What have we learnt? Establishing the OU in Scotland

One of the most relevant presentations to the OU’s own history at last week’s What have we learnt? forum was Professor Judith George’s paper on supporting isolated remote learners. Judith spoke of the challenges in establishing the OU in Scotland, with its specific geography and politics. However, it was essential that the OU in its early days grapple with these issues if it was to be recognised as a British institution.

Judith’s paper concentrated on student support, pointing out that this ‘had to go the extra mile (or many miles) beyond the basic OU format.’ While access to technology could not be taken for granted, it was embraced wherever possible starting with pioneering use of the telephone. It may have been surprising for some to learn that it was calculated that ‘an OU student actually got more individual contact time than those in many conventional Scottish universities’.

Tutors were also isolated so getting the right systems in place for their support was crucial too. And Judith also highlighted the importance of strong and creative links with Scottish further and higher education.

The history of the OU project is keen to ensure that a range of perspectives are incorporated into the new history being written, including very importantly from the OU’s regions and nations. It was useful to hear from those present at the forum from the OU in Wales and the OU in Ireland, but we would also welcome more perspectives from staff outside Walton Hall on our website.

One Response to “What have we learnt? Establishing the OU in Scotland”

  1. Dominic Newbould Says:

    What has made the OU so strong is its academic integrity – that is to say, its quality (both teaching and learner support) and its sense of community. I think I said at this forum that every student is a remote learner now – not just those in geographically distant places. Distant from what?
    It will always be systems, resources, encouragement and motivation that will help learners feel less isolated. The OU does this better than most, whether the student is in Milton Keynes or Machu Picchu. Technologies are important, as are the exploitation of new media, methods and pedagogies. If you look in the new Museum of Scotland, you will find the OU represented there, with some of the artefacts that went into making up an OU course all those years ago – starting with printed materials, still so vital a part of the teaching and learning dialogue.

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