Supported open learning for rural development: some experiences from the Open University, UK

Ison, Ray (1998). Supported open learning for rural development: some experiences from the Open University, UK. In: Proc. Seminar on The role of distance education and open learning for rural development in the Greater Mekong sub-region and South East Asia, 1998, Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University & UNESCO, Thailand.


Four key elements which have underpined the OU(UK)s success in delivering an integrated system of supported open learning are outlined. These are: high quality, multi-media teaching materials; locally-based tutorial support; first class research and scholarship and highly professional logistics.
The argument is put that when designing any contemporary education programme there are advantages in considering the programme as if it were a learning system. To be responsible, designers also need to consider this within a context of global sustainable development which encompasses environmental decision making. Seminar delegates are invited to consider the question: How can distance education and open learning contribute to the emergence of viable and sustainable rural livelihood systems?

It is further argued that a valid response to this question involves surfacing the value positions of the major stakeholders as means to establish what is culturally feasible and so as to define what relationships stakeholders wish to conserve in any organisation that is constituted for the Greater Mekong Sub-Region. Evidence from other contexts suggests that any effective rural development strategy needs to be owned by more than one ministry. This presents particular challenges for a multi-national “university” concerned with rural development. International partnerships have a potential role and the OU(UK)’s collaboration models are summarized.

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