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Does the OU provide the very best distance learning environment?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 24 Aug 2014, 06:19
From E-Learning IV

 Fig 1. Read a book ... several times, then submit an essay from a list

This is 'learning design' or 'instructional design' written on the back of a fag packet by a loan lecturer. An occassional lecture and student gathering may be meant to add some variety. One sheet of A4 provides the year's curricullum while a second sheet provides a reading list. And all this 'at a distance' - in my case over 200 miles using a Virtual Learning Environment that makes a beginner's guide to DOS written in 1988 look friendly. NOT the OU. Not dissimilar to my undergraduate degree except that it at least had a tutorial most weeks: one to one, or a small group with a 'subject matter expert' is a privileged luxury that works - though yet to be achieved on a massive scale, even if there is a trend this way with massive, open online courses (MOOCs). 

I can compare a variety of institutions as I have studied with so many: Brookes has a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) that is simple and easy to use- it's a Mini Cooper to the OU's Audi Estate. Birmingham's VLE, ironically as I'm studying the First World War with them is like a deep, impenetrable bank of barbed wire. I've given up on their library and so use Amazon ... not always cheap, but I hope to flog off my substantial WW1 library in due course. 

From E-Learning IV

Fig. 2 SimpleMinds (App) mindmap on 'bite and hold' tactics in the First World War

Meanwhile I'm back to the thrilling conclusion as I plod through the mire of a 4,000 word essay that by reading the above at lead three times I will have an answer. Here it adds variety to read it in print, on a Kindle and as an eBook: each reveals something slightly different. I take notes pen on paper, annotate into the eBook and build a mindmap as I go along. But there is no one to share this with, no 21st century 'connectivity', no tutor as online cataylst and guide, no student forum or blog (not for the want of trying).

Or is learning ultimately always you and your soul working in focussed isolation at Masters level without the distraction of others or the tight parameters of a formal module?

Should you feel inclined to take an interest in Passchendaele then this is the most lucid, objective and reasoned contemporary explanation of how and why the chronology of events turned out as they did.

From E-Learning IV

Fig.3. Sir Douglas Haig, Command in Chief of the British Army

Haig and the politicians of the day can and should be held responsible for the unnecessary slaughter of Third Ypres. What was gained over four months in 1917 was lost in three days in 1918. The depth, detail and objectivity of current scholarship shows absolutely that Haig was profligate with the life of his soldiers, flipped and flopped his policy and would not listen to criticism while Lloyd George having gerrymandered his way into the top job as Prime Minister could not get rid of Haig and so failed in his role to supervise his generals. 

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