17 March 2013

Open University online course

I'm just starting on the free course Open Education by the Open University.  I've got a lot of time for the OU in general, although my experience as a student led me to wonder whether their move to online was going to destroy everything they'd created as they moved on-line in an apparently poorly-planned move to cut costs.

I spent several years studying languages with them, and the physical books that I had appreciated so much at the start were gradually placed with half-hearted web-page-ised versions that were less flexible and less useful, and the face-to-face tutorials replaced with voice-only virtual classrooms.

Have you ever tried to speak a foreign language without any visual contact?  It's bloody hard, and there's no way round it.  More often than not, I disconnected from my tutorials out of sheer stress and terror, and I'm not usually one to shy away from another language -- I'm a native English speaker, and I've learned Spanish, Gaelic and French to near-fluency, as well as Catalan, Italian and Corsican to a passable conversational level, and a few words of several other languages besides.

I'm approaching this course with equal amounts of optimism and skepticism, because I know the OU do, on some level, know what they're talking about, but I simultaneously fear that they've bought into their own hype and may be starting to believe ideologically in decisions that were originally made for logistical reasons....


Anonymous said...

Totally agree with your comments about the value of face to face interaction in teaching and learning. Even in the OU courses that I took 10 years ago, in Computing, I felt that the F2F tutorials were hugely valuable part of the course. Can't imagine learning a language without being able to make hand signs at people!

I don't think it's so much a case of the OU buying into its own hype, as jumping onto the MOOC bandwagon started (I think) by MIT with their Open resources. But hey, if there is a requirement for Open Education amongst UK students (and beyond)then the OU is in as good a position as anybody to lead the way. Or at least explore the possibilities!

BTW I'm completely on your side regarding Powerpoint and Slide-thingy - almost useless!

Nìall Beag said...


As with the buying into its own hype thing, I'm not just talking about this MOOC thing in isolation.

As they put more and more of their traditional courses into an online format, there's a danger that they're talking themselves into believing that this is the best thing for everyone, rather than just an unfortunate side-effect of the current financial situation.

From a cursory glance at the contents of this course, it looks like they're looking for a new orthodoxy... AKA throwing the baby out with the bathwater.