Less than a quarter of a century ago, a very senior Conservative Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Opposition party in the UK Parliament described the embryonic plans for an Open University in Britain as 'blithering nonsense' and vowed to axe it as soon as his party took over government. His threat was never carried out. Indeed, he died before the opportunity came his way.
Now, nearly twenty-five years later, the Open University is an institution of world stature and widely respected. Of all its achievements, perhaps the greatest, in posterity's judgement, will be that it made respectable academically and legitimated educationally the whole concept of distance education; and set an example of successful enterprise which inspired others to be bold in launching similar experiments. For the success story of distance education in recent years has not been restricted to the UK. In many parts of the world and at various levels of educational and training activity, innovative projects have since been launched, many of them with remarkable success. They have ranged from large-scale enterprises such as the Open Universities in Thailand, Pakistan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Venezuela and more recently India, to very much smaller projects tackling more narrowly delineated tasks such as the in-service of further education and training of teachers in Kenya or the provision of opportunities for adults to study for secondary school qualifications.
Common to most, if not all of them, has been the determination to seize the opportunity to harness modern technology of various kinds, ranging from print through audio and visual material to the exploitation of computers, in creating learning materials and a learning environment which are effective-and using all of these in varying mixes, and reinforced by some kind of system of learner