Archive for August, 2011

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…)

Benefits of an OU degree

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

In mid-August The Open University was again ranked among the top three UK universities for student satisfaction in the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) National Student Survey of 265, 000 final-year students studying at 154 universities and 99 further education colleges. The response rate of 65% – the highest rate in the seven years that the NSS has been running. A third of students (32%) were unhappy with the level of assessment and feedback they received, while a quarter (25%) criticised the organisation and management of their course and 10% of UK students were disatisfied with the quality of their qualifications. (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.



Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

In addition to the formal use of OU materials by other institutions there has long been informal use. The joint OU and DES ‘Review of the Open University’, 1991, p52 noted the sale of packs to groups, the purchase by all but one of the UKs universities and polytechnics of off-air recording licences which permitted them to record OU broadcasts, the sales of 1,500 course units to 70 higher education institutions and a further 2,000 units to bookshops near campuses. Surveys indicated that academic staff at many institutions used OU materials. It was concluded that

It is generally recognised that the University’s materials have been widely disseminated within the educational world and that they have had a widespread effect on teaching in conventional universities.

As Rex Watson, a Tutor since 1973, recorded on the website in a piece entitled ‘Tutoring mathematics, some reflections’:

The standard of OU written and other material is rightly in my view regarded highly, as a general rule. I have myself learnt quite a bit of new mathematics, and have often pinched ideas to use in my other work!

If you have been inspired to make use of OU materials for activities beyond teaching and learning at the OU, do let us know.  Perhaps you can tell us of examples of modules (courses) which drew on OU ideas? You can comment on this blog or post on the website.

Capella moves in

Monday, August 15th, 2011

The new environment in which the OU must operate was indicated by an acquisition in July when the Capella Education Company, which describes itself as ‘aggressive’ and ‘disruptive’, acquired Resource Development International. RDI has called itself  the world’s largest independent provider of UK university qualifications by distance learning. Capella wants to validate degrees and RDI currently offers distance-learning degrees validated by institutions including the universities of Wales, Sunderland and Birmingham, and Anglia Ruskin and Sheffield Hallam universities. As December 31, 2010, it offered over 1,250 online courses and 43 academic programs with 136 specializations to over 39,000 learners.

The development was widely reported, with comments by, among others, the Wall Street Journal, the company itself and the THES.