Archive for June, 2010

Project Fellow’s previous research

Monday, June 28th, 2010


April 4, 2000. Open Eye: Celebrating the hundredth-birthday Party Touring exhibition is based on social scientist’s labour of love, collecting voices of the founding fathers of a people’s party

The work of OU Social Science research fellow Dan Weinbren forms the basis of a major new exhibition which will tour the country to celebrate the Labour Party’s hundredth birthday.

Builders and the Dreamers: one hundred years of the Labour Party was opened by Jack Straw in at the Pump House People’s History Museum in Manchester. Exhibitions officer Sarah Gore explained: “This work helped form the basis for the selection of themes, which aim to reflect the experiences of Labour Party members, rather than a history of events at Westminster or major policies.”

Dr Weinbren’s book …[More of this article]

25 years of ‘Open Learning’

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

The journal ‘Open Learning’ celebrates 25 years under its current title this year. it can be accessed here. The current editor Anne Gaskell, former editors Graham Gibbs and Greville Rumble and Chair of the Editorial Board David Sewart have recorded podcasts highlighting important articles and issues over the last 25 years.  These can be heard here.

Is ‘rubbish’ distance education the future?

Thursday, June 24th, 2010


There were echoes of some of the debates about the OU which have occurred over the last half-century in a meeting in Brighton on 29th April 2010.  Debate about where HE is going based on an understanding of where it has been is welcome. To judge from the report it looks as if an understanding of the development of the OU could be of value to those debating the future of HE elsewhere.


The first degree ceremony

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Yesterday’s degree ceremony at Milton Keynes Theatre marked the end of the summer season of cermonies across Britain and Ireland which saw 6,000 or so graduates celebrating their success. Meanwhile, today marks the anniversary of the very first degree ceremony. (more…)

Praise for OU in MK Tory MP’s maiden speech

Monday, June 21st, 2010
Iain Stewart MP

Iain Stewart MP for Milton Keynes South since May 6th 2010 gave his first speech in the Commons on 17th June. (more…)

Exams at a distance?

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

‘How about taking exams in the comfort of your own room?’ Asked BBC reporter Katherine Sellgren before going on to suggest that ‘New technology, boasting anti-cheating software, could soon make this a possibility’. (more…)

Working in a course team

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Professor David Hawkridge

In 1975 David Hawkridge said that course teams were

made up of four kinds of people. First, there are the academic subject-matter experts. These are the physicists, the historians, the sociologists and so on. Second, there are instructional designers from the Institute of Educational Technology. Their interest lies in the structuring of the subject-matter, the selection and specification of learning objectives for the students, the preparation of suitable assignments, and in evaluating the success of the courses. (more…)

Former Vice-Chancellor and gowns

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

‘When the UK Open University was established its creators, in the free-wheeling and informal spirit of the 1960s, proposed that it dispense with the academic traditions of gowns and convocation ceremonies. The first students, however, quickly disabused the OU of that idea, arguing that since they had studied long and hard they wanted to be recognised as graduates with “the Full Monty” of gowns and regalia. The only concession to modernity – for which I was grateful when I officiated at over a hundred degree ceremonies as vice-chancellor – was that they would not wear hats.’ This from here

notions of openness

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Professor Gráinne Conole

Gráinne Conole, Professor of e-learning in the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University wrote: I argue in this paper that we need to expand the notion of openness, to take account of the affordances of new technologies and the new patterns of user behaviour we are seeing emerge. There has been a growth in recent years in activities around the Open source movement and the development of open tools and services, also the open educational resource movement (Iiyoshi & Kumar 2008). Read more here

Programmed learning

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Advertisements in trade journals indicated the benefits of machines which could support learning.

A popular at the time when the OU was being created was that machines could be used to support students learning at their own pace. It appeared possible to create systematically designed step-by-step courses with clear evaluation of the learning objectives. From before the war psychologists had showed that animals appeared to learn effectively when their learning was accompanied by rewards and Sidney Pressey had invented a keyboard-operated teaching machine which was supposed to allow students only to acquire new material once they had mastered the previous steps. Although there was not much interest in such machine in the 1930s, the ideas were adapted in the 1960s as interest in scientific management grew. This appeared to facilitate scientific control over the labour process. Programmed instruction was based on a behavioral model of learning that emphasized prompting for behaviors and responses that could then be reinforced (or not) and used to guide the learner through the course materials. Programmed instruction, later programmed learning, was popular in the 1960s. James Finn’s work at University of Southern California, connected programmed learning to audio-visual facilities and on behavioral psychology. There was also work by Arthur A Lumsdaine and Robert Glazer (eds.) Teaching machines and programmed learning, NEA Publications 1960 to which Burrhus Frederic Skinner contributed. The latter argued that the learning process should be divided into a very large number of very small steps and rewarded offered to the successful.  He created a mechanical teaching machine. A learner could respond to a series of questions studied at their own rate. There was a reward for a correct response. The student had to compose an answer as there were not multiple choice answers. There were prompts and hints for students.  The intention was to bring a single person into contact with a large number of students and a programmed instruction movement developed. Susan M Markle was an early exponent of Skinner’s programmed instruction in her work at the University of Illinois.

In the UK a Central Training Council was created in 1964. It promoted programmed instruction in industrial training and a survey in 1966 suggested that the idea of programmed learning was now accepted within industry. Universities also took it on and in 1966 Association of Programmed Learning formed. By 1968 it was being used in at least 29 universities in the UK. Electronic systems were developed such as the Edison Responsive Environment, known as the ‘talking typewriter’ and audiovisual material was also used. Programmed learning was used in a variety of trades and by the armed services. It was also used within teacher training.

During the1970s the idea fell out of favour, being deemed to be too mechanistic and rigid because programmed learning units and computer marked tests gave the student no chance to question the ‘teacher’ or to ask for elucidation. Cognitive approaches were becoming more popular within psychology and more flexible regulatory regimes were becoming more familiar within industry. Possibly, ‘there was a gendered effect in programmed learning, with conception and design being largely male areas, while delivery was more mixed’.’ (John Field, ‘Behaviourism and training: the programmed instruction movement in Britain, 1950-1975, Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 59, 3 September 2007, p.326).  As the popularity of the socio-constructive paradigm for instruction grew, interest in supporting collaborative learning, social networking and virtual worlds developed.