Open University news

Three items of Open University news to catch up on.

Firstly, I’ve been successful in my application to tutor another course with them, and from May will be tutoring Ebusiness technologies: foundations and practice.  This is another new course, and I’m looking forward to teaching what will be a new area for me.  The first presentation will be intense, and over a shorter period of time, and again I’m the only tutor in the region, but I’m sure I’m up for the challenge.

Just as this course finishes, I should start my next creative writing course, the grandly titled ‘Advanced Creative Writing‘.  This will complete my BA degree in ‘fun studies’.  Astute readers may note that I thought this had been completed already, or was close to being done.  Well, it appears that I misinterpreted the academic regulations, and that I couldn’t transfer 60 points of level three (final year) credits over.  Whilst it would have been nice to have the extra letters after my name, I’m also looking forward to having the kick of a structure for my creative writing.

And finally, the Open University has officially started to embrace macs – I was very surprised to see the following note on my student record page.  I’m experimenting with a java-based eTMA file handler myself, so my iMac may not need to dual boot into Windows for my OU work.

Since the 1990s The Open University has primarily supported PC users. This decision was made on cost grounds as fewer than 3% of the population used Macs. Some of the University’s students have recently launched a petition on the No 10 website protesting this policy.

Happily, the situation for Mac users is changing dramatically. The Open University has recently introduced a purpose designed Virtual Learning Environment which makes material available to students via the internet and can be accessed by Mac or PC. The University’s FirstClass conferencing system can be accessed by Macs and assignments can be submitted electronically by Mac users using rich text files (rtf) or open office software available for free download.

There remains a (diminishing) number of legacy courses where material is available on CD Rom or DVD which are PC only. It is simply uneconomic to replace this material before the courses are replaced or re-made but most Mac users find PC emulation software works well to access this material.

One problem has been Mac users studying languages who need to use an audio-conferencing/whiteboard system called Lyceum which is PC based. This is currently being replaced with a synchronous collaboration system that will run on all platforms.

For Mac users a range of guidance is available at an Open University Mac self-help group site http://macgeneral.webhop.org/

The Open University is committed to supporting Mac users and also users of other platforms such as Linux in all future activity.

A more detailed summary of the current situation and the OU’s plans for the future regarding Mac use is available as a PDF at the following link
http://www.open.ac.uk/documents/5/kj081503091445840.pdf

Exciting times indeed at the OU.

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