The Ultraversity Degree

Creating a new online degree for people already occupied full time... who want to stay that way, but want to study too.

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The Ultraversity degree ends with a public exhibition; learners will have the pleasure of showing to colleagues, friends and others just what they have learned from their action research...

...a wonderful celebration, but also a great way to awaken everyone's interest in learning.

Degree outline  
Illustrative examples of student backgrounds  
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Who might the learners be?

It is clear that the current provision of higher education does not work for, or fit, everyone and that there are group and cohorts (see above) seeking a new provision too.

But Ultraversity is also fundamentally a learning institution, staffed with learners for learners.
Below are some examples of who the learners might be. Each scenario illustrates how Ultraversity might work for them: The scenarios are fictitious, as each learner has their own individual pathway, but each scenario is underpinned with the reality of existing dialogue or approaches. They illustrate real needs and indicate real solutions that Ultraversity brings:

Bill is a school ICT technician. He came into school from industry and loves every hectic minute of it, but now he wants to move forward in his job, perhaps even towards qualified teacher status. He can't bear to be parted from his work and is far to busy to work on something new in his own time, but the Ultraversity approach is ideally suited to him: he studies what he does at work, as he does it. Bill's study includes the opportunity to do some action research and answer some of the questions that have been troubling him for some time: about gender, about mixed age groups, about children's understanding of the network topography (and whether that matters), about multiple media (does music help study?). Bill has arranged to partner another ICT technician in a school some distance away and together they look forward to swapping some research opportunities and findings.

Moira is 20 and works in an art gallery. She left school straight into a full time job which she enjoys, and studied “A” levels at evening classes; for financial reasons (she supports her mother) she cannot stop work to go to university, yet would very much like to progress her knowledge and understanding of her work in the gallery. However, after several years, she does not now want to leave the gallery even if the opportunity arose. Ultraversity would provide an on-line support for Moira, using her art gallery context as the focus for her graduate level qualification, offering her both a cohort of other students with similar contexts and access to a group of experts world-wide to progress her understanding. Her final year presentation project, itself showcased to the public in “her” art gallery, engages the viewing public to understand some of the insights that Moira has gained as she completed her undergraduate studies course. Through Ultraversity Moira helps the UK government meet its targets on participation rates but without a complete rethink for existing university provision or a dilution of what is provided.

Amy is a rebellious 19. She neither suited school nor university. Her experience of school was characterised by exclusion and disruption, both to her and to the various schools where she was briefly on roll. Through the project, a DfES funded virtual school for those that school didn’t fit, Amy has rebuilt her self esteem as a learner. Now, as a teenage mum, Amy wants to continue to advance her knowledge and understanding particularly, in the absence of any extended family, of child development and parenting. Amy wants to be a good mother but more than that she is anxious not to waste her years as a mum and seeks to emerge qualified and employable as her daughter settles to school. Ultraversity offers Amy a long path, but one that suits her timetable and needs well. Her final exhibition will be staged in her daughter’s infant school for mothers, teachers and others in her local community. Amy wants to help “put back” for others in similar situations and will go on from her undergraduate studies to be a subject mentor in Notschool alongside her new graduate career.

Ahmed is 28 and an industrial engineer working on fibre optic futures. He is absorbed by this work, doesn’t want to leave it, and finds that UK universities do not have access to the same practical, technical and research opportunities that his company provides behind their cautious wall of confidentiality. On the other hand there are some key concepts and building blocks in his knowledge base that need supporting now; as a result he wishes to advance his learning and researching capabilities further. He finds that without leaving his absorbing job, Ultraversity offers Ahmed the progression he needs whilst his presentation component is of particular interest to local schools seeking insights into the rapidly evolving world of telecommunications architecture. An unexpected bonus for Ahmed and his employers has been the gain in communication confidence he has developed as a result of his exhibition year.

Toggle is now 24 and came to new media through a childhood passion for computers and a chequered adolescence. That passion and eclecticism led into the boom where a very lucrative career as a web designer opened up, but now Toggle finds that the pragmatic technology skills she evolved are not agile enough for a rapidly changing creative industry. She is currently freelancing, her company having folded a year back. She knows that her creativity and experience are invaluable but needs broader insights to be able to harness it to match the current markets’ needs and to meet her own burgeoning hunger for professional development. As an on-line student of Ultraversity Toggle can fit the always asynchronous work into her constantly changing hectic work-with-unemployment schedule and is rapidly able to develop the new insights that creative industries need. The collection of alumni she develops after her cohort all graduate prove to be a very powerful network as they assemble and reassemble to deliver new projects for the creative industries; Toggle has become engaged herself in mentoring incoming students, particularly contributing her evolving expertise in digital media, but learning too from their continually fresh ideas.

Sammi at 19 is an aspiring Olympic competitor. With the age of successful Olympians falling rapidly in her sport she must go straight from school student to full time athlete; she is unable to take the time out of her hectic personal and team training regime to include a degree, even in sports science. But Sammi needs to exercise her brain alongside her body and craves the stimulation of graduate level material to complement her coach’s knowledge of physiology and sport psychology. The Ultraversity project networks Sammi with competitors from other sports who share a need for similar understandings. Ultraversity also supports her at degree level using the context of her sport as her primary study and research focus. By the time she reaches the Olympic finals she is both a better athlete and a graduate with a potential career path ahead as coach or Ultraversity mentor, or both. Over time a substantial number of athletes passing through Ultraversity will built to a sports alumni that will provide a solid bedrock of mentor support and ensure that much goods sports science elsewhere is fed directly to the athletes who need it for their personal intellectual and sporting development.

Hermione is 16 and still at school with an exceptional talent in mathematics that’s sets her apart from her peers; she is using the new flexibility in the school curriculum to hurry forward and complete her matriculation early. Staying within school she is stretching herself through membership of a cohort of similar learners with Ultraversity. Hermione is accumulating credits at undergraduate level which will allow her future years in a “conventional” university to take her through to Masters level directly. Crucially she is also able, with her peers around the world, to see mathematics as a “very cool” area where before her talent made her feel embarrassed and isolated. Some of the learning skills and strategies that Hermione has developed in her on-line time with Ultraversity will be a significant engine for change within her chosen residential university too.

Dipti is a play assistant. She took a career break to see her children through infant school, but now is really enjoying working in school. The other staff tell her that she is important to the whole "ethos" of the school and she wishes she knew more about play and learning. She enrolls with the Ultraversity project to give her the chance to emerge after three years of play supervision with a degree and a better understanding of the details of her work. Dipti has noticed, and is really interested in, the different cultural approaches to playground games and hopes to do some action research exploring that area too. At this stage she is not clear whether her degree will lead her more into education as a career, or into dance and drama, but she is waiting to see where her research takes her. She felt a bit low taking a career break, but now is really looking forward to her exhibition year to show not only what her research has to say about the world of school play, but also to show how she has grown herself.

last updated Thursday, January 29, 2004 12:25 PM