Coping with a changing world: the UK Open University approach to teaching ICT

Bissell, C C and Williams, J P (2008). Coping with a changing world: the UK Open University approach to teaching ICT. In: International Technology, Education and Development Conference: INTED2008, 3-4 Mar 2008, Valencia, Spain.



The rapid pace of change in the ICT field has affected all HE providers, but for the UK Open University (UKOU), used to print-based courses lasting eight years or more, it has been a particular challenge. This paper will present some of the ways the UKOU has been coping with this problem by discussing the design of three courses, the first developed almost a decade ago. All three are distance learning courses that are either core or optional in a variety of bachelors' degrees, including the BSc programmes in: Information and Communication Technology; IT and Computing; and Technology; as well as the BEng (Hons) engineering programme.

The first course, Information and Communication Technology: people and interactions is a level 2 (second year undergraduate) course first presented in 2002. It is predominately a print-based course with an eight year lifetime. The second course Networked Living: exploring information and communication technologies is a level 1 (first year undergraduate) course first presented some three-and-a-half years later in 2005. It is expected to have a course life of five years, and uses a mix of print-based (60%) and computer-based (40%) material. Both these courses use assignments as key tools for annual updating.

The third course, Keeping ahead in ICT is aimed primarily at equipping students with advanced information searching and evaluation skills that will serve them well in professional life, and is presented at level 3 (final year undergraduate). It was first presented in 2007 and has an expected course life of 8 years. It uses much less print than in most OU courses, and has a greater reliance on third-party resources such as newspaper, conference and journal articles, websites, and other electronic resources. Some elements in each block are designed to change from year to year, in order to retain currency.

Finally, the paper will look forward to the development of a new level 2 course with an expected first presentation in 2010, drawing out the lessons learned about course updating, and predicting the approach that the course team may take

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