8 January 2008 2 Comments
I was looking at a news story from Channel Four News recently about the Open University which has been involved in this debate about ELQ (Equivalent or Lower Qualification). Where the government is reducing or removing funding for students to study if they already possess a qualification at that level (e.g. second degrees etc.). I won’t get into that now as it’s a bit political but suffice to say I’m against it because I think it will inhibit lifelong learning for those who want to study at higher degree level to retrain in a new area.
Anyhow the news story contained snippets of old Open University folk in kipper ties showing things like wave form motion using a tank of coloured water. I am fascinated by these. I worked in the video production unit here when I first joined the OU and created animations for BBC programmes. We used to (in our spare time) watch the old video footage, including things where Professors had, for example, impressive sets of braces which could display different mathematical formulae as they talked about them. I really found it amusing and it did present quite dry subjects in a quirky way (which didn’t always work!).
My theory now is that with technology we need to explore ways to go back to basics and to recreate this atmosphere. I think that the OU should be thinking about research into remote experimentation and remote instrumentation, actively engaging students in live experiments using the power of video, online media and interactive T.V.
I’m currently involved in building a new centre for ‘ambient technology research’ at the OU and I have been enthusing (?) academic colleagues about how we could use the labs to do live experiments that we could stream and in which students could engage and actively participate and influence the outcome. This could open up our curriculum into new areas previously not explored by the OU (i.e. very hands-on activities in area such as physical sciences, sports, food, etc.) and also to help with student engagement and participation, making a more ‘virtual campus’ environment that can be achieved through a VLE or other simplistic online tool.
It’s an idea, it doesn’t need to cost a lot to do, it may be nonsense but we’ll see! – watch this space.