Session D: Supporting Change in Learning and Teaching
Greenberg : A Hybrid System for Delivering Web Based Distance Learning and Teaching Material

1. Introduction

Over 150,000 students register with the Open University each year, including 5% non-UK EU students and 10% outside the EU. The University is considered by many to be the world‘s leading distance learning institution. All students of the University are offered a comprehensive advice, guidance and learning support service, starting from the initial point of enquiry through to completion. A full range of media has traditionally been used to support students, including a strong telephone-based advice and guidance service, student toolkits on study skills, TV programmes, group and individual face-to-face support from course tutors and residential and day schools. Learning and teaching materials have been sent to students in a number of ways including print, broadcast television and radio, videocassettes, audiocassettes, home experiment kits and CD-ROM. The Open University is delivering computer-based learning and teaching materials to over 80,000 students and has over 140,000 users of its on-line services.

The quality and effectiveness of the University‘s teaching is monitored through the collection, analysis and dissemination of data about the strengths and weaknesses of the materials and services provided, and the quality of the student‘s experience and learning outcomes.

Web-based advice and guidance, email as an advisory medium and the use of computer-media conferencing for teaching and learner support, are expanding across all services. CD-ROM has grown dramatically in the last few years as the primary distribution media for computer-based learning and teaching materials.

The Open University aims to establish the critical baseline of IT elements for all courses and programmes by 2002; build IT elements into courses to achieve compulsory IT elements for all University degrees by 2005; increase Web focused courses to at least 20 by 2002. Several key environmental factors have influenced these target levels and the way the University is responding to the challenge presented by them. These are:

Software tools are now available which take advantage of the immediacy of the Internet and the versatility of DVD technology. Hybrid developments of this kind are referred to as “Connected DVD“ and web based student learning environments can be developed which use DVD-ROM media to hold up to 9 GB of learning and teaching material. The versatility of DVD technology allows the disc based material to be integrated with web based material or used off-line as a self-contained learning environment. All material which is not computer dependant (audio, video, images) can be viewed with a domestic DVD player from the same DVD disc.

The Open University is well positioned to exploit this technology in its teaching. Over 80,000 students are already using personal computers in their course work and an increasing number have DVD-ROM drives in their home machines. This approach may offer improved media integration and a reduction in the University‘s learning media production costs.

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