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Updates from the Student Association TEL team - The Open College of the Arts

To find out more details about the transfer to The Open University see A New Chapter for OCA.

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Updates from the Student Association TEL team

Hello! My name is Dan Woodward, and I am the Deputy Lead representative of the Student Association. I am also one half of the TEL reps alongside Becky Holman. TEL, it’s a funny acronym isn’t it? TEL stands for Technology Enhanced Learning.

What that means in real terms are the various tools and platforms used to make sure that students get the best learning and student experience possible. It covers student areas, and the new Virtual Learning Environment. The TEL team at OCA also cover the platforms that we use everyday to communicate like the Google Suite used for email, drives and video calls.

How do the TEL reps fit into this? Well Becky and I have found ourselves in the fortunate position where our ‘day jobs’ allow us to split our expertise really well across these areas. Becky works for a Higher Education establishment planning and developing content within their own VLE, so has a vast amount of experience in that area. My day job is working with digital companies helping them to improve and also develop digital products with great user experiences.

Because of this, we’re really passionate about how central TEL is to the whole experience of being a distance-learning student with the OCA. It allows us to act on your behalf and hold standards to account. But what we’re really passionate about in our day jobs that we bring to these roles is a love for cooperation, collaboration and improvement.


You see, I don’t think that many students realise just how much the OCA manages to achieve given its size. The OCA team are compact and amazingly hard-working. The TEL team are an exceedingly small fraction of this, so to have been able to ramp up delivery of the new VLE amid a pandemic is amazing. Add on top of that, all these hard-working professionals have had to adapt their own systems of communication to work remotely – something that has taken a lot of time and effort to do.

Are the experiences perfect? Far from it! Could communication be better? Absolutely! Rather than complaining about what is, Becky and I are working hard with the OCA TEL team to help improve, support where we can, and offer advice about potential choices. Already, we’ve taken steps to make the Student Association more self-sufficient IT-wise, so we can ramp up our ability to deliver changes and communicate effectively.

We are currently in the process of building a new, simple Student Association website. Our goal here is to try and make it the virtual equivalent of a bricks-and-mortar student union: It should be the first place Students go if they want to know where to get information and support. Where they can be directed to the myriad social groups that exist for community and fellowship. Where they can find out what is happening in their name, and where they can volunteer and contribute to issues inside and outside of the university. We’re excited to bring the first version of this to you soon, and we will commit to keeping it updated and relevant to you and student life.


Another thing Becky and I believe in is transparency. The OCA TEL team are always doing their best, but a lot of the time we have no idea about what they are currently working on. We’d like to fix that and are working with the TEL team to come up with the best way to show roadmaps of TEL work and improvements.

One of their core responsibilities are the coordination, technical implementation and sign-off of all new course content. It takes a lot of work across core OCA staff, tutors and programme leads to get new high-quality modules into the world. And until now – the communication part of this has been lacking, given the limited capacity the TEL team have.

So, lastly I wanted to make the first step in changing that! I wanted to let you know of some amazing developments that are here now, or just around the corner.

Ready for enrolment is the brand-new Visual Communications 1: Graphic Fiction module! I have personally been anticipating this module since I first heard about it 18 months ago.

Even better, the Fine Art 3: Research, and Fine Art 3: Advanced Practice modules are also ready for enrolment this week! This is amazing news for those students stuck in Level 2 limbo, who will now be able to progress with their studies with gusto!

Lastly: live now is the first module of the new BA (Hons) Garden Design degree pathway: Garden Design 1: Past and Present. This is particularly exciting because it is the first (and definitely not the last) unit to be designed with the VLE in mind, and is imbedded into the platform, allowing it to utilise interactive elements, videos and lectures.

We hope you can congratulate the TEL team on this, and we’ll carry on working hard with them to improve the experience of technology at the OCA.

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Posted by author: Dan Woodward

3 thoughts on “Updates from the Student Association TEL team

  • Thanks Dan, I would welcome any suggestions on improving transparency around change. We’ve got a new academic and digital strategy that OCA Board approved at the end of October so I will share that with students shortly. It’s setting some of the direction of travel. I have a TEL background, having been Director of TEL at the OU for a period so I really welcome have SA reps who understand this area well. I think digital competency and digital literacy are key. I also worry that the pandemic is creating a greater digital divide and would like your thoughts on how we can bridge that for students that may struggle to get adequate access.

  • tbanks, Dan – good to have such a collective effort within the organization. When reading past and recent discuss forum threads there is still an uncertainty on where to retrieve what kind of information and how to connect with one’s peers on the same course.
    As past editor of edge-zine and co-organizer of the OCA RG Europe, I find it very relevant and important to connect with fellow students embracing diversity in learning and social interaction approaches. But also to create safe enclosed places without the risk of being exposed to a wider audience. I agree with Will that digital only is not only an advantage. This year online drive is putting some distress on students.

    BTW, I am the one student who enjoyed the FA level 3 readiness. Otherwise, it would have been quite a disruption. Fine Art pathway is still quite new pathway with just a handful students at level 2 – and me at level 3.

  • Thanks for the update. As a student doing the free courses (The Big Draw, Arts & Environment, and Creative Challenges) I have to say I absolutely love the VLE and honestly cannot find one single fault with it. I think it’s fantastic and has reignited my passion for elearning. It’s great to see your role and the close work you are doing with the TEL team. I look forward to seeing more news from you.

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