Learning from Home Made Easy

Article excerpt

Byline: SARAH RICHARDSON

INNOVATIVE distance-learning courses are inspiring their students with new technologies and interactive seminars. The result is making textbook-heavy isolation a thing of the past.

Once, Open University students accessed their course materials by setting their video recorders for 3am and watching ancient lectures given by men in kipper ties. Now, according to the OU's senior lecturer in media studies, Dr David Hesmondhalgh, the OU has led the charge in interactiveteaching technology.

The OU's Understanding Media module is one of four courses to be shortlisted for the inaugural Times Higher Awards organised by The Times Higher Educational Supplement, in the category for the Most Imaginative Use of Distance Learning. Sponsored by software company Adobe, the award aims to recognise the best and most innovative work in the delivery and development of distance learning to students.

"The OU offers supported open learning with students receiving lots of different materials as well as access to local tutors," explains Hesmondhalgh. "In addition to books and study guides, they can access websites and use CDs as well as CD-Roms and interactive DVD-Roms. This allows them to access easily all the forms of media they need, whether these are newspaper excerpts or news clips. I believe that offering DVD-Roms in media studies at degree level is unique to the OU," he continues.

"Media studies is about understanding how the world works because the media has an impact on politics, economics and society - it informs how we think and act," he says. "This is an academic course which, while not qualifying you for a job, gives you the skills that will. …