Open University Cisco Academy Support Centre (ASC) and Instructor Training Centre (ITC)

Free for all, Free for everyone!

The Open University Cisco ASC (Academy Support Centre) is designed around a community led freedom for all model. We act as a first among many equals, with over 292 organisations and 12,000+ teacher members of our ever growing community.

We are free for everyone, it is free to connect to us, free to join and you can remain within the Cisco NetAcad program forever for free. We offer free instructor training via our affiliated ITC (Instructor Training Centre) - however, this is dependent on external funding and can never be guaranteed. We work with a number of ITQ's (Cisco Instructor Trainers) who lend their skills to our outreach.

A common question - often asked is 'why do we need an ASC'. Simply put, we offer the support that makes the difference. Enabling all of our Cisco Academies to access the certification ready content. Also, giving everyone the chance to make the most of the 1000+ hours of free content within the Cisco NetAcad programme. As well as develop your colleagues teaching practice.

To learn in greater detail about what we offer, how we offer it and who we are - read on!

Who - OU?

The Open University (often referred to as the OU) has been active as a Cisco Academy since 2003 - first teaching students at scale via distance learning from 2005. From inception, to date - we have reached in excess of 25,000 of our own students. Typically reaching around 4500+ any given year across many associated subjects.

We currently teach from the Cisco NetAcad portfolio - Python, Linux Essentials, CyberSecurity Essentials, Networking Essentials, Network Security, CyberOps, DevNet, CCNP-Enterprise and our core cohort of CCNA-R+S.

The Open University, chartered in 1969 is focussed on widening participation in higher education via distance learning. At any moment, we have between 170,000 to 220,000 students studying with us on undergraduate, postgraduate and research degrees. There are many other accomplishments, but rather than reading our opinion of the OU, take a look at this WikiPedia page and form your own view.

What is NetAcad!

NetAcad is a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programme offered by Cisco. It has been active for over 20+ years - starting in the late 1990's. Over time it has evolved - covering Network Engineering, CyberSecurity, Network Security, IoT, Programming (in C, C++ and Python), DevNet, Linux and digital literacy.

Cisco uses NetAcad to engage and enable educators as well as their students.

NetAcad is also the home of the Packet Tracer networking, IoT and CyberSecurity simulator. Combined with 1000+ hours of industry focussed content. Teachers of all levels can use NetAcad content to enhance their delivery, engage students and hopefully raise their employment prospects. All Cisco Academies can access this for free, being connected to the OU Cisco ASC (for free) improves what you may potentially accomplish, using this tool.

Your students can explore complex or simple networking scenarios without the requirement for expensive equipment

To access NetAcad your education centre must become a Cisco Academy (read the next section). There are many different ways this can be accessed. For the Open University - we are able to support your application and support you for free - offering you access to the full range of resources if desired.

Becoming a Cisco Academy - for Free!

While we are open to all, we cannot be open to everyone. We will help Schools, Colleges, Universities, Education focussed charities and Apprenticeship providers* become Cisco Academies. So long as you are engaged in a nationally recognised education or social engagement programme - we will consider your application. You can be either public or private in terms of your funding.

However - we will not consider any private training companies solely seeking to offer commercial 'vendor' training.

Cisco NetAcad is a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programme, which has earned the considerable respect of the Open University.

If your organisation is already a Cisco Academy - we are happy to allow you to join our community. However, you must help us understand why you are leaving your current ASC or have no ASC at present.

Before you approach us - you MUST consider taking our short <1hr micro course. This covers all aspects of becoming a part of the Cisco Networking Academy programme. As well as joining the Open University Cisco ASC community. The link is below (press the button), we are sure you can work out the rest:

*The modest foot note for apprenticeship providers. This is a process unique to England and Wales and requires the additional completion of a legal MOU between Cisco and the provider.

Who are the OU Cisco ASC?

We are a collective of 'interested' academics, instructors and educators. Engaged, and focussed on the development of teachers and educational institutions. With a keen interest in Linux, Networking, Programming and CyberSecurity amongst many other disciplines. Below is a collective 100+ years of experience - which is a small drop in an ocean of community experience.

Andrew Smith

Andrew is a senior lecturer and works full time for the Open University in the STEM faculty. He leads the ASC - having over 20+ years of extensive NetAcad experience and even more in teaching and industry expertise.

Dr Amel Bennaceur

Amel is a senior lecturer and also works full time for the Open University in the STEM faculty. She leads the CA (Cisco Academy) - having over ten years experience of research and professional practice within network engineering and computer science.

Kevin Large

Kevin is an associate academic at the Open University. He is our primary ITQ (instructor trainer) and works freelance on many projects. Alongside his work at the OU - he is also the global deputy chief expert for network administration at WorldSkills and also manages WorldSkills competition training for this discipline.

Jason Trott

Jason supports many of the OU Cisco ASC/ITC outreach projects, having worked for the previous seven years in IT management. Before becoming an OU Lecturer in Microcredentials, he was a Director of a IT support company. Jason has previously taught on our remote Python, CyberSecurity and Linux courses.

Robert Spragg

Robert has been working in the networking, systems support industry for 30+ years. He runs his own technology company and has been involved in supporting the low cost resourcing of some of our Cisco Academies.

David Anderson

David is a school teacher with almost twenty years of experience working in NetAcad. Having been a network administrator supporting the teaching of networking. David provides guidance regarding our schools outreach and currently teaches at our largest school using Cisco NetAcad resources.

The Community!

This is no cliche, for the OU Cisco ASC - community is everything. We are stronger through each member and we know that our community benefits from our collective effort.

Free - means that we hope that you may contribute. As each of these contributions adds to our community knowledge base, as we share with others. As you can see from the previous link: we are willing to share our open resources with anyone - irrespective of affiliation.

Once your Cisco Academy is a member of our community - you will receive our (not very exciting) monthly newsletter. Which regularly shares new resources, additional opportunities and early information regarding our free instructor courses.

Often we champion the community and share experiences from Schools, Colleges, Apprenticeship providers and Universities. As well as from some of our more unconventional centres.

Ever growing, this image is already out of date.
We are UK Centric - this we are proud of.

While we are UK centric and growing - we do work with some other Cisco ASC's and open to collaboration. Our offer is primarily for the UK it is also for anyone anywhere. So long as you are aware that we are obliged to focus on our core UK community.

For the OU Cisco ASC team it is about participation through partnership. As a university, we are open to explore international collaborative and development opportunities. Once we have formed an informal relationship and suitable corporate trust. We are more than willing to introduce you to our colleagues focussed on global development and explore what may be accomplished.

Meanwhile - if you are looking for resources, we willingly share these with everyone inside and outside of our community. Feel free to enrol via the link below this paragraph.

Instructor Training!

Yes, it isn't too good to be true. We do offer Cisco Instructor training for free. However, you must be aware:

  • It is dependent on external funding - this is variable and cannot be predicted.
  • We run all training as remote hybrid MOOC's
  • It will run to our demand driven timescales - we cannot change delivery to suit any specific local need
  • We offer these courses three times each year, enrolling, January, May and September for an February, June and October start.
  • We are UK centric, we are happy for anyone, anywhere to participate. However - our focus is within the UK timezone.
  • Ours courses are all in English - if you require another language, you must seek support from others.
  • We will work with other ITC's to offer free Instructor training

However, regarding our free training - you do not have to be part of our ASC community. It does help - as you will learn about each new course via our (not very exciting) monthly newsletter. We are focussed on giving it away to everyone. To find out more, press the button below:

Cisco allows all CA's (Cisco Academies) to use any ITC's (instructor training centres) ... if what the OU Cisco ASC/ITC offers isn't suitable. You may use the Academy Locator provided by NetAcad to explore alternate offers.

Social Media!

We are an extensively social media focussed ASC - using Facebook and Facebook Live as primary support tools for our expanding community.


You are more than welcome to come, take a look and follow our page. We are active most days - sharing content, tips and updates. As well as using Facebook Live for our recorded instructor training webinars.

Often you will discover new opportunities and resources first - via social media.
and the Premier+ award goes to ...

Premier+ ...

Our work with the wider Cisco community has garnered recognition from Cisco. For both our ASC and ITC, we have been privileged to have received the following awards.

ASC Premier+

  1. 2020/2021 Premier+
  2. 2019/2020 Premier+
  3. 2018/2019 Premier+
  4. 2017/2018 Premier+
  5. 2016/2017 Premier+

Which impresses us, as latecomers to the ASC/ITC scene - only joining in 2014 post academy transformation in 2013. We can see that our model is demonstrating participation and growth.

ITC Premier+

Cisco introduced this award in 2018 - we are humbled to have become one of the first globally to attain this recognition. Having gained a second accolade the following year.

  1. 2019/2020 Premier+
  2. 2017/2018 Premier+

Above and Beyond

Andrew Smith received additional recognition from Cisco in 2018 for his work around instructor development at scale - probably because he is an iconoclast! As well as the Regional Quarterly Spotlight award for work 'teaching teachers' in collaboration with the Institute of Coding.

Also, for 2019 - Amel Bennaceur received on behalf of our Open University Cisco Academy two awards, one for our Cisco Academy (under the ASC) going above and beyond. Another for Employability - helping ensure that our students are ahead of the pack gaining Cisco certifications on course completion.

The OU ASC was also recognised during October 2019 - for being a Career Ready ITC and championing Women into IT. A little shell shocked, we seem to have acquired six different awards during 2019 - Andrew, Amel and the team are probably going to avoid any attempt at beating this.

Being the Bridge 2021

With no specific awards offered anywhere by Cisco NetAcad during the height of the pandemic, during 2020. Andrew Smith was recognised for his outreach and engagement work in 2021.

Membership not Partnership

You are members of the Cisco NetAcad programme - your primary legal relationship is with Cisco. The Open University is also a member of this programme. Joining the OU Cisco ASC - does NOT infer any form of legal, binding or non-binding partnership with the Open University.

If any affiliated Cisco Academy - who is a member of our OU Cisco ASC community. Declares in any form, partnership with the Open University - we will immediately suspend our free support relationship and remove any accredited ASC contacts under NetAcad. Limiting your ability to deliver Cisco content at your Cisco Academy.

Our goals!

Our primary goal is to be a foundation for community development, within the sphere of vocational computer science within the UK and beyond. To accomplish this, we intend to:

  • Engage with key provocateurs focused on reaching underserved communities
  • Offer services from the OU at large, as a fulcrum for educational development
  • Ignore the confines of conventional wisdom and approach change with iconoclastic zeal
  • Create future community leaders by virtue of community development
  • Overcome anachronistic mind sets and practices
  • Engage with the wider vendor community
  • Disrupt when disruption is required

Questions? Any questions?

We like to think that we have covered everything. Chances are we have not or there is something unique that we have not considered that you would like to ask.

Click on the button below to ask a question or enquire about becoming a Cisco Academy with the OU Cisco ASC. Yes, it is a gmail account - we maintain this as a pool address. So please do not share any confidential information - we will reply from our Open University email accounts.

Created By
Andrew Smith


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