Archive for the ‘Online teachng and learning’ Category

Registration now open!

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

The History of The Open University Project is very pleased to announce that registration for the following event is now open.

What have we learnt?

Transmitting knowledge, facilitating learning c1960-2010

29 November 2011, 10:30-15:30

Library Seminar Rooms 1 and 2, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA

Higher education has played a significant role shaping our culture and our social, religious, ideological and political institutions. Since the Second World War, in common with other western societies, the UK developed mass higher education from an elite format. New universities opened and existing institutions became polytechnics and later universities. In 1969 the Open University provided a new form of higher education institution. The existing universities developed new student bases and students engaged with a variety of communities

This one-day forum, organised by the History of The Open University project, brings together a range of experts to discuss elements of the history of higher education over 50 years.

The morning session will ask how have students been taught, looking at the move from traditional lectures and tutorials to the use of new technologies, a variety of pedagogies and the development of student-centred learning.

The afternoon session will reflect on 50 years of the student experience, placing learners’ perspectives at the centre.

 Speakers include:

  • Prof John Beckett, University of Nottingham
  • Dr Georgina Brewis, Institute of Education
  • Prof Judith George, The Open University
  • Prof Fred Gray, Sussex University
  • Dr Janet MacDonald, Higher education consultant
  • Prof Andy Northedge, Higher education consultant
  • Prof Harold Silver, Author of Tradition and Higher Education
  • Prof Malcolm Tight, Lancaster University
  • Dr Dan Weinbren, The Open University

There will be a short meeting at the end of the day for current researchers to discuss future workshops in the context of preparing a funding bid.

The workshop is open to all, but those who wish to attend are asked to register in advance as space is limited.

More information, including a provisional agenda and abstracts from the speakers are now available here.

To register please email

Educational Futures Thematic Research Network

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

The OU has a new thematic research network, Educational Futures. The Educational Futures network draws upon the university’s distinctive engagement with understanding new forms of technological engagement, digital literacies, creativity, educational dialogues, professional identity, pedagogy, international teacher education, learning in non-formal spaces and the development of new research methodologies.

An element of this network is the History of the OU Project because to understand where we’d like to go we need to assess where we’ve come from.  As Arthur Marwick, 1936-2006, first Professor of History, The Open University noted on 24 November 1994 in the THES

We study history because of the desperate importance of the human past: what happened in the past… governs the world we live in today, and created the many problems which beset us … To change the world, we have first to understand it.

This project can help make connections and ensure that network bids are strengthened by reference to the long-standing traditions, assumptions and values of the OU. Longitudinal studies are possible here as they are not elsewhere because the OU has over 40 years of pedagogy including TV footage and course materials in the archives while other universities don’t even have collections of lecture notes from the past. The status and relevance of the OU has dramatically changed over the last half century but popular images, often reliant on stereotypes about kipper ties, remain. Through an understanding of the past the HOTOUP can take education forwards.

social media use

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

There are many OU students and staff who use Facebook (or similar social media) and there are a number of OU-related groups, including one for members of the OU here,  amd ones intended for those with a particular focus, such as the Arts Faculty. Please let us know about other groups and how you use social networks to support your learning or the learning of OU students.

OU: one of many?

Monday, July 11th, 2011

The popularity of distance education has increased considerably in the USA. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the number of students enrolled in at least one distance education course increased significantly between 2002 and 2006, from 1.1 million to 12.2 million–and the growth spurt doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The OU, once unusual in offering supported learning for degrees at a distance is now much more part of the mainstream. The history project aims otconsider its role as parent to many other institutions offering distance education. If you have experience of distance education through another body, perhaps you could share your story.

Bringing the history into learning

Friday, July 1st, 2011


In 2009 the broadcast executive, with more than 20 years experience in the production of specialist education and e-learning materials, Andrew Law, moved from being Head of BBC Worldwide Interactive Learning to become Director, Multi-Platform Broadcasting at the Open University Previously responsible for developing educational media strategies for NGOs, the Department of International Development and the Ministry of Education in Kenya, Ghana and Ethiopia he shifted to helping the University develop sophisticated web 2.0 tools to help create multi-platform learning communities.

Today he is the keynote speaker at ED-MEDIA – World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications is an international conference, organized by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. In the abstract for his address, ‘Bringing the Social into Learning’ he recognises the importance of placing history at the heart of his account and his presentation illustrates the point that the OU has a strong tradition of supporting blended learning by including an image of the first OU broadcast.

Libraries in distance education

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

In 1982 Borje Holmberg noted that ‘the library in distance education has so far been given scant attention in spite of the evident importance of the subject’ (Recent research in distance educaiton, V1, V2, FernUniversitat Gesamthochshule, Hagen, 1982). Since that time libraries have developed in numerous ways and their importance for those studying through the OU has not diminished. It appears that there has been little by way of academic analysis since Sheila Howard’s ‘Libraries in distance education’, Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education, 11, 1 February 1985, pp. 45-58. Do you know of other texts in this field? Send us your suggestions.

Instruction or construction?

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Perhaps in response to criticisms such as implied in these cartoons (ie that students were isolated and that the television was a badly-used fad) from early on many OU materials sought to minimalise the overt input of the lecturer and encourage learners to construct their own understandings. 

One cartoon features a couple eating breakfast and has the caption ‘it’s the Open University – we’re having a sit-in’ and the other one shows a woman with a fake television holding up a card stating, ‘The cat sat on the mat’. The caption refers to a conversation between the two men in the background: ‘She reckons with this teaching method she has the problem of illiteracy licked’.

In 1972 the intention of a psychology course film of children talking and teachers at work in schools was for the student to hear ‘not the analysis of a lecturer but the actual voices of teachers, children and parents… the filter of the lecturer’s personality has been effectively removed’. A sociology film made in the same year used a hidden camera in a hostel for ‘mental sub normals’. There was little editing as the aim was that students could form their own opinions and use it as a starting point for discussion. In 1976 Arthur Marwick (Professor of History at the OU) argued that his aim was ‘to leave each piece of film to speak for itself without being overlaid by an intrusive commentary’.

Tutoring at a distance, online tutoring and tutoring in Second Life

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Vice Chancellor of The Open University Martin Bean visited Second Life in December 2009

David Hawkridge, Matthew Wheeler, ‘Tutoring at a distance, online tutoring and tutoring in Second Life’, European Journalof Open, Distance and e-learning, here


Research into tutoring at a distance has a fairly long history and the functions of tutors in distance education institutions are well understood. Over the past 20 years research into online tutoring has advanced significantly as such institutions have ‘gone electronic’: in this paper we cite published research from the UK Open University. Recently, blogs, wikis and podcasts have arrived to supplement established systems like email, virtual learning environments (VLEs, such as Blackboard) and computer conferencing. Little research has been published so far, however, on tutoring distant students in three-dimensional multi-user virtual environments (3-D MUVEs). Distance educators may well ask whether the best practices from tutoring at a distance and online tutoring can be transferred to these environments, which do not resemble VLEs. To clarify what may or may not be feasible in a prime example of a 3-D MUVE, this paper elucidates tutoring by and through avatars on a Second Life Island created by the Beyond Distance Research Alliance at the University of Leicester (which has 7,000 students learning at a distance). It analyses what can be done in Second Life by way of meeting students’ needs for tutoring, and discusses some of the opportunities and challenges inherent in asking students and tutors to meet in such an environment.


Tutoring, distance education, online education, e-learning, Second Life

Topics of the paper

Tutoring at a distance; Tutoring online; Tutoring in Second Life; Tutoring in the Sami tent and the Kalasha village; Virtual StoryCubes and tutoring; Conclusion; References; Acknowledgements