New voluntary sector courses
Badged open courses
Two new courses relating to the voluntary sector will be available through OpenLearn this year as free online badged open courses (BOCs). These free courses are aimed at learners working (or aspiring to work) as paid members of staff or as volunteers in voluntary or community organisations:
Introducing the Voluntary Sector covers the context and features of voluntary and community organisations including: the structure and history of the UK voluntary sector; values and beliefs; funding issues; understanding stakeholders; power and empowerment; the role of volunteering.
Working in the Voluntary Sector focuses on the practicalities of working or volunteering in voluntary and community organisations including: working with volunteers; marketing and communication; budgets; fundraising; taking part in meetings; working in teams and partnerships; building resilience.
Each free course is 8 weeks long and involves 3 hours per week of study.
The Open University is building on years of knowledge, experience and research into Open Educational Resources (OER) with its release of innovative new badged open courses. These have been developed in response to the needs of informal learners who are seeking access to study skills and to have their learning recognised. Digital badges issued with each BOC and accompanying statement of participation certificate show that learners will have not only read full online courses but will have had to have passed online quizzes to earn their digital badge and OU certificate.
Pilot research has shown that this will help informal learners build confidence and motivation for learning, providing a record of achievement which they can share with friends, learner communities, employers and educational institutions. Learners will be able to display their completed badges publicly or privately in their My OpenLearn profile and link to other platforms, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
For further information on free courses from The Open University, visit the OpenLearn website.
Online Educational Resourses (in development)
If you are interested in developing leadership within small and medium-sized voluntary organisations, why not enrol on our two new free leadership courses – coming in autumn 2016. The courses are open for anyone interested in learning about and developing leadership in the context of voluntary organisations. You do not need to be in a position of seniority to enrol. Volunteers and professional staff at any level are welcome – a key argument made in the courses is that leadership can come from anywhere.
The first five-week course, available via OpenLearn, Developing leadership in voluntary organisations: an introduction, unpacks what we understand by leadership in relation to voluntary organisations: the course explores this rich concept from a number of different perspectives. Taking its lead from the framework developed by the renowned leadership scholar Keith Grint, we approach leadership as something that is brought to life via people, positions, results, purpose and processes. Each element of the course will seek to both explore and enrich understanding of leadership in voluntary organisations but also invite learners to develop key skills that will be of practical value in the workplace.
Sitting in a space between private passions and public responsibility, voluntary organisations ask vital questions of society, of what it notices and values. Working from this premise, we can think of these organisations and, by extension, those people working in them, as occupying an important social and political leadership role. Yet the sector also faces a number of challenges and so is presented with a need to revitalise its sense of leadership.
With this in mind, we offer an eight-week Badged Open course, Developing energetic collaborative leadership for voluntary organisations.
So why collaborative leadership in particular?
Strongly driven by a sense of ethical purpose and the passions of those who found them, voluntary organisations can generate energy and deliver huge benefits for those who need them the most. This same energy can also be said to present a related antagonist in the shape of over-dependence on strong individuals, a situation that is both unsustainable and exhausting for those involved.
The sector, in its increasing dependence on competing for government grant money and contracts can be said to be fulfilling a vital public duty, performing a function that government agencies are unable to fulfil. Or it could be said that in competing for funding that voluntary organisations risk losing their sense of identity, independence and the sense of a coherent voluntary sector (rather than a collection of autonomous units in competition).
Finally, the explosion of digital technology and social media, with its related effects on how people relate to the world around them, politically and socially, surely holds major challenges for how voluntary organisations think of themselves and how they organise themselves.
The course will meet these challenges head-on by seeking to develop a form of leadership that is political (in the non-partisan sense of working with and against power), collaborative and concerned with keeping an energetic identity alive.
We will draw on a mix of contemporary and historical video and text-based case studies from the sector, so that leadership is developed against a live context. Running alongside these case studies will be a continuous dialogue, a live debate and discussion between learners.
Most importantly, the course will seek to develop a vibrant community of leadership within the voluntary sector, one that connects the academic, voluntary sector and political worlds, bringing together people committed to fresh thinking. With this in mind, a regularly updated blog will explore and provoke in more depth, inserting important academic questions and contributions from the sphere of leadership, as well as posing important questions to academia from the world of practice. We will also seek to establish face-to-face forums, allowing people to meet up informally, invite speakers and chew over pressing issues for organisations and the sector.