Friday, December 15, 2006

Open University ends broadcasting

It was announced on the Today programme this morning that the Open University is to stop broadcasting programmes through the BBC. This was attributed to the growth of new channels such as podcasting and the web. That's true but, actually, broadcasting at the OU was always a lot more prominent in the public eye than it was in students' lives. It may seem incredible now (in fact it was slightly odd then) but in the early years it was decided that a telly was a luxury that not everyone would have. Because students who could not afford a telly were not to be disadvantaged, no exam question could address material that had only been covered in a broadcast. That spelled doom for the TV and radio programmes, as astute students soon realised that to pass the exams, you need not listen or watch, but just read the correspondence material. The heart of an OU education is still reasoned argument presented in book form on paper.

When I first joined the OU there was a committee to look into the replacement of paper by microfiche. Looking back, it was obviously ridiculous to think people would be happy studying sitting at desks staring at machines with small backlit screens.