Distance Learning - What students like about it:

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Flexibility

I don’t depend on the visiting hours of my tutors any longer. Convenient online tools provide direct feedback on my progress

Joanna
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Save Money

What strikes me the most: Distance education programmes are often cheaper than their traditional counter parts

Sabine
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Individual support

For me studying online is perfect: No overcrowded lecture halls but individual feedback to keep me focused in my studies

Jake
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Open Educational Resources and open media

By DARCO/EADTU

An increasing number of universities are publishing courses as open courseware, available for free and open to everybody on the internet. They are accessible in their entirety or extracted from existing courses. Open courseware can include all kinds of learning material like digital content, textbooks, pictures, power point-presentations, videos, software, exercises, assessment tests, etc). Sometimes, you can also access a discussion forum around the topic of the course or take assessments about your progress in studying the material.

The history of Open Courseware

In 2002, MIT started with publishing open courseware an it still is a core member in the Open Courseware Consortium (OCW, www.ocwconsortium.org). Since then, universities worldwide have developed open educational resources. In Europe, open universities have developed new concepts and practices, which are in the forefront of new developments.

Open educational resources are published at all levels, from introductory to advanced. They originate from degree programmes, but also sometimes from professional development or continuing education courses.

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Millions of learners every month

Millions of students and teachers access open educational resources every month. As a student, you can read and download all this material for your own interest in subject areas like the history of art, the French Revolution, earthquakes, cognitive psychology, European law, bio-fuels or water resources management. Parts of the video recorded material, you will find as well on iTunesU or YouTube (open media).

It will take you one to one hundred hours to have a view on a course. Some universities publish the entire courses in open courseware, others provide a shorter introduction or summary.

Informal versus formal education

You can learn open courseware on your own, which nowadays is called informal learning. As a rule, open educational resources don’t provide personal study support or examinations. Hence, no certificates are provided. But, after having read an open course, many people will formally register for the course or the complete distance-learning programme to which it belongs. This will include tutorials, assessments and an awarded certificate or diploma. Therefore, for many students informal learning is a first step to a formal paid course or curriculum.

Hence, open courseware can serve as a broad introduction into a subject area. Then, you get a “look and feel” about it as an orientation in a study domain. Or you can find a more advanced state of the art which is useful for your job or for your specific interest in a subject. In that case, it supports you for your professional development or just for updating or broadening your knowledge.

Quality Assurance and distance education

As most of the material is belonging to accredited programmes, the quality of the content is assured in most cases. As this is very visible in the public space, universities and staff take care of the quality. Furthermore, specific quality assurance criteria are now developed for OER, which will support providers of OER to upgrade open courseware. Finally, open courseware can be completed or revised by peers in other universities: open courseware is also meant for re-use in other universities.

Examples of good OER portals are: OpenLearn (UKOU), http://www.open.ac.uk/ (in English), or http://www.ou.nl/ (in Dutch), http://ocw.tudelft.nl/ (in English)

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Open Access the story continues...

Many European universities also support Open Access. Open Access portals publish scientific articles which are freely accessible for everyone.

The European Commission is also supporting open educational resources as an instrument for knowledge sharing. Therefore, it can be expected that more OER’s will become available in the near future.

Universities in the spotlight

Business School Netherlands

Buren, Netherlands

Business School Netherlands has been active as an international business school since 1988 and continues to expand provision of Action Learning programmes beyond the boundaries of the Netherlands, creating a global Action Learning community of business leaders, all following the same steps to success.

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Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Göttingen, Germany

Founded in 1737, the University of Göttingen is a research university of high international standing. The university is renowned not only for its remarkably diverse range of subjects, but also for its research-led teaching and outstanding scientific environment, in which more than 40 Nobel laureates have lived, studied, taught and pursued their research.

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University of Essex

Colchester, United Kingdom

Founded nearly fifty years ago, the University of Essex is ranked in the top ten universities in the UK for the quality of our research and second among mainstream UK universities for overall student satisfaction. We are one of the most internationally diverse campus-based universities in Britain, with more than one third of our 11,000 students coming from outside the UK.

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University of Macerata

Macerata, Italy

The University of Macerata has a centuries- long tradition of excellence which goes back to the 13th C. The University has a quite unique feature of the exclusive focus on Humanities an Social Sciences and has been repeatedly awarded as one of the best Italian universities for both its Research and Teaching activities. In the university of Macerata you will enjoy a lively and highly international environment within the peaceful and enjoyable heart of Italy.

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University of Liverpool

Liverpool, United Kingdom

Founded in 1881, the University of Liverpool is a world-class research university and is ranked within the top 1% of universities worldwide.* The University is one of the great centres of research, knowledge and innovation, and is a member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of research-led universities. Its pioneering reputation attracts students, experts and partners from around the world. Through its research, teaching and collaborations, the University seeks to be life changing and world shaping.

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