Liverpool John Moores University is taking part in a trial to develop innovative short courses within higher education.

Liverpool Screen School (LSS) is developing the university courses for people looking to gain higher level skills in digital media production.

Academic Lead Dr Kate Sillitoe is the Short Course Developer.

She told Merseynewslive: “We want to develop these courses to attract non-traditional higher education learners.

“These are those that might not have gone through the school system, gone to sixth form, got their A-levels and gone to university. We’re looking at those who, for one reason or another, didn’t get that option.”

Some of these courses will also aim to educate those already working within industries seeking to build their skillset.

This could include gaining skills in newer emerging technologies, such as immersive technology.

The seven short courses that LSS are currently proposing include: Video Content Production; Content Creation, Graphics & Visualisation; Campaign Project Management; Interactive User Experience; Content Production for Social Media; Innovation, Apps and Devices; and Immersive Technology.

Unlike other university courses, the short courses will not result in a full degree.

Instead, they will act as another means to gain industry skills or a taster for those thinking of pursuing a full degree.

Each of the courses can be used as prior learning to build up students’ credit towards a full degree.

Anyone can have access to these courses, regardless of age or educational background.

Once these short courses have been developed, LSS hopes to be accepting new students for the programmes in September 2022.

Office for Students

The project is spearheaded by the higher education regulator Office for Students.

The UK government had previously identified skills gaps in various sectors of the UK and the new courses at LSS will specifically target the need for digital skills.

The research involves discussions with creative industry managers to understand what skills gaps exist within their specific industries.

Kate said: “Once we’ve identified the creative industry skills gaps, we will map them across to the modules that we’ve proposed.

“We are also interviewing non-traditional learners to ask them what their educational needs and specific barriers to learning are, so that we can attempt to address these within the delivery of the courses.”

LSS is working with Agent Academy, along with colleges such as Hugh Baird College, to conduct the research.

Funding for courses

One of the potential barriers identified by the Office for Students is the learners’ access to funding for short courses.

Kate stated: “In the past, funding a 30-credit course like this, which is equivalent to a quarter of each year of a full degree would cost just less than £2,500.

“Normally, students would have to pay to take one of these courses out of their own pocket, which stops many from accessing a short course.

“Some students have been able to overcome this through their employers paying for Continuing Professional Development courses, although, that tends to be within larger organisations such as the NHS rather than smaller commercial companies.

“One option might be that the creative industries will pay for their staff to upskill in a specialised area. However, the purpose of this trial project, is so that the Office for Students can investigate the feasibility of funding these courses through the standard student loan system, so that anyone can access these courses.”

To learn more about this project, visit the Office for Students website here.

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