Archive for March, 2011

A different era

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Course team meetingWhen discussing the history of The Open University and the impact it has made on the world of higher education more widely, one of the aspects most often mentioned is the impact of the course team. This collective approach to course production stood in contrast to the individually prepared lectures offered in conventional institutions. (more…)

Hilary Perraton

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Hilary Perraton was closely involved with the National Extension College, NEC, a precusor of the OU, from 1964 until 1971. He promoted the idea that a multi-media teaching programme is likely to be more effective than one which relies on a single medium. He went on to become a Co-Director of the International Extension College, a non-profit consultative organization on distance teaching and to work at the Commonwealth Secretariat, at the International Research Foundation for Open Learning and to chair the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission.  (more…)

Strikes in the history of the OU

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

During late March the flowers were out at Walton Hall and so were members of the University and College Union. They went on strike to defend pensions and jobs. The union argued that employer had failed to engage with the union’s claims regarding job security and pay and (in the case of the OU and other pre-92 HE institutions) the proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme. At the same time UCU members were being asked to accept a 0.4% pay increase, despite RPI running at nearly 5%, and to also accept that there could be no national framework to defend jobs (threatened by government funding plans).

The OU has been affected by strikes in the past, not always by employees. (more…)

Support for informal learning

Monday, March 14th, 2011

One of the ways in which the OU has had an impact is in helping learners transfer their skills and apply their formally assessed learning within the informal sector. It has enabled the production of knowledge outside the academy through a commitment to communities of ex-students. Students, many of whom had never met one another, have been encouraged to go on to form informal, voluntary, convivial, educational communities of practice based on those studies. These have enabled them to achieve together that which they could not separately. There are many OU examples of partnerships and traffic across what has been characterised as a ‘moving frontier’ between the state and civil society.

Between 1976 and 1985 a second level module, Art and environment, did not offer practical skills in painting or sculpture nor did it offer art criticism or cognitive skills. Rather it dealt with ‘the processes and attitudes of art’ and sought to develop ‘strategies for creative work’. Members of the society created by former students of the module, ‘share skills, experiences, ideas and knowledge of creativity and personal growth’.

Created, in 1998, by students and staff from an interdisciplinary third level module, The Family & Community Historical Research Society has conducted a range of connected local historical projects, encourages links between institutionally based and independent researchers and offers its own Continued Learning courses. This society is formally registered as a charity.

A first level digital photography module which was first presented in 2007 encourages students to upload photographs and discuss them online. Former students have established their own online groups in order to continue to collaborate.

In September 2010 the work of 36 OU students was collated into a book by fellow student Esther Clark At home with words includes 72 short stories and poems, many written for A215 Creative Writing but others written especially for the book. All profits from the book will go to Cancer Research UK which was also sponoired by a specialist letting company, Leaders.

If you know of a course which inspired people to go on learning together, please contact us.

Asa Briggs

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

On Thursday 19 May 2011 at the Institute of Historical Research in London there will be a celebration, co-hosted with the British Association for Victorian Studies, to mark the 90th birthday of the distinguished historian, Asa Briggs. At this one-day colloquium, his contributions to Victorian studies and to the history of communication will be assessed. His role in the growth of modern universities will also be considered. Postscript: podcasts of the event can be found here.


Happy international women’s day

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

The OU is celebrating international women’s day with new content on its iTunes U homepage and The Real Wonder Women on Open Learn, as well as various events on campus.

This is no more than you would expect, given the significant role women have played in the OU’s history – amongst its founders, as staff members at all levels and as a significant proportion of the student body.

This blog has already looked at the role of Jennie Lee, the minister tasked with making the OU a reality and who left such a stamp on its institutional formation. Some other significant women in the University’s history are covered in an article on Platform today. And of course, some would argue that the OU has played a role in the struggle for women’s equality, but has been denigrated as a ‘housewives’ university’. A previous blogpost looked at some of these issues.

Part-time provision

Friday, March 4th, 2011

In the May 1985 DES Green Paper The Development of Higher Education into the 1990s (HMSO, London, Cmd 9524) the OU was the only named institution which received any favourable comments, being seen as the major provider of part-time degrees. There are now far more part-time students, four in ten undergraduates, but they still tend to be marginalised. The OU remains a significant provider and in order for concerns about the needs of those who work and study to reach the appropriate Parliamentary ears it fell to Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean to present the case for part-time learners to the Education Bill Committee in the Commons in March 2011.

The session can be viewed here. The OU’s session can be found between 1 hour 30 minutes and 2 hours 14 minutes.

History of the regions and nations – help required

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

The History of the OU project was pleased to receive a copy of The Open University in Wales: A Charter Celebration by Mandy Ashworth, which was published in 1994 to celebrate the University’s 25th anniversary. This contains a fairly detailed rundown of the history of the OU in Wales, some of its unique features, and ways in which it pioneered initiatives that were later taken up by the University as a whole. If any readers know of similar publications relating to other regions or nations, the project would like to hear from you.

Images of students

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

In 1971 half a dozen models appeared under the headline ‘Which is The Open University student? They were dressed to indicate different trades and the copy referred to specific posts which students might hold, ‘engineers, nurses, shopkeepers, teachers, shopfloor and officeworkers…’ The advertisement explained that students could receive a grant, could ‘study in your spare time’ and could ‘tune in to sample our radio and television broadcasts’. These six role models indicated the range of students, though the OU also took students with severe disabilities, who were in prison and those who were serving overseas in the Services (and their civilian associates). It was also open to students from ethnic minority backgrounds. Since that time there have been many other advertisements for the OU and many images produced for it. Perhaps you became aware of the OU because of a specific image or advertisement? In order to compose a history of the OU we’d like to hear what attracted you to the university.