Driving innovation in ‘edtech’: an interview with Ian Myatt

Once considered to be a lesser option compared to on-campus learning, online courses are pushing their way to the forefront of education and the University of Birmingham is helping to lead the way.

Through developments in technologically enhanced learning – or edtech – the University of Birmingham offers a host of online courses, including an Online MSc International Business, an Online Masters of Public Administration and an Online MBA - which is the world’s first and only 100% Online MBA to receive full AMBA-accreditation.

The University of Birmingham is working to consolidate its online courses and reputation as a pioneer of educational technology, a task which falls to Director of Educational Enterprise, Ian Myatt. Formerly Head of Knowledge and Learning for BBC Online, Ian was responsible for a range of projects - from establishing the network of local BBC News websites, to the transformation of a range of Factual and Learning websites into BBC Bitesize and BBC iWonder.

Now, Ian leads the development of pioneering distance learning initiatives at the University of Birmingham: “I’ve tried to adopt a more product-orientated approach to how we design and deliver our online programmes; to think about the wider student experience and how to join the physical and online aspects of learning together. It’s not just about the core educational experience. It’s also about the extra-curricular side; the networks you strike up and the experiences you gain.”

In all of the online courses, the learning objectives and outcomes are the same as the campus-based equivalent so academically students find no difference between a course studied on site or one studied in your own time and in your own home.

At the end of the course, online students also walk away with the same certificate as campus students, so when listed on a CV there will be no distinction for potential future employers.

Ian adds: “Employers and industry are increasingly expecting learning to be delivered online. The needs of both students and employers are changing; they’re demanding more flexible methods of delivery that can fit around busy schedules. Increasingly, we’ll see a shift to more flexible ways of learning, opening up learning to a whole new market, and potentially shifting the existing market in that direction too.”

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However, the world of online learning is also changing with the increasing rise of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses). In Ian’s opinion, MOOCs do play a part in online learning but are a different offering: “We’ve designed and delivered our own MOOCs, and we can absolutely see how MOOCs fit into our offering. The beauty of a MOOC is that it can whet people’s appetites to a subject: a percentage of those people who take a MOOC may well then pursue further courses, and ultimately a degree. MOOCs help us to reach new audiences and to get our learning products and research out there as well; extending the reach and the impact of the university globally.”

So, what does the future hold for online courses at the University of Birmingham? Ian is continuously looking to technology for how these courses can improve: “I can see genuine functional benefits where working within a virtual world can have a massive impact. But I don’t want it to be gimmicky. We’ll evaluate the best technologies coming out and identify where we think we can add genuine value.”

If you would like more information about the online courses available at the University of Birmingham, please fill out our request for information form, or call +44 (0) 800 032 7101 to speak with a member of our Admissions Team.

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