Open Eye: Tackling The Real Issues

Changes in technology have generated a constant need for training and education for people in computing, or wishing to move into it. Felicity Head, manager of the Computing for Commerce and Industry programme, spells out the OU's response.
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The Independent Online
The Computing for Commerce and Industry (CCI) programme began in the mid-1980's and was designed to meet the changing needs of technical professionals and managers - the courses address real issues in computing faced by technology and business.

Since its inception, more than 9,000 students from 4,000 organisations have experienced how the CCI programme can improve performance and competitiveness.

Who is it for? The CCI Programme is at post-graduate level, but is open to students who do not have a first degree; more than 50% of students come into the programme without a degree, but with a solid background of experience in computing which they want to formalise into recognised qualifications.

Currently there are 4,000-plus registrations a year on the programme.The courses are studied by a wide range of people - scientists and engineers in all disciplines, technical managers, staff in commerce and finance, local and national government and telecommunications.

CCI students need to have professional experience of computing, but need not necessarily be working in software development. The programme includes courses on:

software engineering

computer architecture and operating systems

project management

relational database systems

user interface design and development

object-oriented software technology

software development using Java

artificial intelligence

digital telecommunications

Each taught course runs for six months, and is offered twice a year, starting in November and May. Students may choose just one or two courses that match their needs, or mix and match a combination of courses to build a postgraduate diploma; they can also select courses from the Manufacturing Management and Technology programme, and a course from the Open University Business School if they would like a broader range of subjects.

Once students have a diploma they may choose to do a research-based project and dissertation to qualify for an MSc.

An experienced tutor offers help on the telephone or by e-mail, and marks assignments. There is an optional face-to face tutorial and an optional revision school before the examination. Seven courses are currently offered worldwide with Internet tuition, and can be taken by students anywhere in the world.

Studying CCI courses is a practical investment of time for both the student and the organisation he or she works for, being able to put the knowledge gained to immediate use in the workplace.

The course also offers clear benefits for an employer. The future's fittest organisations will be those with the skill base to respond to and harness new technologies. Employers appreciate the benefits and flexibility of OU study, and its importance for the personal and career development of their staff.

The student view

One recent MSc graduate, Andrew Carter, a project manager with FI Group,summed up his experience of the course:

"Having entered IT as a computer operator straight from school, 15 years later I found myself as a project manager, in a position where I needed to keep up with latest technologies. The CCI programme sold itself as a mechanism that could fill the gap because it offerd a wide choice of up-to-date courses, with the carrot of gaining a recognized qualification at the end.

"Happily it delivered everything it promised with wide-ranging course material that was of consistent quality, expertly structured and always current and appropriate. As well as the MSc in CCI qualification itself, I have been surprised at what I have gained from the programme.

"The materials provided a much-needed refresher in modern technologies and techniques - and the course changed my mind-set and opened my thinking towards continued learning.

"The course has also strengthened my awareness of the importance of literature searching - it stops the reinvention of the wheel - and has reminded me how to gather and articulate information in a clear, concise and professional manner."

The employer's view

At South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, Hewlett-Packard have built one of the UK's leading R & D and manufacturing facilities - developing and producing test equipment, telecommunications and microwave communication systems. Jim McCulloch, training consultant at H-P, is one of many employers to endorse the programme:

"Career development and personal growth of our staff are essential to our long-term success. Courses from the CCI programme are a key part of this process, offering up-to-date and high quality supported open learning," he says.

He describes the courses as "cost-effective, with an excellent reputation... contributing to the improved performance of both business and our staff".

Another key point is the flexible study pattern, which means that employees can schedule study time to meet both their personal needs and those of the company. The company has developed a long-term relationship with the university, finding local support staff "extremely helpful and customer focused," he says.

"The CCI courses are very relevant to today's business needs of a leading edge company like Hewlett-Packard - and I can recommend the integration of appropriate CCI courses into other companies' staff development and training programmes."

The closing date for the November presentation is September 18th so please act now if you would like to reserve a place. Contact us for a prospectus on 01908 653231, or order one from the Unversity's website www.open.ac.uk. You can also find all the course details at www.cci.open.ac.uk - where you can reserve a place on line. If you represent a company or organisation and would like to consider reserving places for members of staff, contact our advisers on 01908 652590 or crel-gen@open.ac.uk to discuss your requirements.

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