Teaching about religions of South Asian origin at The Open University: a reflection on the scope and limitations of flexible learning.
Discourse: Learning and Teaching in Philosophical and Religious Studies, 10(2) pp. 61–77.
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This article is based on a paper presented at the Philosophical and Religious Studies Subject Centre's conference on Teaching Religions of South Asian Origin, held at the Manchester Conference Centre, 13 January 2011. I am grateful to Dr Amy M. Russell for inviting me to give a paper on the work of the RS department at the OU.
How distinctive is the Open University's (OU) style of teaching today (see, for example, Alles 2007:25)? When created, the OU's policy of open access and reliance on flexible learning (formerly referred to within the OU as 'distance learning') made it stand out to such an extent from other British universities that some conservative voices questioned whether it was indeed a 'university'. That battle for recognition has long been fought and won, but in the intervening period other universities have become more accepting of mature students, part-time students, and students with entry qualifications other than A-levels, and more involved in various aspects of distance learning. Like other universities, moreover, the OU, in spite of its mission, fails to realise fully its aspirations in terms of attracting students from the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups and, in certain areas, recruiting a diverse body of staff.1 Yet, there are grounds for arguing that the OU's mission and consequently its style of teaching remain distinctive.
||2011 The Subject Centre for Philosphical and Religious Studies, the Higher Education Academy
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