The current coronavirus has enhanced interest levels in short, online learning platforms, addressing specific skills gaps.  Skills demands are changing and will continue to change as a result of the need to retrain, reskill or redeploy. New types of education will be required to facilitate this, pinpointing skills to meet employer needs in a flexible, time-friendly and in-demand way.

As a result of new working structures, the trend for online learning will increase particularly in the areas of cyber security and leadership and management.  The importance of developing both technical and non-technical skills in a digital world and the societal benefits of life-wide learning throughout our careers is becoming increasingly recognised through new and innovative ways of learning.

One example of innovation in learning that is being pioneered by The Open University is microcredentials. A microcredential is a shorter and sharper type of University-level online learning experience. They are delivered at degree and postgraduate level and usually take around just a few months to complete. Academic credit gained from a microcredential can often be used towards a qualification. Microcredentials are becoming more popular in industry and education due to their focused and flexible delivery. The Open University’s microcredentials are hosted on our FutureLearn platform, the largest Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform in Europe. Microcredentials are the next step in The Open University’s mission to make education accessible to all, with a strong pipeline of courses in development to be launched over the next year.

As a well-established, globally recognised University, we have a strong pedigree of course development designed for on-screen learning using digital technology to maximise learner engagement in a high quality and fully supported way. It is part of our DNA.

The Open University in Northern Ireland are currently offering a limited number of fully funded  places for two of our accredited microcredential qualifications, for people who have been furloughed or made redundant as a result of the coronavirus.

These include the postgraduate Cyber Security Operations (Cisco), endorsed by the Cisco Networking Academy, and the undergraduate Business Management: Marketing Principles and Practice. Cyber security and leadership and management are areas that are currently in high demand across the labour market in Northern Ireland, helping to improve productivity, innovation and job satisfaction.

There are many benefits related to undertaking a microcredential:

  • Current, international course content, that is fully accredited to address specific skills gaps within a reasonable timeframe;
  • Self-paced to suit professional and personal commitments; and
  • Meets a range of diverse learning styles and preferences, contributing to professional growth.

The Open University is the only four-nation University in the UK, allowing us to flex our scale to meet the requirements of local communities and employers. We are strategically positioned to leverage a flexible, distance learning approach, to support individualised and diverse pathways for learning, in a practical and tangible way. The Open University will continue to work with industry, government and education across Northern Ireland to make life-long learning accessible to all.

For more information on these short online courses, eligibility criteria, how to apply and  other key information, please visit:

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