Learning while earning: the key role of supported distance learning in delivering innovative, industry focused courses to up-skill and develop employees in the motorsport sector

Mike Meechan, School of Technology and Keith Martin, The Open University with James Balkwill, James Larminie, Keith Newman, Rebecca Howes, School of Technology, Richard Mohun, Phil Morgan, Business School

An oft-justified contention in industry is that educational courses are developed by academics steered rather by their individual expertise than by market need, and validated by academic peer review, not industry critique. Furthermore, conventional course time frames make it difficult for work-based learners to study, especially those with the time pressures associated with motorsport. Whilst work-based employer-supported learning appeals as being key to retain and upskill employees, increase staff motivation, and improve company competitiveness, this has proven a challenge for providers of traditional courses.

This paper outlines the development of a new, flexibly-delivered, part-time distance-learning Masters degree in Motorsport Engineering and Management directed fundamentally towards industry-based learners. This HEIF-2 funded Motorsport CPD programme has been developed by the School of Technology-based Motorsport Knowledge Exchange (MKE) project - itself the largest and longest-running HEIF-funded project in the University - and resonates with several conference themes. Firstly, it has involved strategic collaborations with industry and its stakeholders to evolve and review course content; this has been complemented by other key partnerships with external academia. Secondly, the programme development team has involved multi-disciplinary staff, both academic and non-academic, to produce high-quality materials in relatively-rapid timeframes. Thirdly, work-based learners and busy professionals have been the target market. Finally, the course employs cutting-edge learning techniques to address the needs of learners distant from the University.

The course development process was an innovative response to the findings of a plethora of committees and panels, coupled to several Government initiatives, all aimed at protecting and developing the motorsport industry as a world-class engineering resource, vitally-important for UK GDP. The MKE has been commended internally during recent MSc validation, and externally by HEFCE. HEFCE’s consultants considered the project a model of best practice in the fields of employer engagement and industry-focused, market-driven, flexible course development, and worthy of case study for wider dissemination.

Powerpoint presentation (3.19MB)