.au, delivered on the OpenLearning learning platform utilising the OpenCreds microcredential framework which has been specifically designed for Australia. 

The university will be given $10,000 from Open Universities Australia as part of the newly established Open Microcredential Development Grant (which is part of OUA’s Rapid Development Fund). OpenLearning will provide $15,000 worth of Courseware Development and Learning Design services.
For new courses developed under the Grant, 75% of the enrolment revenues will go to the university partner with the remaining 25% retained by Open Universities Australia and OpenLearning. These fees exclude contact centre sales and FEE-HELP administration.

The process for universities wishing to apply for the Open Microcredential Development Grant is the same method as they do for Open Universities Australia’s existing Rapid Development Fund for developing new degrees (now called ‘Open Degree Development Grant’.)

This process includes submitting an application to Open Universities Australia who, together with OpenLearning, will assess the eligibility of the university based on the entrance criteria and other applications.

Open Universities Australia and OpenLearning have agreed to a shared review system that will assess university applications throughout the approval process. This includes assessing the abovementioned aspects as related to the organisation’s area of expertise.

Yes. Applicants of the Open Microcredential Development Grant will be assessed based on elements including:

  1. gaps in current offerings
  2. alignment with an area of national demand
  3. alignment to a professional body
As with successful applicants of Open Universities Australia’s current Rapid Development Fund, of which the Open Microcredential Development Grant is part of, one applicant will not be disadvantaged over another if they wish to offer a similar micrcoredential as part of the Grant.

Is there a price range within which the university needs to stay?

As with any course hosted on Open Universities Australia’s marketplace, the university provider is responsible for setting the price of a course.

Pricing is at the discretion of the provider and the university partner will need to factor in pricing parameters for Credit-bearing microcredentials as needed.

Given that the Open Microcredential Development Grant is catering to short courses of between 50-150 hours of learning, as a guide, we estimate that the price per microcredential will be between $500 to $1,000.

The purpose of bringing the Open Microcredential Development Grant to market is that we believe there is demand for this type of learning today and, we believe that this may well grow in the future.

Whilst the new Grant is a trial for both Open Universities Australia and OpenLearning, we are confident that student demand will enable the grant to be a viable and beneficial product for universities in bringing microcredentials to market quickly.

The creation of the Open Microcredential Development Grant has no bearing on the existing relationship between Open Universities Australia and their partners.

What the introduction of the Open Microcredential Development Grant does offer to existing partners of either OUA or OpenLearning , is give them access to a microcredentials platform, which is based on leveraging the strength of OUA’s leading marketplace and OpenLearning’s platform, courseware development and OpenCreds framework.

Like all courses hosted through the Open Universities Australia marketplace, the course IP (intellectual property) belongs to the university.

Just like the student is an official student of the university whose course they are enrolled in, the university is the owner of all courses hosted through the OUA marketplace. Courses launched as part of Open Microcredential Development Grant are no exception to this.

As part of the Open Microcredential Development Grant, OUA will have a white-labelled portal on OpenLearning's  learning platform which provides universities with a fully managed solution for delivering courses. 

OUA will promote the suite of microcredentials developed through the Grant via the OUA marketplace. 

OpenLearning's university partners are able to list their existing courses on the OpenLearning marketplace as well as the OUA marketplace.

 

For example, not in partnership with OpenLearning.

Yes. We are open to existing microcredentials being moved into the OpenLearning Learning Platform outside of the Grant. Typically, this would be supported by additional paid course development services from OpenLearning in order to achieve the best learning outcomes and student experience within the new platform.

Universities are also able to list their total course offering, including microcredentials, as part of a normal partnership with OUA.

Once the five-year exclusivity period expires, the university will be able to access the content of their microcredential in order to repurpose and it for use outside of the OpenLearning platform.

At the expiration of this period, OpenLearning will take the course ‘offline’ so it’s no longer live on their learning management system (LMS).

Whilst this isn’t a standard feature of the OpenLearning platform, we are able to make this a condition of pre-enrolment for any microcredential course you wish to develop and host.

This will need to be established upfront, with key metrics and enrolment numbers, in order to provide a refund should these metrics not be met upon closure of enrolment period.

And, how does this vary between an existing course versus a new course?

Over a period of four weeks, an academic should allow up to 15 hours of time to develop a new microcredential with the guidance of OpenLearning.

Whilst this will vary slightly depending on the type and duration of the course, and its intended delivery model, a series of steps are taken to develop a microcredential through the OpenCreds framework. These are:

  • Scoping meeting.
  • Sharing existing content, or the creation of content.
  • Course design proposal, including a review of the proposal and discussion.
  • First review and feedback.
  • Second review, feedback and sign off.
  • Training.

Training is provided to academics on the new Learning Platform as part of OpenLearning’s standard course design process. This includes support such as:

  • A training session as part of the final review and sign off process of the course being developed.
  • Free facilitation course as part of OL’s Learning Design Series.
  • Access to help documentation.
  • A Live Chat tool in the OpenLearning platform that is just for educators and administrators so they can access support from OpenLearning’s Global Customer Success team, available 24/7.

And, what additional charges apply?

To ensure additional charges are not incurred by a university, it's important to establish and agree to a proposed course development and delivery schedule upfront. This includes establishing key milestones and timefames for which feedback is required from both parties.

By establishing and working towards the schedule outlined above, we are confident that both parties can develop and sign off on the course design within the agreed schedule, rather than incurring additional charges.

If a course design is running overtime, OpenLearning will raise this with the university and find efficiencies for getting back on schedule before any further costs are incurred.

OpenLearning’s Learning Services Team use a project tracking tool to record each project. As OpenLearning is contributing the learning services as part of their contribution to the fund, their focus will be on delivering to the course design proposal brief, the review process and sign off for the course itself, rather than the learning services hours being ‘signed off’.

If the learning designer starts to feel that a project is at risk of not being delivered within the forecasted hours, this will be communicated to the academic or university partner and OUA as part of our project update against the agreed schedule.

How do OpenLearning’s learning designers become familiar with the content of the course? Are they selected on discipline experience or previous qualifications? How are they selected?

The OpenLearning Learning Services Team come from a diverse background in education. Many of them have worked across multiple segments, including school teachers, corporate learning design, vocational and higher education academics.

OpenLearning is passionate about hiring learning designers that understand OpenLearning’s philosophy and have a passion for developing high quality courses.

Depending on the course or topic area, there may be occasions where a learning designer is matched with that academic because of their in-depth knowledge in that domain. In other instances, this will not be necessary if a fresh perspective is deemed advantageous.

OpenLearning will work with the university partner to help write the course landing page and related promotional materials hosted on the site.

This will take shape during the course design process and will rely on university partners sharing access to their branding guidelines and design specifications.

Learn more from the OpenLearning help document.

Is it the university, Open Universities Australia, or OpenLearning? If it’s not the university, how is enrolment data shared with the university?

For initial go live in September, OpenLearning will be responsible for enrolling students in courses paid by credit card. Enrolment data will be available to the university via the OpenLearning Platform.

Academic (and any support staff) will be set up with access to their respective courses in the OpenLearning Platform. This is done at the course level, as to provide access at the portal level will mean that they can see overall student data or access other institutions’ courses. Student data such as date of enrolment, progress, completion, and price paid, can be viewed inside the course or exported.

Subject to university demand and further agreement, credit-bearing courses including FEE-HELP payment options will be enrolled via OUA. Data will be shared with universities via integration with OUA. Enrolment using FEE-HELP will not be available for September go live.

The OpenLearning platform can deal with a start anytime or fixed start-date type of enrolment. In either instance, once the payment has been processed the student’s enrolment into that course will be provisioned. If it has a start date in the future, they will gain access to the learning materials once the course commences.

For example, creating assessments and marking?

OpenLearning is founded on a learning theory and science called ‘social constructivism’. Part of the reason they focus more effort upfront on learning design and understanding the target audience and outcomes is so that it helps to deliver purpose-built courses that are more engaging.

Wherever possible, this theory assists with designing courses focused on activities that enable learners to apply outcomes to real-life or project-based activities. This helps build their evidence of learning throughout the course , rather than a traditional approach to quizzes and exams. Whether the OpenCred is credit-bearing or not will also have an impact on ongoing commitment required.

For example, can a course be set to run without ongoing academic involvement?

The way in which a course is facilitated once live is at the discretion of the academic. There are options for courses to be hosted where the academic works with OpenLearning to develop the program outline, but then leaves students to complete the course without or with minimal guided instruction.

However, many academics prefer to stay involved in the courses they design for multiple reasons. One reason being their interest in tutoring the students through the course. Another, the ability to charge a higher fee for their involvement.

When a student successfully completes their course, this will automatically trigger a completion certificate to be issued with the OpenLearning platform. This can either be a free certificate or set up as an additional paid option by the university.

However, it is expected that if a university is delivering an accredited course or program, they will be responsible for issuing the certification to ensure compliance with their internal processes and their compliance requirements as per TEQSA.

Additionally, providers have the ability to verity a certificate that has been issued via the OpenLearning platform, as mentioned above.

More information about certification help and verification:

For example, when tutors or convenors change. How are these changes managed at the LMS side?

Yes, each account is set up to enable multiple users to access the course. Detailed instructions will be provided during the course development and setup process.

The idea of the courses is that they are ‘living courses’. This means that academics have the ability to update them—make edits or modify activities—in real time. If needed, an OpenLearning team member will help with edits post implementation.
Universities will be provided access to the OpenLearning platform to view data including enrolments, completions and price paid, at a course level.

If a student is an existing OpenLearning student prior to enrolling in a microcredential as part of the new initiative, then they will continue to receive any opted-into communications from OpenLearning.

However, for the purposes of any new students enrolled via the Open Microcredential Development Grant, these students will only receive communications from Open Universities Australia, with the exception of operational or system-wide update notifications sent by OpenLearning.

Whilst traditional student satisfaction is the responsibility of the university partner to track and report against, for example, using standardised surveys, the OpenLearning platform captures a broad range of additional data to measure student satisfaction. This includes peer-to-peer interactions, progress, kudos, enrolment and completion date, and active time spent on a course.
Depending on whether the course requires assessment, this can be managed via the OpenLearning platform. For universities who need to record this in their student management system, this would be managed via the export student data capability.

Further information

For current Open University Australia university partners wishing to explore new program opportunities:

Lucy Ayers, Key Account Manager
lucy.ayers@open.edu.au

  • Australian Catholic University
  • Bond University
  • Griffith University
  • La Trobe University
  • Torrens University Australia
  • University of New South Wales
  • University of Tasmania.

Chris Ingram, Key Account Manager
chris.ingram@open.edu.au

  • Charles Sturt University
  • Curtin University
  • Edith Cowan University
  • James Cook University
  • Murdoch University
  • Swinburne University of Technology
  • University of Adelaide
  • University of South Australia

Ben Mackenzie, Key Account Manager
ben.mackenzie@open.edu.au

  • Australian National University
  • Flinders University
  • Macquarie University
  • RMIT University
  • Southern Cross University
  • University of New England

For university’s wishing to explore new partnership opportunities:

Sebastien von Gossler, Strategic Partnerships Manager
sebastien.vongossler@open.edu.au