Wintec opens its doors to a global classroom

Wintec Design Thinking Coach Aidan Bigham is surprised at the popularity of the course he created for FutureLearn

Wintec academic Aidan Bigham  attracted 1,000 global learners in two weeks when he created a free design thinking course on FutureLearn.

When Design Factory NZ coach, Aidan Bigham was asked to create a design thinking course for global online learning platform FutureLearn, he was expecting some interest, but sign-ups to the free four-week course took him by surprise.

Design thinking is the “new black” in problem solving and Bigham took to it like a duck to water when New Zealand’s first  Design Factory  launched at Wintec in 2017, using a globally proven and connected approach to creatively solve problems.

When Wintec’s parent company, Te Pūkenga partnered with Education New Zealand (ENZ) to showcase a series of taster courses on FutureLearn, Bigham jumped at the chance to create a course to show how design thinking can be used to drive sustainable change.

“The ultimate goal for the Te Pūkenga/ENZ partnership is to show New Zealand has quality education to the world. But I was also intrigued about the ability to expand our reach and grow the Design Factory network,” said Bigham.

What happened next took him by surprise.

“We launched the course last month, in June, and within two weeks, we had 1,000 learners online and 82 percent of them said it was better than expected. I was surprised, but really I’m stoked that so many people can have free access to a design thinking course. Hearing they want to learn more is inspiring and shows the potential and the reach for this 12-month ENZ pilot.”

The Design Thinking for a Sustainable Future course on FutureLearn is a four-hour per week, four-week, learn at your own pace, fees-free experience that anyone can sign up for.

Bigham says it’s not all solo.

“Participants join a global classroom and get inspired by an international network of learners. They can share ideas with others and interact with course educators like me, along the way.”

Wintec academics from the Centre for Education and Foundation Pathways, Adie Haultain and Kathleen Quayle also developed a free online course on FutureLearn aimed at educators: Grow Your Workforce: How to Teach Adult Learners. This course has also been a success, attracting more than 600 learners in the first month.

Haultain says the course takes a look at andragogy (the science and practice of adult learning), student-centred and inquiry-based learning and working with groups more effectively.

“We created an introductory course for people who were starting out teaching adults, either as a workplace educator or in a more formal classroom setting, to give them strategies to help them create interactive, student-centred lessons,” says Haultain.

“It’s exciting to see more than 640 people from over 94 countries join our course with some great interactive discussions occurring. But what’s really exciting is the feedback. Ninety-three percent of the participants say it has met or is better than they expected, and 98 percent commented they have gained new knowledge by taking this course.”

Wintec SINO NZ Project Director International Offshore Projects Tony O’Brien says the ENZ prototype is part of a diversifying products and services programme of work, and the  Government's Recovery Plan for International Education.

“Wintec has offered international short courses for adults for many years now, with a focus on “training trainers” to maximise leverage, with a focus on China as a key market,” says O’Brien. 

“The global pandemic has accelerated a trend towards online delivery and FutureLearn gives us the possibility of dramatically expanding and diversifying our market with more than 15 million learners in 125 countries. We can bring Wintec expertise in developing and delivering international short courses to all Te Pūkenga subsidiaries, which collectively offer a huge range of course topics.”

The New Zealand collection of online courses, includes the following Te Pūkenga courses which are aligned by ENZ to a global cause-based theme, in this instance, sustainability and regenerative practices:

  • Design Thinking for Sustainable Development (Wintec)
  • Sustainability in the New Zealand Wine Industry (NMIT)
  • English Language for Nature Conservation and Sustainability (NMIT)
  • Grow Your Workforce: How to Teach Adult Learners (Wintec)

FutureLearn is actively promoting these course to markets in Thailand, Japan, Korea, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, United States Vietnam, Germany, United Kingdom and Colombia.

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