The Open University in the UK (OUUK) has been teaching students at a distance for nearly fifty years, and its model of Supported Open Learning, SOL, has been continually developed throughout this time. As with nearly every aspect of modern life, the advent of the internet has transformed the OU’s pedagogical model. Whilst face-to-face events are still recognised as important, online events are designed to make learning more accessible in a way they could never have been before – from tutorials to real science experiments. Even though a module may have several thousand students studying at any one time, each student has their own tutor who supports around 20-25 students. This ensures a student’s experience of learning is the same, whether there are 25 or 10,000 students studying the same module.
Students at the OUUK receive most of their teaching materials and tuition through the University’s virtual learning environment (VLE) which is hosted within MOODLE. Anyone following the development of this open-source platform will know that OUUK has made very large contributions to its development. The University has also produced innovations like the OpenScience Laboratory (http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/open-science/) which not only benefit OU students but has elements available for all. The OUUK has been involved in other developments that use technology to enhance learning, for example, OpenEssayist (http://oro.open.ac.uk/42041/) and OpenMentor (http://oro.open.ac.uk/40701/). OpenEssayist is a tool developed to provide feedback on the quality of writing and designed to help students improve their writing skills. OpenMentor is a reflective professional development tool, providing an analysis of the feedback a tutor gives to their students.
Other tools are also needed by the OUUK that authenticate students undertaking online examinations. For the TeSLA project we are now partnered with seventeen organisations, including seven other universities – all partner details are here (http://tesla-project.eu/partners/). TeSLA is developing a suite of tools to deliver the e-authentication of students. These tools can be used to provide students with new assessment opportunities, and at first these opportunities are to do with flexibility of time and location. However, in time, new assessments will be produced that fit better students’ subject and their personal context of learning. Distance learning institutions in particular will find the successful embedding of e-authentication tools will open up the assessment space to new possibilities.
As we write this, the TeSLA partners are embarking on the project’s final large-scale study, with the latest version of the platform and tools. The study will trial the TeSLA system with a wide range of students, covering a several subjects, and including students in at least seven different countries.
Chris Edwards, Denise Whitelock, Wayne Holmes, Ale Okada (OUUK)
FUNDED BY THE EUROPEAN UNION
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TeSLA is coordinated by Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 ICT Programme. This website reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.