Are the OU's methods poles apart from those of other educational insitutions? And should they be?
It has been argued that the course team, with its mix of academic and other staff, was a distinctive method of producing teaching materials which was pioneered by the OU. W Stewart, Higher education in postwar Britain, Macmillan, London , 1989, pp. 116-117, contextualised this development as one of many novel aspects of the OU when he argued that the university was innovative in nine ways.
1/ It was not part of a national plan.
2/ It was a political decision.
3/ It came not from the UGC in collaboration with the CVCP local authorities and academics.
4/ There was considerable opposition.
5/It was the largest single university institution.
6/ In academic administration and in teaching technique it was unique in the UK.
7/ It had the lowest student unit costs.
8/ ‘in several overseas centres the OU has been closely examined to ensure that it may travel’.
9/’its students have never been generally eligible for manatory grants’.
Others took a different view. David Harris was at the OU, 1970-1973 and wrote a book about it. He argued that ‘The teaching system was shaped as much by administrative and political pressures as by any particular educational goals and in three short years (1970-1973) it had already become institutionalised, reified and unmodifiable in essence’ (David Harris, ‘Educational technology at the Open University: a short history of achievement and cancellation’, BJET 1, 7, Jan 1976, pp. 43-53, p. 44).