Creating Open Online Courses with Learner Representative Partners to Widen Participation in Higher Education




open educational resources, widening participation, non-formal education, higher education, collaboration, eLearning,


Open online courses could provide stepping stones for audiences that are under-represented in higher education (HE). However, there are concerns that these instead proliferate forms of exclusion and do not address known difficulties for widening participation. We explore how organisations that represent the perspectives of particular underserved audiences for HE can act as ‘Learner Representative Partners’ to support the creation of appropriate courses and to highlight practices that exclude. Six course development processes where a university worked with different partners are analysed using interviews, documentation of resource use, and data on learner behaviour. The analysis utilises previously identified challenges to widening participation and collaborative course creation. Getting partners to directly engage in authoring the course was particularly beneficial but all partners prompted critical thought and greater understanding of the intended audiences. We suggest principles to support such partnerships effectively. These include adapting to a variable capacity of partners to contribute, to encourage reuse or creation of resources by partners, and to facilitate partners to feel confident in expressing their views.

Author Biographies

Tim Coughlan, The Open University, UK

Lecturer in the Institute of Educational Technology, Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Langauge Studies.

Jenny Goff, The Open University, UK

Student Policy and Regulations Manager, Academic Services


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How to Cite

Coughlan, T., & Goff, J. (2019). Creating Open Online Courses with Learner Representative Partners to Widen Participation in Higher Education. Journal of Learning for Development, 6(2).



Research Articles