Barnsley-based global arts college joins DMC creative community

A global distance learning college which has seen a 30 per cent increase in student enrolments in the past year has moved its headquarters to Barnsley’s Digital Media Centre.

The Open College of the Arts (OCA) delivers a wide range of open access distance learning courses to more than 2,500 students in 67 countries, working with a network of 100 tutors based across the UK.

Moving its headquarters to DMC 02, on The Seam digital campus, will enable the organisation to embrace new agile working practices developed during Covid-19 lockdowns and play a more active role in the region’s creative and digital community.

Principal of Open College of the Arts Will Woods said: “Moving to DMC 02 represents a fantastic opportunity for us to do more to improve access to the arts across our region, in the same way that we do nationally and globally.  We are already discussing ideas with Barnsley Council and look forward to making connections with other DMC businesses, as well as local colleges, schools and arts bodies. There is huge untapped potential here.”

OCA was previously based at Redbrook Business Park in Barnsley. Recent developments in digital technology, accelerated by the pandemic, mean the college no longer needs the larger workspace it had there, and can relocate to a more collaborative and creative environment in the town centre.

Will said: “DMC 02 has a really nice energy and feeling of lightness and creativity about it. The OCA is about life-long learning and that applies to us as much as our students, so our team is look forward to working alongside digital and creative businesses, learning and growing in this new environment.”

The OCA plans to use the DMC 02’s fully-equipped ‘Makerspace’ to organise design workshops for students; and exhibit students’ artwork in the atrium of the building. It’s staff and tutors will use its shared co-working and events spaces for flexible working, learning and assessment activity.

Will aims to connect with Barnsley businesses in gaming, tech and media sectors to explore apprenticeships and how the college could help provide the skills required for recruitment into these industries.

The OCA itself has recruited to two new posts recently due to growth in enrolments and expects to create more new jobs if the interest in distance learning sparked by lockdown is sustained and continues to grow.

OCA also chose DMC 02 because of its strong technology infrastructure and its managed services which will allow staff to focus more time on supporting students.

DMC manager Tracey Johnson said: “We are delighted to welcome Open College of the Arts to DMC 02 and look forward to working with them to support their ambitions to advance lifelong learning and engagement with arts and culture across our region, to reflect and enhance their national and global reach. They are an excellent addition to the DMC creative and digital community.”