Archive for the ‘Methods’ Category

Mocked from Day 1?

Monday, February 27th, 2012

On 10th September 1963, the day after Wilson announced his plans for a university of the air, at the Labour Party conference (as part of his ‘white heat of technology’ speech) the Daily Mail’s Emmwood (John Musgrave-Wood) poked fun by reference to popular programmes of the period, including Coronation Street.

The Daily Mirror’s Stanley Franklin compared (image not featured here) the plan to the ‘hot air’ talked by the Tories, indicating if not the paper’s support for the OU then at least its continual deriding of the Conservatives. Vicky (Victor Weisz) in the Evening Standard focused on another concern of the period, violence on TV. The cartoons can be found in The British Cartoon Archive is located in Canterbury at the University of Kent’s Templeman Library and online here.

Another account of residential school studies

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Isabel Hilton, ‘In Egham, knowledge rules’ Independent, 1 Aug 1992.


‘IT’S NOT like Educating Rita you know,’ said a middle-aged woman, between mouthfuls of spicy chicken spring roll. At first glance, she seemed to have a point. In the cavernous dining hall of Royal Holloway and Bedford College, near Egham in Surrey, some 300 students at the Open University’s week-long summer school were having lunch. Most were in their first year of the Arts Foundation course, others in their third year of an arts degree. (more…)

Enlightened in darkness

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Shortly to be published is Devin Orgeron, Marsha Orgeron (pictured) and Dan Streible (eds.) Learning with the Lights Off. Educational Film in the United States, OUP, 2011. This is about film’s educational uses in twentieth-century America. Illustrated with over 90 illustrations of rarely seen educational films, the publisher suggests that this collection of essays examines ‘some crucial aspect of educational film history, ranging from case studies of films and filmmakers, to analyses of genres, to broader historical assessments’. It also suggests that there will be links to many of the films.

For historians of the OU this could be of  interest as Harold Wilson was influenced by the owner of Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, William Benton. Walter Perry argued that Benton was one of the men whose vision of education for all, through correspondence teaching and the use of the mass media, contributed to the decision to found the Open University. An advocate of radio, in the 1950s Benton toured the world with his films arguing that ‘the cold war between the open and closed societies is likely to be won in the world’s classrooms, libraries, and college and university laboratories’. He also sponsored tours of the USA taken by Wilson. In return Wilson sought to help Benton to overcome his ‘problem’ concerning the British quota on the number of foreign films which could be shown. For Benton and Wilson widening access to knowledge, business and politics could all advance together.

Happy birthday, University of Sussex

Friday, November 4th, 2011
Fred Gray (a speaker on the 29th November forum) has edited a new book, ‘Making the future. A history of the University of Sussex’. This beautifully-illustrated account of the first fifty years of the university (1961-2011) consists of chapters by almost 70 different authors. Here are the voices, and the varied and well-presented images, of former and current staff and students. Their narratives are framed by Fred Gray’s introductions his overview and his account of continuing education (the field in which he became a professor).  

The theme of the liberalism of the sixties and seventies runs through the book as does the engagement with the distinctive and original curriculum. There are some parallels to be made with the OU, the influence of Asa Briggs on both places being one of them and the ‘early leavers’ scheme is another. One might also compare it to the University of Twente (founded 1961 as the first campus university in the Netherlands it insisted that engineers study social sciences) and it also influenced Kent, Lancaster, UEA, Stirling, Essex, York and Warwick.  (more…)

30 years of the OU on the TV

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Arguing that ‘Three decades of Open University TV broadcasts offer a kind of family album, providing fascinating glimpses of the university’s growth and development as it learned the craft of distance teaching in full public view’ Andy Northedge has produced an analysis of a selection of the OU course materials which were broadcast on the BBC. See Three decades of Open University broadcasts: a review.

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.

Cawdor Kiss

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Amanda Wrigley has contributed another account of an OU play. This Macbeth was made in 1977 as ‘a shortened version concentrating on the main characters and line of action’ as the OU notes put it. Information as to the scenes cut or telescoped was provided in the printed students’ ‘Supplementary Material’. The notes for viewers explain about how the actors sought to achieve particular effects. Highlighting that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth kiss twice, briefly, the ‘television notes’ explain: ‘we tried to convey that they loved each other securely and maturely, not obsessively’. Although there is a large cast for some scenes mostly there was a simple set for this production and often a black background. Perhaps this was due to budgetary constraints, or for artistic reasons or in order to foreground the plot and the words. Unlike the OU’s Oedipus this play foregrounded that it was made for television. When the witches gather round a cauldron there are close ups of images overlaid on the bubbling liquid. This may owe something to Roman Polanski’s 1971 film Macbeth in which the Thane of Cawdor gazes into the witches’ cauldron and sees a montage of images. In the film Francesca Annis played Lady Macbeth. In the OU’s version it was Ann Bell. During a scene between Macbeth, Banquo and King Duncan when Duncan announces that his elder son Malcolm is to be the Prince of Cumberland the camera cuts to him, and then to a petulant-looking Macbeth, who later speaks directly to camera. Towards the end a sword fight is shown in slow motion. The medium was being used to convey the text in ways that the author (c1564-1616) may have found difficult to envisage. (more…)

Women viewers sought

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Are you female? Do you have memories of watching OU programmes? If so then Warwick and the OU would like to hear from you. Please send us your recollections, and pass then onto Warwick as well. Rachel Moseley of the University of Warwick is working on a project on the history of television for women in Britain. Others involved are Dr Helen Wheatley (University of Warwick), Dr Helen Wood (De Montfort University, Leicester); Postdoctoral Research Fellow: Dr. Mary Irwin (University of Warwick; Doctoral Researcher: Ms. Hazel Collie (De Montfort University). The project brings together archival and audience research methods in order to map this untold history and explore women viewers’ memories of the television that has been addressed to them. On the project see here.

A307 drama: from the complexities of Oedipus to Balcony baloney

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

That a drama can reflect and illuminate the period in which it is produced and the pedagogy of the OU can be seen through an examination of the 1977 BBC/OU production of Oedipus the King for A307.

The seventies were a time when nostalgia became marketed with large sales of Small is Beautiful (1973) and The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady (1977). In The heritage industry: Britain in a climate of decline (Methuen, London, 1987) Hewison claimed that half of Britain’s museums had been founded since 1971. It was also a period when, to some, it appeared as if the state and society were under threat. In 1976 the government was forced to request a$3.9 billion loan (the largest ever made by that institution) from the IMF. The titles of some of the books published in the period reflect a sense of disruption: Is Britain Dying?, Britain against itself (two American studies), Britain’s Economic Problem, The Breakup of Britain, Policing the Crisis, The End of Britain. There was another perceived threat as well. Men’s status appeared to be undermined by equal opportunities legislation (notably the Equal Pay Act 1970) and more women were attending universities. Perhaps this is why the theme of the inevitability of male entrapment was a source of humour within popular situation comedies of the period including The Likely Lads and Rising Damp. In another tale of men fated to struggle, Steptoe and Son (a sixties TV series revived between 1970 and 1974) although Albert had a far larger role that Laius and there was no Jocasta in Oil Drum Lane and Harold Steptoe did not actually kill his father Albert, he did threaten him in many episodes. On the stages of the UK there was a rise in radical theatre. Both Gay Sweatshop  and Monstrous Regiment were formed in 1975. Perhaps more directly related to the original tale, challenging interpretations of classic plays were being promoted, such as Dennis Potter’s critique of suburban life Schmoedipus which was broadcast as a ‘Play for Today’ in 1974 and repeated by the BBC in 1975. (more…)

communicating ideas, supporting learning

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

In August 2011 Paul Ramsden, a key associate at the education consultancy PhillipsKPA, visiting professor at the Institute of Education, University of London, and adjunct professor at Macquarie University, argued in the THES that

the idea of the contact hour as a measure of teaching and learning is archaic … it is a national disgrace in 2011 that the most common form of contact hour is still the lecture. It is not surprising that today’s students believe that the main thing that would improve the quality of their experience is more interactive experiences.