The mechanics of making this work are being detailed in a variety of publications now, in my opinion these things were critical to the success of the first cohort:
1. A culture of co-research – setting out on a journey together where learners and facilitators invest themselves in the desire to find out how new methods of learning can work. Where we’re all prepared to try and fail, then try again. There’s no fountain of knowledge but a culture of discovery.
2. A reactive mechanism in design – planning existed to a certain extent but the unknown landscape of online learning meant that the degree team had to constantly react and change in the face of emerging needs and new technologies. An online undergraduate team needs to react to changing circumstances.
3. Passion! – tied into the success of the degree at every stage has been the great passion of learners, facilitators, technical and administrative contributors to the project. Without the passion how could we have ever overcome the difficulties, embraced what is new and maintained the vision.
4. Community – the heart of the degree is the social relationships held between all contributing parties. Through a variety of VLE’s, it’s own blogosphere and subsidiary spaces a unique online community has developed. Where learning and support have been played out alongside deeper relationships, formed through a shared cause.
5. Hard-work – let’s not downplay or forget the sheer hardwork of the learners who have fitted a degree in to their lives that always contain a job role and often contain family and caring roles. These individuals have been online in the small hours because of their passion and commitment. I also know how incredibly hard the staff have worked too. Sheer hard work had a large role to play yesterday.
Well done to all the graduates, and to all who everyone who has contributed to this amazing and unique collective achievement … including to colleagues who no longer work on the project but contributed greatly. The first scalable online research and work-based degree blows out any set notions of who can achieve a degree and access higher education. It demonstrates that we can use technology and new pedagogy to break through barriers to learning and enable.