• The Open University

The Online Educator: People and Pedagogy

Design engaging courses, make your teaching more inclusive, navigate online research ethics and shape your digital identity.

24,325 enrolled on this course

Enhance your online teaching with strategies from educational technology experts

As e-learning becomes ever-more widespread, online educators are being required to design learning experiences that engage and meet the needs of very diverse learners.

This course, developed by The Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology, explores four myths: that learning design is about technology and content; that innovation and accessibility are incompatible; that researching online learning is an ethics-free zone, and that educators’ online identities are irrelevant.

Studying the course will help you enhance your practice through videos, quizzes and discussion with peers.


  • Week 1

    Disruption and design

    • Myths, hype and reality in online education

      The fast-changing online education landscape is buzzing with hype about 'disruptive innovation' that will radically transform teaching and learning. What's being claimed? Which innovations will last? How do we know?

    • Put people first!

      Technology is often the main focus of discussions around online learning innovation. This can lead to learners' needs and preferences being overlooked. Using personas when designing learning can refocus attention onto people.

    • From people to pedagogy

      Having defined multiple personas for a course, the next step is to consider which teaching approach will best meet the needs of the people represented by those personas, helping them to achieve their learning outcomes.

  • Week 2

    Innovation and accessibility

    • Is online education inherently accessible to all?

      Is online education more accessible than face-to-face education? What are the barriers to learning online? How might educators help to minimise those barriers? Share your own experiences and those of your fellow students.

    • Are innovation and accessibility compatible?

      It's a common myth that making web content accessible also makes it dull. Is this true for online learning? Can online educators be both innovative and inclusive? And what's the role of innovation in achieving accessibility?

    • What's the value of accessibility guidelines?

      Accessibility guidelines can help online educators adapt their teaching to meet the needs of all their learners, and especially disabled learners.

  • Week 3

    Evidence and ethics

    • How can I cut through the hype?

      Online educators navigating the hype-filled world of educational technology need strategies to evaluate the claims being made about innovative tools and teaching methods before committing to using them.

    • I'm innovating... Is it working?

      Educational innovation can feel precarious and won't always work out. A pedagogy that suits some learners or disciplines may not be appropriate for others. Evaluating your teaching is a vital part of being an online educator.

    • What ethical considerations are involved researching online education?

      Researching online teaching and learning can pose ethics-related dilemmas that differ from those involved when researching in offline settings. A responsible online educator should navigate these dilemmas with care.

  • Week 4

    Who am I online?

    • What’s the importance of online identity for educators?

      Looking at the pros and cons of establishing an online identity and the role of the institution

    • Are you a visitor or a resident (and why does this matter)?

      Using the visitors and residents framework to consider your own online identity

    • How can Twitter be used as part of an online educator identity?

      Looks at academic identity on Twitter

    • End of course quiz

      Check what you’ve learned in this course by taking this end-of-course test.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Develop personas to inform the online learning design process
  • Identify the ethics considerations involved in researching online teaching
  • Apply accessibility guidelines to online teaching contexts
  • Identify key accessibility issues related to online learning
  • Reflect on your exisiting digital identity and plan for its future development
  • Explore ways of shaping a digital identity as an online educator
  • Discuss the relationship between technology, content, people and pedagogy in online courses.

Who is the course for?

This course is suitable for anyone involved in online education or training, including teachers, trainers, course designers and researchers. While it will help to have a current practice setting to draw on, this is not essential.

What software or tools do you need?

To take part in this course you need an internet connection. No specific software is required.

Who will you learn with?

Dr Leigh-Anne Perryman leads The Open University's Online and Distance Education programme. Her research explores the relationship between equity, social justice, online teaching and open pedagogies.

I am Professor of Educational Technology at the OU. My interests are in digital scholarship, open education, OER and MOOCs.

Hi, I've worked at the OU since 2009.
Currently in strategy and governance but taught for many years. I'm interested in issues of equality.

Who developed the course?

The Open University

As the UK’s largest university, The Open University (OU) supports thousands of students to achieve their goals and ambitions via supported distance learning, helping to fit learning around professional and personal life commitments.

  • Established

  • Location

    Milton Keynes, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

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  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

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  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
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  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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