The most difficult decision of the COVID-19 pandemic for the Department for Continuing Education was made before any restrictions had been introduced, when we cancelled our March 2020 Award Ceremony in the Sheldonian. (Cancelling the March 2021 ceremony was easy!) Continuing Education degree students participate in University graduation events. But those doing non-degree awards – Certificates, Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas, at undergraduate and postgraduate levels – have a separate celebration, when the Vice-Chancellor (or deputising Pro-Vice-Chancellor) hands them their awards.
These courses typically take two years of part-time study alongside employment or caring responsibilities. Successful students often continue onto degree programmes – with those completing our Foundation Certificates beginning undergraduate degrees at Oxford or other universities, usually going straight into Year 2.
While this day of celebration is the highlight of the year, there are many others that come in the form of student feedback – and with over 20,000 student enrolments a year, there’s plenty of feedback!
Over the past year, much of the feedback has been thanking staff for delivering courses online – as did colleagues across the University.
One difference in ContEd is that for thousands of our students, their courses have always been wholly online. We’ve run fully online courses for almost twenty years, with around a hundred to choose from. As you can imagine, recruitment over the past 12 months has sky-rocketed!
These fully online courses enable access to Oxford’s scholarship for students from across the globe, many of whom may never have left their countries in their lives – whether that’s Peru or Papua New Guinea. These courses earn credit which counts towards Oxford’s Certificate in Higher Education.
What’s changed with COVID-19 is that alongside our traditional online courses, our face-to-face courses went virtual. With our 20,000+ students a year stuck at home to varying degrees over much of the past 13 months, we ran our 10-week online courses over the summer holiday, as well as during Trinity, Michaelmas and Hilary terms – which proved a great success. So, we’ve learned lessons that will make Continuing Education even more successful post-pandemic.
First, we’ll continue this fourth term for online courses, from July to September each year.
Second, the free provision of learning resources under the banner ‘Curious Minds’ will continue. This project attracted great feedback:
Absolutely God’s gift, I’m using the phrase even though I’m an atheist, as it fits perfectly. I’m self-isolated for three months. This is what I need. Thank you.
Curious Minds is a brilliant idea particularly while we are all self-isolating as much as possible. Thank you Oxford University.
Third, Weekly Oxford Worldwide (WOW) – the hugely popular virtual version of our face-to-face ‘weekly classes’ – will also be continued post-pandemic. We’ll restore our face-to-face classes too, making the programme both local and global.
If you haven’t yet tried a ContEd course – now’s the time!
Professor Jonathan Michie, Director, Department for Continuing Education
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