The idea that technology can be deployed to support learners isn’t new to those who work at the OU. Suddenly, however, it is in the headlines because Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have formed a $60m (£38m) alliance to launch edX, a platform to deliver courses online – with the modest ambition of ‘revolutionising education around the world’.
Paying relatively little attention to the decades-long history of sophisticated use of television, radio, video and the internet that has occurred at the OU the director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and one of the pioneers of the MITx online prototype. Anant Agarwal said ‘This could be the end of the two-hour lecture…You can’t hit the pause button on a lecturer, you can’t fast forward’. While MIT might be struggling to catch up pedagogically this development could be a challenge to the O, as well as an opportunity for it to demonstrate its experience in the field of supported open learning. As Dr Anka Mulder, head of Delft University in the Netherlands and President of the OpenCourseWare group which advocates free online course materials, said ‘Open learning is a movement that isn’t going to go away’.