The Open University


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Life-Changing Learning Experiences

The Open University (OU) makes education accessible to everyone, regardless of previous grades or qualifications. It’s the largest University in the UK and a pioneer of part-time, online learning. Its award-winning distance learning programs have been accessed by more than 2 million students, and its free online learning platform OpenLearn has had 55 million visitors in 10 years.

The OU enlisted support from Elucidat’s Professional Services team to help deliver the highest quality learning experiences, in an agile and more collaborative way.

georgia axtell powell

“We love the way Elucidat allows us to be more directly involved with projects. It’s a tremendous asset to make changes ourselves rather than risk incurring more costs and spending tons of time working through intermediaries to refine and perfect our materials.”

Georgia Axtell-Powell, Online Project Producer at the Open University

An agile approach to in-house content development

In any one year, Online Project Producer Georgia Axtell-Powell and the small team she works with could be responsible for delivering up to 30 free learning experiences. Each of these also need to meet the Open University’s highest standards.

“It’s amazing to work for an organization that not only has an incredible mission, but also a major reach. And as we impact this many lives, we know every piece of content we develop for our free learning site needs to be high quality and thoroughly thought out.”

While working with agencies to create digital learning content allowed the team to deliver on the quality front, there were limitations. The demand for online learning was on the up, and they wanted to be more agile and cost-effective in their approach.

“Creating exceptional content doesn’t happen without its challenges. We needed to find the right way to collaborate and make content with minimal resources.

Writing briefs, waiting for and processing numerous bids until we find the right agency can be a slow and costly process. Then, something as simple as text edits can be painful when you’re trying to make quick, small changes. Add to this lots of different branches and stakeholders, and it becomes even more difficult!”

Taking content production into their own hands and working directly with academics was something that appealed to Georgia and the OU team.

“We loved what we heard about Elucidat’s ethos and the authoring platform itself, so we decided to try it out.

It was so useful to be able to author the material ourselves. We loved the way Elucidat allowed us to be more directly involved with the project. It’s a tremendous asset to make changes ourselves rather than risk incurring more costs and spending tons of time working through intermediaries to refine and perfect our materials.”

creating elearning open uni


Smarter collaborative working and actionable insights

In addition to gaining control over their content, using Elucidat’s cloud-based platform helped to ease one of Georgia’s day-to-day headaches: juggling the needs of multiple stakeholders on every project.

“The way Elucidat allowed us to collaborate had an immediate positive impact. We could go in and work on the project at the same time as someone else. This may seem basic, but it was a huge time-saver.

Elucidat has been invaluable in helping to streamline our process of content production.”

Georgia is also responsible for ensuring high engagement with learning content, and getting access to analytics has helped her take a far more data-driven approach to developing exceptional learning experiences.

“Having the ability to see the number of people who have clicked on the interactive content, how many have landed on various pages or where we lose or gain engagement all helps us make livelier, more engaging learning experiences. We know the exact areas to improve so that the next time we make a course, it can be even better.”


Expert coaching and support from Elucidat

Having brought content production in-house, the OU still wanted expert input and additional bandwidth when needed. Working closely with Elucidat’s Professional Services team helped them deliver great quality projects, efficiently.

“We’ll go to Elucidat’s Professional Services team with a nugget of an idea and through the Concept Creator service, they come back with a beautifully designed prototype, with the functionality we need set up and working. We take the project from there and are able to build out the content quickly.

We’ve come to think of Elucidat as members of our team. It’s nice to know we have someone to count on when things get hectic. We’ve purchased a bundle of their services, which means they are ready to jump in and help us at any time.”


Powerful learning experiences that hit 174% of target

One project that the OU enlisted support for was “A Support Net”. This interactive experience aimed to drive sign-ups for a paid for mental health course and helps people better support friends and family suffering with mental health issues. The content needed to connect with a broad audience and motivate them to reflect on behaviors that can affect those around them.

immersive storytelling a support net

“The Elucidat team helped us find a real way to educate people about a tricky subject matter – I’m not sure how well it would have worked without them. Not only was Elucidat able to help us find a unique approach, they were also very flexible to our process and happy to work with the video production company to create the branching video content.

When we launched A Support Net, our estimated enrollment for one of our formal mental health modules was 147. It ended up being 256. That’s an increase of almost 75% compared to our target.

We have to look beyond those numbers and think about the impact this course is now having on the wider public who do not study with us formally. When I think about that, it makes me remember why I joined The Open University.”

Behind the scenes: How we created ‘A Support Net’ with the Open University


Delivering on the Open University’s vision

“The core of what we do in OpenLearn is to promote the advancement and dissemination of learning and knowledge to help the general well-being of communities at large. Our content needs to be freely available, highly engaging and useful. Now, we know it is. With every new person who visits our website, we know they’re about to embark on a new, exciting journey.”