ec2-3-219-167-194.compute-1.amazonaws.com | ToothyWiki | RecentChanges | Login | Webcomic The OpenUniversity. Responsible for some of the finest displays of bad dress sense ever, especially if you consider the maths course TV programs from the 1970's. Sadly those days are over, as the sunday morning TV shows faded into videos, and nowadays into CD-ROM's, DVD's and online seminar thingies. They actually do very coherent courses.
Also the only place that would offer Jumlian a PhD place to study geochemistry, so be nice to them.
As a quick plug, the geology department is a grade 5, ranking it one of the top 5 in the country. Similarly geography is 5*, and the place is generally pretty darn good.
(So I only have to say this once, the OU PhD's are done full-time on campus as a PhD is anywhere else. The campus is however in MiltonKeynes. There has to be a price to pay for anything.)
I think the forming of the Open University in 1971 was about the most important step for University Access in the 21st Century. --Mjb67
- To reply to Mjb67 - Indeed. It is an exceptionally good thing. Teaching on the summer schools (the only teaching postgrads get) is a very interesting experience (people of all backgrounds, ages 18-80, truly "Open to all"), and exceedingly rewarding. OU students are a pleasure to teach, because generally they actually want to learn. Oh yeah, some random stats: the OU reckons that at any one time it has between 180,000 and 240,000 undergraduates, making it by far the biggest UK university. Since the introduction of fees and the spiralling of student debt, the OU student demographic is getting markedly younger and student numbers are rising, as more people decide to get a job and get a degree simultaneously. While OU courses do cost money, they cost a darn sight less than university fees, and if you're in the forces, in prison, on disability benefit or have a nice employer, someone else will pay the OU fees. An OU degree will take about 6 years part-time. Given that an OU degree is done on top of a job, though, it is certainly NOT an easy option. --Jumlian
It just seems a shame that it isn't living up to its potential. There are several things I'd like to see. --Vitenka
We have cable, digital terrestial and sattelite. Channel space is not at a premium any more. Put those shows back on, TwentyFourSeven?. They don't even (really) need to be remade - most of the facts are the same, after all. Although distributing info on cd to course members is good, it doesn't give the same 'casual improvement' that the shows did. In other words - people sometimes browsed to those shows and learnt stuff. That is a good thing.
The courses are not as respected as they could be. Partially this may be due to real problems with distance learning (and those should be tackled) but it seems overblown.
The system doesn't handle people with schedule problems. The courses should support people learning ant any pace - whether it takes them six months of intensive study or eight years of an odd weekend here and there. The exams are a big problem too - how the hell do you get a week off work and funds to travel to MiltonKeynes?
(related) more exam centres and more capacity to do exams online instead of at a centre.
It isn't free.
Really it should be able to replace most of the real universities undergraduate activities. Of course, this ignore the social advantages of study away from home and would be seen as something of a CopOut? on the '50% attendance' promise.
There are some problems with this.
The shows are owned by the BBC. The OU and the BBC have dissociated as of 2001. The courses are remarkably different from in the 1970's, and so most of the material in the TV shows is out of date. I do agree that having them on TV was a wonderful thing, and that having such educational things on TV is not a bad thing at all, which is now a problem given the current state of TV in this country (dumbed down to point of futility - I no longer own a TV).
The OU and the BBC are still doing co-productions, they're just general-audience education/entertainment things rather than tied to a particular course. The Rough Science series, for example. This actually means that they get seen by people other than students and insomniacs, too.
By dissociated I meant that the BBC studios at the OU in MiltonKeynes were moved in 2001. The BBC no longer makes all the course info for showing on TV, most of it is done in-house for distribution on video or DVD. Of course, that doesn't stop them doing tie-ins, as you say. --Jumlian
The courses are damn good. I have an immense amount of respect for anyone who has earned a degree via the OU. The dedication it takes to keep going for 6 years AND do a job on top is huge. Many companies DO actually consider an OU degree very well as it implies a large amount of drive on the part of the completee, even if they do not accredit the degree itself the same academic status (erroneously, I will add). Course structure is a bit of a difficulty given distance learning, true, but they have been doing it for 32 years now and they're pretty darn sorted. There is regional backup and a regional tutor for all students if they need a qualified teacher to talk stuff through with. Generally these tutors are not used by all students - some find the materials (exceptionally comprehensive) quite good enough.
This is true - the problem is those stuck in dead end jobs, who want out - their current employers won't pay and whilst their new employers may recognise it, they are a long way off. --Vitenka
The system does support learning at any pace. You can buy the course materials and postpone the examination. OU course credits (360 credits = a degree, courses are 10, 20, 30 or 60 points) remain live for 20 years.
Can you mix and match courses how you want? -- Senji
Yes, although if you want a named degree there are restrictions - a "geology" degree requires that you have done the six field courses and have no more than 60 points outside of geoscience courses, for instance. Otherwise you get a "degree". --Jumlian
Details of how the OU does stuff can be found [here].
Exams are not held in MiltonKeynes. The few papers sat centrally are held in your local centre, by continuous assessment, tutor- and computer-marked assessments and by final exam on 1 or 2 days (usually weekends). I think that in this case there are typically two of every paper, run on different days and you can pick which of the two you do. You do need to take one or two days, but most people are flexible enough for that.
Online examination is under consideration. However proving who someone is is going to be difficult.
It isn't free, true, but a degree could set you back £3000 plus summer schools. Compare to Clarke's £3000 per year.
It looks like this side of things has drastically improved over the last decade or two, then ;) However, better is not best, nor, in this case, good enough. I would also wonder how 'regional' a tutor can be - if it's not in the same town and you don't have a car, then it's not very useful. Still, well on the way. The thing is, a lot of people won't be comparing the three grand to the other university fees, they will continue comparing it to paying nothing and not getting any qualification. --Vitenka
There is always room for improvement in any system, particularly if you're trying to do the non-trivial task of imparting degree-level knowledge remotely through fixed media. Regional tutors are usually accessible by phone, fax, letter, email, online chat, or face to face every other weekend at tutorials held at a regional centre; and unless you live on an island you can usually get a train. The OU is has, and is working on improving, use of video conferencing. A common requirement these days is that the student has a PC (CD-ROM course notes, y'see) and preferably a dialup connection. As regards cost, fine. But bear in mind that £500 a year gets you a full set of textbooks and a lot of support for what is essentially not that much outlay. If you want to learn, you'll pay, and as stated above, most OU students are very motivated. In a few extenuated instances the government can pay as well. The OU does however really need to advertise and shed the tweed-jacket-beard-and-kipper-tie image that it has picked up. As a random aside, the OU does a supplement in the Independent on the first tuesday of every month, called Open Eye. --Jumlian
Agree on most points, disagree on the 'government helps in the small number' - if it is a small number, then it shouldn't be. Really, almost every person in the country could sensibly be on a learning course of some kind. Most aren't, and the price is a major factor. I was actually wondering yesterday why there are no free online language courses - OpenCourseWare? is a step in the right direction but we need more htings like this. The kipper ties are a major laughing problem, but I think they're better off with that image than, say, whales (de montford) or the daftness of the image most American institutes present. --Vitenka
Would every person in the country want to be on a learning course? Cost is probably not the major factor: courses which don't involve lab work or summer schools aren't actually that expensive. What they do take is an awful lot of time. And some people might prefer to, you know, spend time with their families when they're not at work rather than write essays.
Given how much this current government appears to like higher education in terms of actually putting the money where its mouth is and funding it, I am surprised that there is any government help at all. (sarcasm). --Jumlian
In terms of access, actually, one of the worst things the OU can do is its current plans to make having a computer and internet access compulsory for every single course, and electronic submission of essays universal. How misguided can you get? I mean where do you start on the sheer number of problems with that idea?
I can see it as tempting, since it's certainly easier their end. And most public libraries do offer terminals now. But yes, it seems too soon to assume that their audience is computer literate. --Vitenka
The OU does take the motto "open to all" very seriously. If you're blind, the course materials are translated into braille and also supplied read out on tape, including exhaustive descriptions of the illustrations (a popular volunteer exercise for PhD students). Examining can be quite difficult under these conditions but it is done. The OU bends over backwards to accommodate any and all comers. The university also did once have a scheme allowing cheap rental of (basic) computers for those who were in financial difficulty, for the course duration, although I don't know if that scheme is still in place, it's been a while and I wasn't heavily into the teaching side of things. --Jumlian