Wolearn emerged from the work of the Cetis Service that was funded by the UK government to provide strategic advice and support through the JISC programmes focussed on e-learning and innovation in technology enhanced learning in UK HE.
In 2009, the UK Higher Education Academy (HEA)/JISC launched the Open Educational Resources (OER) programme and our report “Open Educational Resources – Opportunities and Challenges for Higher Education”, helped shape the UK HE responses to OER and had influence on the wider international OER community.
In 2010 Cetis ran a project with Shaanxi Normal University to develop a successful open online module for their masters programme in educational technology. It suggest to explore and address some of the issues and opportunities identified in the earlier OER report. This resulted in the development and collaborative delivery of a course, “Designing Learning for the 21st Century” that was made openly available under a creative commons license. Attention was also given to the financial requirements would be for a sustainable future. These resulted in the development of a new business model and aligned pedagogical approaches to address the needs of the Chinese higher education market.
The success of this experience led to Wolearn being set up. In October 2014, Wolearn ran the first blended collaborative course on Web Science provided by the University of Southampton to 80 students who were studying Computer Science at Beijing Normal University in China.
In 2015, over seven courses in different subjects, including Computer Science, Physical Chemistry, Educational Technology, amongst others. These were delivered online in collaboration with Chinese universities by academics from the University of Manchester, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Southampton and the University of Glasgow. In 2015, over 500 students from Beijing Normal University, HuaZhong University of Science and Technology, Central China Normal University studied these courses, supported online by UK academics. All have reported benefits from this international collaboration. More than 30,000 additional Chinese learners have accessed the open courses (or MOOCs) produced by UK academics on Wolearn.