Archive for September, 2011

Happy birthday languages at the OU!

Thursday, September 29th, 2011
1993 Centre for Modern Languages workshop

Twenty years of teaching foreign languages at the Open University was marked on 29 September by an afternoon of celebrations at Walton Hall.

Following an introduction and video message from the Vice‐Chancellor of the Open University, Martin Bean, there were a few words from Pro‐Vice‐Chancellor Prof Alan Tait about ‘Languages at the Open University’ and a talk ‘ Language skills and the UK’s future growth prospects’ from Dr Adam Marshall of the British Chambers of Commerce.

Prof Marie‐Noëlle Lamy recalled ‘How it all began – the founding of the Centre for Modern Languages’. This was followed by messages from OU and external colleagues and from partners and students. Margaret Nicolson spoke about ‘The nations and regions: then and now’ and Dr Regine Hampel about ‘Research and scholarship in the Department of Languages’.

Staff from the Department of Languages then presented a few learning applications, including interactive learning on the move, technology for sharing, and technology for developing speaking skills at a distance before Dr Uwe Baumann considered ‘The next twenty years’. There followed a reception and opportunity to try out some of the technology.

The plans to teach languages at the OU were a long time in gestation.  (more…)

30 years since OUPC opened

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

The new Open University Production Centre, September 1981

30 years ago today saw the completion of the lengthy construction and fitting out of the BBC/OU Production Centre and the transfer of BBC operations from Alexandra Palace to the Walton Hall campus.

Full production of radio and television programmes for the University commenced in the Perry building from 28 September 1981. The building was officially opened by Prince Charles the following year.

The OUPC studio operation was closed in 1991 after significant restructuring.


Changing views of HE

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

The view that degrees should be seen in individual, economic terms was emphasised today by the production of data about graduates’ salaries six months after graduating. International consultants The Parthenon Group drew on data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency and concluded that some post-1992 institutions do just as well as or better than many Russell Group institutions on employment outcomes.  Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said the analysis risked contributing to a “fast food” vision of higher education. She added that

Universities are not just graduate factories turning out a ready supply (of employees) for business – they are there to teach a diversity of academic subjects for a wide range of purposes that serve all our communities 

This has echoes of Harold Wilson’s response when asked about housewife students at the OU:

I’m not at all appalled at this. They are having a chance they have never had before. I’ve never thought of the Open University as a technical college for vocational education. It doesn’t matter if their degrees never earn them a penny piece (Education & Training, December 1972)

 However, since 1972 the pressures to conceptualise the university in terms of the market have grown.

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.

Pillar of wisdom

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Milton Keynes council has commissioned a new war memorial to commemorate those who died in battle.  There has been speculation that the memorial which is to feature pillars and at ground level, an image of a rose, might also commemorate both those killed on the local roads and according to the Milton Keynes Citizen  on 22nd September, those who gained degrees at the OU.  According to the local council Minutes ‘spend approval for the MK Rose Cenotaph project’ was granted by the Cabinet on 6th September. Former OU employee Councillor Sam Crooks, the Lib Dem leader felt ‘unable to support proposed expenditure’. The Cenotaph Trust is backing the idea of what is being called the MK Rose. The memorial and (if the rose-tinted conjecture is to be believed) tribute to scholars will be in Campbell Park, in Milton Keynes, (pictured) once a site proposed for the OU.

University of the aircraft?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

It is as old as the OU (it first took to the air in 1969) has iconic status and like the OU, it found that there was not a universal welcome in the USA. Having received a £840,000 grant in May 2011 Concorde has now been deemed worthy of a museum. Unlike the transport for an elite the OU is still on the air. Perhaps it deserves its own museum as well? There are some items on display near the archives (located in the library on theWalton Hall campus) but further suggestions as to what (or possibly who) should be the star exhibits in such a museum are welcomed.

social media use

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

There are many OU students and staff who use Facebook (or similar social media) and there are a number of OU-related groups, including one for members of the OU here,  amd ones intended for those with a particular focus, such as the Arts Faculty. Please let us know about other groups and how you use social networks to support your learning or the learning of OU students.

History of Education seminars in London

Monday, September 19th, 2011

New History of Education seminar series announced. Readers might also be interested in the seminars series ‘Education in the Long 18th Century’. In the ‘British History 1815-1945’ seminar series, there are forthcoming papers on the BBC (On an Equal Footing with Men? Women and work at the BBC, 1923-1939) on 1st December and on schooling (‘Sometimes it was necessary, for the sake of the class, to exclude a hopeless case. London’s elementary schools and the origins of classification 1870-1904’) on 20th October.

The impact of OU students

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

The history of The Open University project is attempting to assess the impact of the OU on wider society, but the ripple effect of its education via its graduates would be difficult to quantify.

A perusal of mentions of the Open University in news articles just today gives a flavour of the diversity of people who have studied with the OU and how it might have effected their professional lives. The Scottish Business Insider reports that Nosheena Mobarik, co-founder of M Computer Technologies, has been appointed Chairperson of the CBI in Scotland. She studied with The Open University when her children were young. Anne Fielding Smith’s appointment as the new principal of Strode’s College is reported in the Midweek Observer. Anne has studied part time with The Open University for three years. The East Fife Mail reports that local artist Teresa Doughty is opening the Merchant’s Room in the Scottish Fisheries museum. Teresa has a degree in psychology from The Open University.

Finally, there is an interview with Shamrock Rovers manager Michael O’Neil in the Daily Mail. O’Neil, who was a childhood football prodigy playing in the Newcastle youth team with Gazza and is now making Irish football history as he takes the Shamrock Rovers into the group stage of a European competition for the first time ever, talks about the Open University degree in maths and statistics he achieved while he was at Dundee United.

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…)