Web course explores play

Jackie Marsh of the University of Sheffield, who is speaking at the Sheffield Children's Media Conference
Jackie Marsh of the University of Sheffield, who is speaking at the Sheffield Children's Media Conference
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A new online course offering lessons about the importance of play in the lives of children and grown-ups is being launched by Sheffield University.

The course, called Exploring Play, will cover several different issues of debate, including whether light-hearted games help people learn and how they prepare youngsters to be successful as adults.

It will also discuss the controversy and possible dangers around technology-related play, such as computer games.

Without leaving their seats, students will be transported to the Museum of Childhood in London, as well as Weston Park Museum in Sheffield, for virtual visits.

Academics from the university’s social sciences department are leading parts of the internet programme, which is known as a MOOC – or Massive Open Online Course.

Prof Jackie Marsh, who is running the course with Prof Elizabeth Wood from the university’s school of education, said: “We’re now used to regular media reports that claim ‘play is dead’, and newspaper columnists who lament that children do not play any more and instead spend all of their time sitting in front of a screen.

“In our free online course we’ll demonstrate that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Play is very much alive across all age groups and all walks of life.

“The course will explore research that has examined play throughout life, and we’ll consider ideas about play across cultures and through time.”

The seven-week course, which begins on September 29, is intended to inspire learners to follow a career related to play or the creative industries, or encourage them to be a more playful parent or carer.

Students will also be told that play is a ‘fundamental part of innovation and creativity across a whole range of subjects, careers, disciplines and industries from fashion to engineering, and teaching to business’.

The course is aimed at people of all ages, and there are no prerequisites or qualifications needed to register – all that is required is an internet connection.

Exploring Play is the third MOOC of its kind created by Sheffield University.

It is provided by the FutureLearn organisation, which designs courses to work on smartphones and tablets, as well as desktop computers.

The online courses are intended to enable greater access to higher education.

n Visit www.futurelearn.com/courses/play for more information.