Distance Education the UK Way

By Grose, Thomas K. | ASEE Prism, November 1999 | Go to article overview

Distance Education the UK Way


Grose, Thomas K., ASEE Prism


Great Britain's decadesold Open University gets particularly high marks for its engineering courses.

For Britain's Open University, it was a seminal moment in its 30year fight to win public recognition for the quality of its courses and students. Last April, in a closely fought contest, O.U. defeated Oxford University's Oriel College in the final of University Challenge, a BBC-TV show similar to the old College Bowl on American television. It was the second time in recent years that O.U. won the annual battle of the brains (and no school has yet won it three times). The victories are helping the school shake its reputation as the Rodney Dangerfield of British higher education, while simultaneously showcasing the efficacy of distance learning.

If the school is only now getting the recognition it deserves among Britain's general public, educators around the world long ago discarded any misgivings that the Open University's system of "supported open learning" could deliver the academic goods. Consider this: A recent assessment by Britain's Higher Education Funding Council of the quality of teaching in U.K. universities ranked O.U. 11th out of 98 schoolsahead of such venerable institutions as St. Andrews University, King's College London, and the University of Edinburgh. More strikingly, the council gave O.U.'s technology department 24 out of a possible 24 points for the quality of its general engineering courses-higher than those achieved by Oxford, Cambridge, and London's Imperial College. It also recognized 19 subject areas in which O.U. was producing research of international quality, including educational technology, earth sciences, and architecture and design.

Open University's success is worth noting at a time when distance education is becoming the buzz phrase in academia in the United States. InterEd, a consulting company in Phoenix, Arizona, predicts that 11.6 million Americans will be involved in some sort of distance learning by next year. Virtually all U.S. universities, both public and private, already offer distance education courses. Students at nine U.S. schools, including the University of Maryland, the New York Institute of Technology, and the University of Phoenix, can obtain full degrees without ever setting foot on campus.

Indeed, this fall O.U. is opening-albeit on a very small scale-the virtual doors of an American extension, the United States Open University. And, back in Britain, O.U. no longer has the field all to itself, as many universities now offer distance education courses themselves.

O.U. was the brainstorm of former Labor Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Set up in 1969 and accepting students since 1971, the school's premise is to allow anyone a chance to attend and, perhaps, obtain a degree-from home and on a part-time schedule. It has no admission requirements, which is part of its appeal.

An hour's drive north of London, in the town of Milton Keynes, the Open University's campus is centered in and around Walton Hall, a former manor house. Though students rarely visit, the Milton Keynes campus is home to 900 faculty members and 2,750 administrative staffers.

Technology's Pull

Since O.U.'s start, more than 2 million students have taken courses, 200,000 have been awarded bachelor's degrees and 50,000 have obtained postgraduate degrees. Cost is an important factor; on average, it takes six years and just $5,530 to complete an undergraduate degree at O.U. Today, O.U. is active in 41 countries with 125,000 undergraduates and 40,000 graduate students. An additional 44,000 people purchase the school's course materials.

Nearly 50 percent of the school's students are majoring in either technology, science, math, or computers. One twoyear-old course- "Computing: An Object-Oriented Approach"-has 5,100 students, making it the largest computing course in the world. Not for long, however. Next year, O.U.'s technology department is introducing "You, Your Computer and the Net," and already 8,000 students have signed up.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Distance Education the UK Way
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.