Archive for March, 2012

Towering over the challenges

Friday, March 30th, 2012

The OU has long been in a league of its own. Many have seen it as rising above the others in a manner comparable to the way the inspirational tower associated with Blackpool is clearly far above the flat countryside of the Ipswich Town tractor boys. (more…)

Adult education since 1862

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Distaining to take the hint offered by Professor Malcolm Chase who suggested that ‘there are rather more histories of adult education than of other fields which would seem as deserving of historical scutiny, for example … higher education’, Vaughan College, Leicester has seized the opportunity of an anniversary, its 150th birthday, to reflect on its past (Chase ‘”Mythmaking and mortmain”: the uses of adult education history’, Studies in the Education of Adults, 27, 1 ,1995, p.52). The event will be marked by three main sessions over July 2nd – July 3rd 2012 which will look at what Vaughan College has stood for, how ‘the Vaughan tradition’ now fits into current thinking, policy and practice and the place of adult education in contemporary society.

It opens at 4.30 on the 2nd with a talk by AA100 author and AL at the OU, Dr Lucy Faire who is also Director of the HE Certificate in Modern British History at Vaughan College.  (more…)

Poetic brilliance and imagination trumps dreaming spires

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
Ian Flintoff  was a language scholar at Oxford University before becoming a professional actor and director. |He started his OU career in 1989.His academic qualifications are mainly in biological sciences and he has a doctorate in science communication. He appeared on an album compiled by Richard Holliman for iTunes U, Science communication and public engagement. The album also features contributions from Alan Irwin, Jon Turney, Susan Greenfield, Vic Pearson, Robert Lambourne and Richard Holliman.Here Dr Flintoff recalls the residential element of his OU experience:
 You can never go to an OU summer school without seeing this amazing cross-section of society. The first time it brought tears to my eyes, the beauty of it … I was in an all-male college at Oxford which was mainly Etonians who were charming people, but I can’t kid myself for a moment that Trinity had anything on the majesty or poetic brilliance and imagination of the Open University.The Open University is a century or two ahead of Oxford.
Quoted in Patricia W. Lunneborg, OU Men. Work through lifelong learning, Lutterworth, Cambridge, 1997, p. 117.

Critical friend returns

Monday, March 19th, 2012

David Harris author of Openness and closure in distance education, Falmer Sussex, 1987 returned to the OU this week to deliver some papers relating to his work as a Research Assistant in Curriculum Design at The Open University between 1970 and 1973. Despite his critique of the OU he said that he was a big fan and had maintained an interest in adult educaiton throughout his subsequent career. He was one of the contributors to OU teaching material which was said to have a Marxist bias (see David Harris, ‘Openness and Control in Higher Education: towards a critique of the Open University’ (with J Holmes) in Dale R. et al. (eds) Schooling and Capitalism, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1978). He has also written on  ‘On Marxist Bias’ aboth the OU in the Journal of Further and Higher Education, 2, 2, 1978, pp. 68 – 71.

A national, local university

Saturday, March 17th, 2012
Wherever I go I meet OU students, including ones who wish to discuss their TMAs, and I see signs pointing towards the OU. When I travelled to Huddersfield the other day, in order to act as discussant at a doctoral students’ study day there, I was delighted, on emerging from the railway station, to be greeted by a statue of Harold Wilson. The OU founder maintained an enthusiasm for the OU and I work in a building named after him which he opened.
I’m now off to act as discussant of other doctoral papers in London, at UCL which is a few mins walk from the OU’s metropolitan office. Perhaps the alleged popularity of Hi-ho silver lining at summer schools of yore is because the lyrics speak to the virtual and real OU ‘You’re everywhere and nowhere baby, / Thats where you’re at’. The song concludes with a reminder to return to focusing on the teaching materials of the period, no matter where you are located: ‘So open up your beach umbrella /While you are watching TV’.
If you have ever got sun tan lotion on your Reader or you have a favourite OU location (I once got locked into a study centre and had to use all my teaching skills to pursuade the most agile student to clamber out of the window to summon help) do let us know via the website.

Open to Small People

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

The Open University has long sought to recruit younger students. Since her arrival on 6th March Caitlin Lucy, daughter of the former Senior Project Manager of the History of the Open University Project, Rachel Garnham, has been busy boosting numbers and disrupting education. Congratulations to Rachel and Andy and welcome Caitlin!

Can’t hear yourself think?

Friday, March 9th, 2012

On the website Catherine Smith has uploaded an account of an OU examination when ‘we sat in a room four floors up which looked out onto a small courtyard; every few minutes the lid of the rubbish container creaked as if it was in the same room. After that I started to wear a pair of industrial ear protectors during exams’.

Janet Wardle was an ‘A’ year (1971) student who, due to her husband’s job, moved to Rome in 1972 but then could not sit the examination as the papers were lost in the post. On her return to London she sat the examination ‘stuffed between high-shelved bookcases with someone typing behind them’.

If you have an OU examination story that you’d like to share you can do this via the website.

Educational film

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Professor Devin Orgeron and Professor Marsha Orgeron (North Carolina State University) will lead a graduate seminar at the London College of Communications on 7 March and will deliver a lecture on ‘The Facts Behind Nonfiction: Educational Film and the Documentary Canon’ at 4pm on the same day. This is related to their recently published book, ‘Learning with the Lights Off: Educational Film in the United States’ (Oxford UP, 2012). They will also give a talk at the University of Surrey on March 9.

Educational film was a matter of considerable interest to William Benton, who owned an educational film company ans was an enthusiastic backer of Harold Wilson’s ideas for ‘a university of the air’.

Teaching the teachers

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

The need for guidance for associate lecturers (tutors) was identified in 1969 and in 1971 a briefing and training policy was introduced. This focused on briefing of new staff but in 1972 Course Tuition was introduced and in 1973 Teaching by correspondence for the OU. In 1987 a Staff Development policy emphasised the need for continued professional learning. A set of Open Teaching materials was produced to support the policy, including Open Teaching a handbook on teaching and counselling. There was also a manual, The Open Teaching File and a set of ‘toolkits’ about a variety of topics including study skills and support for disabled students.  In 1993 Maggie Coats produced an evaluation of the Open Teaching materials and the student-centred Supporting Open Learning materials followed. These were widely used and developed. A fund for personal development was opened in 1987. In 1992 this was revised to encourage continuing professional development and it was revised again in 1997 to incorporate provision for peer mentoring. By comparison induction for full-time academic staff was introduced in 1995 and a programme of staff development for them introduced in 1998.In 1999 there were approximately 7.400 part-time associate lecturers of whom 10% had no other employment and 70% worked in educational institutions and 45 of them within HEIs. In 1997 the Dearing Report recommended accreditation for HE academics and the Institute of Learning and Teaching was established. At the OU a Centre for Higher Education Practice was opened. It ran courses and produced materials.

For more on this subject see Anne Langley and Isabel Perkins, ‘Open University staff development materials for tutors of open learning’, Open Learning, 14, 2, June 1999, pp. 44-51. We would also value hearing from ALs and students about supporting open learning.