OERu/Planning/Curriculum and programme of study/OERu programme specification for 1st year of study

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Programme specification for the OERu 1st year of study

List of OERu 1st year nominations

Executive summary

Definition of terms

  • Awarding institution is the OERu partner who assesses and awards transcript credit for the course.
  • Exit credential is a certification approved by the local awarding institution for example a "Certificate of University Studies" noting that the names of exit credentials will be different across the network and that some partners may not award an exit credential. The currency for transfer credit in the OERu is transcript credit recorded on the official records of the sending institution.
  • Level refers to the year of study, for example the 1st year of an undergraduate degree.
  • Receiving institution is the OERu partner which recognises transfer credit towards an approved credential at the receiving institution.
  • Micro course is a subcomponent of a full course typically ranging from 40 notional learning hours (4 points) to 50 notional learning hours (5 points).
  • Notional learning hours is an estimate of the total hours of learning by an average learner to complete the specified outcomes of a course or programme. It is not a precise measure but serves to provide learners and institutions with an indication of the amount of study required.
  • Transcript credit is the credit recorded on the official records of the sending institution.
  • OERu points' is a measure of notional learning hours used by many national qualification frameworks to facilitate virtual mobility and transfer. In the OERu context 1 point = 10 notional learning hours and 120 points represents a full year of study.
  • Transfer credit is the outcome of the articulation process where transcript credit from the sending institution is recognised towards a credential at the receiving institution

OERu point conversion table

Equivalent OERu points Notional learning hours NZ / UK Credits North American Credits
Basic unit 1 point 10 hours 1 Credits 0.25 Credits
Half year 60 points 600 hours 60 Credits 15 Credits
Full year 120 points 1200 hours 120 Credits 30 Credits



The OERu 1st year of study is an "opt-in" co-operation recognising the decision-making autonomy of OERu partner institutions in all aspects of assessment for formal academic credit and credit transfer.

The minimum viable product for the OERu first year of study is that a learner can successfully complete the required number of courses and transfer these credits for recognition at a minimum of one OERu partner towards a Bachelor of General Studies degree or equivalent.

The following assumptions apply:

  1. Partners operate within existing policies for the award of formal academic credit, including recognition that:
    • Residency requirements of OERu partners will differ across the network - there is no requirement that each partner is expected to recognise all the credits for the full first year of study.
    • The mechanisms for recognising credit may differ from partner to partner, for example transfer credit or recognition of prior learning.

Anticipated learners

The OERu envisions a world where all learners have more affordable access to higher education. As a philanthropic co-operation the OERu 1st year of study will assist "non-traditional" learners embarking on their higher education journey who through lack of funds, work commitments or lack of provision may not be able to study through traditional mainstream provision. The OERu 1st year of study aims to help:

  1. Learners from low socio-economic status backgrounds
  2. Learners who are unable to find a seat to pursue higher learning
  3. First in family to attend university or college by providing low risk opportunities to find out if they can succeed in higher education
  4. Mature learners in full-time employment aiming to achieve their first degree
  5. Indigenous and marginalised learners who may need more time to familiarise themselves with the higher learning environment without the fear of public failure.

Supporting documents and links

Existing awards

Programme outcomes and level descriptors

The programme outcomes are informed by the level descriptors for the 1st year of study documented in the Transnational Qualifications Framework[1] which was agreed as a guiding document to inform level descriptors at the Vancouver 2013 meeting. We have also consulted the level descriptors of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority[2] which is openly licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.


  • Broad operational or technical and theoretical knowledge within a specific field of work or study[3].


  • Select and apply a range of solutions to familiar and sometimes unfamiliar problems[4]
  • Select and apply a range of standard and non-standard processes relevant to the field of work or study[5]


  • Self-management of learning and performance under broad guidance[6]
  • Some responsibility for performance of others[7]

Programme structure and features

Core skills courses

Most partner institutions would share the view that a first year of study in most discipline areas could contain courses which develop a general ability to function and perform effectively with tertiary level studies. All too often, first year students do not have a general skill set to transfer and apply to discipline specific studies. It is suggested that tertiary level competence in at least four generic areas of study are required to ensure future success with undergraduate courses.

The following core skills, first year courses at undergraduate award level are recommended:

1. Study Management - comprises those skills which need to be applied to all undergraduate study; planning, time management, reflection, critical analysis, etc.

2. Academic and Professional Writing - essentially the skills required to write technically correct, appropriately formatted and academically well developed essays, reports and assignments necessary for assessment in almost all tertiary studies.

3. Essential Mathematics - different discipline areas require varying levels of competence with mathematics; it could be argued that some areas require very little mathematical skill; however, mathematics is required for everyday living as well as advanced studies in the sciences and engineering.

4. Digital Literacy - given that all OERu students will undertake their studies entirely online, well developed digital literacy skills would appear to be essential. Students are likely to enroll with quite diverse digital skill sets. The focus of a course of this nature would be one which developed the skills to function effectively with a learning platform, make extensive use of the internet for research and study purposes and harness the benefits of social networking while developing a value set which recognized the importance ethical behavior in online interactions.

5. Other possibilities - there are a number of other 'generic' core skill course possibilities - problem solving, critical thinking, communication studies, etc. This could be a very long list. Perhaps a way to proceed is during the development of core skill course, incorporate several of these as critical elements of content.

Discipline areas

Business and information communication technologies


A wide range of OER introductory science courses are already available. A number of these are listed with their contributing partner or site at * Idealised 1st year for general studies

In addition, most partners would like to see and would have available first year introductory course across a wide range of science disciplines. A limiting factor would be whether or not these are open source courses and/or whether or not the partner would be prepared to make them available to the OERu?

The following course is in preparation and is currently being evaluated. It is supported by an open textbook.

Elite Sports Performance: Psychological Perspectives (forthcoming USQ course)

Arts and humanities

Sustainable development


  1. Commonwealth of Learning. 2015. Transnational Qualifications Framework
  2. NZQA. (New Zealand Qualifications Authority) Understanding New Zealand Qualifications
  3. NZQA. (New Zealand Qualifications Authority) Understanding New Zealand Qualifications
  4. NZQA. (New Zealand Qualifications Authority) Understanding New Zealand Qualifications
  5. NZQA. (New Zealand Qualifications Authority) Understanding New Zealand Qualifications
  6. NZQA. (New Zealand Qualifications Authority) Understanding New Zealand Qualifications
  7. NZQA. (New Zealand Qualifications Authority) Understanding New Zealand Qualifications