This book focuses on the handful of innovators who 'were crucial' for the creation of the Open University (OU), which enjoyed a 'rapid gestation period'. It is about the political framework, positioning the OU within the patterns of convergence and divergence in the expanding higher education system of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The OU has its roots in more than a century of engagement with those excluded from conventional higher education. The book is an assessment of the ways in which, since the 1990s, the OU has sought to enable learners to work together to create knowledge. One way to understand the development of the OU is in terms of a business model. The book addresses the crucible in which the OU was formed in terms of politics, socio-economic developments and innovations in teaching. Through practice, reflection and amendment of teaching the OU developed ways of supporting learning through participation in dialogues. The book concentrates upon the activities of Harold Wilson and a small group around him who were responsible for the creation and early running of the university. It focuses on how governments sought to deploy versions of the market across the higher education sector. The book outlines the OU's continued development of self-directed, student-centred learning.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book examines The Open University (OU) impacts by considering its structures, precedents, politics, pedagogies and personalities. It focuses on distinctive aspect of the OU, its teaching methods. While the technologies and structures have changed over time, the OU has consistently used a multi-media blend of materials and approaches in its pedagogy. The chapter describes the political framework, positioning the OU within the patterns of convergence and divergence in the expanding higher education system of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It assesses the ways in which, since the 1990s, the OU has sought to enable learners to work together to create knowledge. The applicability of Clayton Christensen's ideas has been acknowledged at the OU and other universities.
This chapter addresses the crucible in which The Open University (OU) was formed in terms of politics, socio-economic developments and innovations in teaching. It concentrates upon the activities of Harold Wilson and a small group around him who were responsible for the creation and early running of the university. The chapter focuses on how Wilson won support for the OU not only by building on the ideas and skills of others but also by drawing on the emerging interest in universities for their potential to support economic and social development. The OU was developed by a government that conceived an active role for the state in the diffusion of knowledge. The chapter describes the educational roots of 'the first distance teaching university that was truly multi-media in nature'. It examines the ways in which the OU adapted and transformed established models.
This chapter outlines the development of The Open University (OU) structures. As a university created by central government and directly accountable to the Department of Education and Science during its formative period, it drew upon models of authority familiar to Whitehall. The OU became the first university to be granted awarding body status by the National Council for Vocational Qualifications. The chapter examines how the OU became part of the UK's educational landscape and influenced developments overseas. The government encouraged the OU to reach out to the wider population. Its programmes could be watched by anybody with access to television. The chapter assesses the OU's exposure to the growing crisis in public finances. During the 1970s and 1980s economic and labour policies came to have a higher status, and education had to fit within the framework dictated by concerns about economic difficulties.
This chapter considers The Open University's (OU) distinctive approach to the organisation of teaching and learning. Although a state-funded university, the OU drew on methods more familiar in the private sector. It focuses on the debate surrounding what one OU academic characterised as 'a systems-based industrial model of academia'. Teaching at the OU was never simply the creature of administrative or political pressures or economic models of efficient production and nor was it ever entirely free of those constraints. Technological developments such as cassettes, videos and computers were deployed to personalise the learning process. The chapter presents the impact of the OU's teaching strategies during its first two decades in terms of the development of an active student body. The reciprocity between those defined as learners and those paid as teachers indicates how the OU student body was connected to the texts through students' interactions.
This chapter focuses on how governments sought to deploy versions of the market across the higher education sector. The binary divide between universities and polytechnics was abolished and the harmonisation of curricula and qualifications was promoted when new standards for the quality of the learners' experiences were set. The chapter examines The Open University's (OU) work in widening and internationalising what was increasing seen as a marketplace for higher education. As successive administrations from the early 1990s onwards drove down the unit of resource for domestic students, so all institutions, including the OU, sought to maximise non-governmental sources of income by engaging in the overseas market. The OU element of the Arab Open University (AOU) was managed through the Open University Worldwide, a wholly owned trading subsidiary which was created in 1996 and sold and licensed OU resources.
This chapter outlines the Open University's (OU) continued development of self-directed, student-centred learning. The preferred pedagogic framework emphasised discursive interactions between teacher and student. The chapter assesses the university's support for informal learning. Technologies enabled students to build relationships and formalise their informal knowledge while extending their structured learning into ad hoc activities and networks. The chapter discusses some of the modules presented at the OU from the early 1990s onwards. These modules illustrate some of the ways in which the OU has sought to co-ordinate reflection on experience and negotiation within a community and to allow people's interests to help frame their learning. The chapter further considers changes in the work of tutors. Each student is allocated to a local part-time tutor who provides them with general learning support, specific tutorial activities and grades, and provides feedback on completed assignments.
This chapter focuses on the diversity and number of The Open University (OU) students. Some students had not gained the entry qualifications required by other universities or had disabilities or familial or workplace commitments which prevented full-time attendance at university. The chapter focuses on a specific element of the OU which formed an important part of its national image and pedagogic strategy, residential schools. It describes the particular aspects of the structures which have supported learning towards a specific group of learners whose access to resources was limited: prisoners. In Ireland, through the OU, students in prison addressed overtly political concerns, notably attitudes towards the British and Irish states and towards women. This helped some of them to emerge into positions of community leadership and to promote politically stable structures.