How the Open University Uses Information Technology to Provide Distance Learning in a Competitive Market
The education field has become very competitive. This chapter describes some of the ways in which the Open University (OU) is using information technology (IT) to make radical changes in its operation, in order to provide high value distance education and maintain its competitiveness. It is finding new ways to improve the learning experience, to develop new material and to assess students’ performance. IT has been progressively used to make the OU a realistic alternative to traditional universities. The 1980s saw a huge growth in the use of personal computers (PCs) by students, particularly for simulation exercises in many subjects. In the late 1990s CD-ROM technology is enabling the bulk transmission of text, sound, interactive software, still and moving images. Even training in the use of the petrological microscope can be CD-ROM assisted. Communication networks are being used to re-orientate the role of lecturers and tutors, and enable students to form tutorial groups and carry out collaborative activities. Ultimately electronic communications will be used for the distribution of most course material. Finally, this chapter considers business process re-engineering (BPR) in the context of distance learning, aimed at achieving a more effective response to students’ needs and faster updating of learning material.
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