The OU is unique – it is the world leader in providing distance online education, supporting over 170,000 students studying with us. We do this by using appropriate technology to break down barriers – for those with disabilities, isolated or economically challenged. For example we have over 27,000 disabled students studying with us, who are able to do so due to our prioritised accessibility standards in our content and delivery systems.
Free learning resources are core to our social mission, but we are also aware that the return on investment in this area is a very important by-product in terms of reputation building, brand recognition, new market opportunities, technology innovation, partnership formation and, most significantly triggering new student registrations. We have aligned the systems that we use for core student provision with those for our public OER provision. Therefore, as we invest and develop our student systems, the public systems also benefit (and vice versa).
We aim to ensure this mutual benefit approach is also applied in our work in developing and delivering systems to support others in free learning. We are also keen to ensure that any software or hardware systems have support communities that will remain at available, affordable, at scale and resilient.