Supporting student projects at a distance through ICT: the UK Open University approach

Bissell, Chris (2002). Supporting student projects at a distance through ICT: the UK Open University approach. European Journal of Engineering Education, 27(1) pp. 5–12.



In recent years the British Open University has been providing increasing ICT support to distance learners carrying out projects within the Faculty of Technology and elsewhere in the University. This paper reports three generic support tools: (1) a CD-ROM providing general guidance on planning, carrying out and writing up a final-year undergraduate technology project; (2) the electronic Information Search Guide, designed as a user-friendly front end to a variety of web sites, bibliographic databases, electronic journals and other information sources; and (3) ROUTES (Resources for Open University Teachers and Students), a library service providing access to selected, quality-assessed, Internet resources for Open University courses, searchable by course or keyword. By means of such tools, distance learners can enjoy resources for project work similar (or, in some aspects, even superior) to those of their face-to-face counterparts, including online access to the full text of many journals. This paper reports the current state of (1) and (3), and work in progress on (2). The CD-ROM was designed initially for the comparatively small numbers of students (up to 100 per year) carrying out a final-year, 600-h undergraduate project. It is now offered to many other students taking projects, and is also being developed - as is the Information Search Guide - in support of a new, 300-h project course planned to attract over 1000 students per year. ROUTES currently provides course-specific World Wide Web links for over 100 courses throughout the University, and is expanding rapidly.

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