You can adopt, adapt and apply to your own institution
The 66 Open Universities around the world are dedicated to increasing access and success for those seeking higher education, irrespective of their prior learning. They are a significant engine of innovation in online, flexible distance education.
To showcase the innovation taking place at the world’s Open Universities, Contact North | Contact Nord developed and is hosting an innovation snapshot on teachonline.ca, a kind of “wikipedia” for innovation.
The snapshot seeks to capture what is happening in Open Universities so all of us engaged in online and distance education have direct and immediate access to breakthrough innovations we can adopt, adapt and apply in our own institution (the three “As” of sharing innovations).
We divide the snapshot in seven categories of innovation to highlight the focus of the process or initiative: course design, course delivery, assessment/credentialing/credit recognition, program evaluation, faculty development, organizational design and online learner support.
Send your suggestions and ideas to Innovations at Open Universities to add to the snapshot of innovations.
Let’s work together to make this a constantly updated, living and expanding snapshot to reflect current developments in innovation at the world’s Open Universities.
Click on the eight categories below to read the innovations.
- OU Analyse: Aproject piloting machine-learning based methods for early identification of students at risk of failing. Information on all students identified as a rate of failing are available weekly to the course tutors and the Student Support teams to consider appropriate support. The overall objective is to significantly improve the retention of Open University UK students. See https://analyse.kmi.open.ac.uk/.
- Blockchain and Student Tracking: How can the Blockchain technology be utilized in support of student learning, assessment and badges at Open University UK? This work looks at how blockchain technology can enhance the learner experience, storing all learning outcomes in an expanding ePortfolio for all. See http://blockchain.open.ac.uk/.
- ODL Readiness Tool: University of South Africa’s (UNISA) online interactive self-assessment of life situation, career literacy, understanding of open distance learning, comfort with and access to digital technology; supported by informative, encouraging, and motivational video clips). See http://www.unisa.ac.za/sites/corporate/default/Apply-for-admission/Undergraduate-qualifications/ODL-and-Unisa.
- IBM Watson and Arab Open University: Using an algorithm and IBM Watson enabled AOU to reduce dropout rates and increase completion rates in a specific program.
- Access for the hearing and visually impaired: Universidade Aberta developed ISOLearn to facilitate accessibility to higher education programs for both the hearing and visually-impaired.
- Open Courses: Universidade Aberta offers short learning courses that introduce current issues and provide opportunities to share ideas and experiences through social networks associated with the courses. Learners can navigate different topics, explore multimedia features and participate in the activities. All courses are structured as open learning spaces and some are offered in MOOC format, qualifying learners to receive a participation certificate. See https://portal.uab.pt/en/open-class-initiative/
- Community of Inquiry Design: Athabasca University developed an approach to the design of courses based on engaged students exploring issues and projects through a community of inquiry approach. See https://coi.athabascau.ca/.
- Improving Design: How do learning analytics and visual design tools help in the development of a new online course? Findings at Open University UK suggest by visualizing the design upfront, educators focused less on traditional teaching patterns, such as the “teach, practice, apply” model. Remarkably, just by visualizing initial decisions and working in collaborative workshops, educators created more student-centered and creative designs aimed to develop a range of skills, which support students in both their studies and the workplace.
- Performance Learning Activity (PLA): PLA is a compact form of educational action at Universitat Oberta Catalunya, constructed on the basis of a defined situation in the area of a challenge, based on skills and has an activity at its core. It is a flexible, context related and self-paced activity integrated with the students learning.
- Switching from Moodle to Azure Improves Performance: Jakarta-based Universitas Terbuka is a mega university, with almost half a million students studying distance learning courses. To improve the performance of its core Moodle-based learning management system (LMS), UT transitioned it to Microsoft Azure in 2015. Today, costs are down 20% and the LMS enjoys a high level of security and automated backup.
- Mobile Learning Vans: Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University constructed specially designed Mobile learning vans. The mobile van is a road transport vehicle equipped with computing and communications infrastructure. It has a seating capacity of 12 learners and has 6 computers installed, i.e. 2 students per computer. Using a multimedia projection system, a larger group of about 50 students can be exposed to educational inputs, using the Mobile Van facilities. The on-board generator provides ensured power supply. See http://ycmou.digitaluniversity.ac/Content.aspx?ID=829.
- Virtual Classroom Model: Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University developed a comprehensive approach to a virtual classroom and studied its effectiveness.
- Leveraging Open Education Resources for Recognized Learning: Currently, learners enrolled on any of the 850 short Open University UK courses on OpenLearn can keep track of their learning on an individual course via their MyOpenLearn profile. Each course carries an Activity Record to print or to share online and a Statement of Participation for completed courses. Digital badges are issued, with each badged open course and accompanying Statement of Participation a different marker of achievement: learners have not only read full online courses but have passed online quizzes to earn their digital badge and OU Statement of Participation. See http://www.open.edu/openlearn/get-started/badges-come-openlearn.
- TeSLA: Open University UK is one of many organizations engaged in the development of an adaptive, trust-based e-assessment system for learning (TeSLA). The overall objective of the TeSLA project is to define and develop an e-assessment system, which ensures learners authentication and authorship in online and blended learning environments while avoiding the time and physical space limitations imposed by face-to-face examination. This is a multinational, multi-institutional project in which the Open University is engaged.
- Prototype Online Examination System: To make the examination system more flexible and learner friendly and aiming at “instant testing-instant result”, National Centre for Innovations in Distance Education (NCIDE) at Indira Gandhi National Open University developed a prototype system of online examination and evaluation. The online exam scheme helps in spontaneous generation of question paper online, immediate evaluation online and, immediate transfer of student data, their results and their records to the Students Evaluation Division. Besides better quality of questions with 100% objectivity, immediate evaluation and result declaration are some of the features of this scheme. See http://www.ignou.ac.in/ignou/aboutignou/icc/ncide/OIA.
- On Demand Examinations: Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) developed an innovative scheme of On-Demand Exams. The scheme is fully operational for more than 135 courses through 18 Regional Centres. Several students are appearing in On-Demand Exam as per their need and convenience. The software for generating individualized question papers and for on-line registration for On-Demand exam have been developed in-house in National Centre for Innovations in Distance Education with the help the Students Evaluation Division, Regional Services Division and the Regional Centres of IGNOU, and is now fully operational. The unique features of scheme include online submission of registration fee, issue of online hall ticket, and online attendance record. The software can generate a large number of unique and parallel question papers exactly in accordance with the design and blueprint provided by the faculty. See http://www.ignou.ac.in/ignou/aboutignou/icc/ncide/ondemandexam.
- Importance-Satisfaction Survey Instrument: Hanoi Open University developed an instrument which it uses to assess the level of satisfaction of students with the University as a whole.
- A Model of Student Loyalty: Student loyalty is a key factor that contributes to the long-term growth and survival of a University. The aim of this work, conducted at Open University Malaysia, is to develop a comprehensive university student loyalty model that incorporates important constructs in service quality dimension and relationship quality dimension.
- Quality Assurance: A significant investment in QA throughout Universitas Terbuka occurred to establish online learning and distance education quality.
- AduLeT: Open University of the Netherlands wants to improve the teaching quality of lecturers by enhancing their skills concerning the use of technologies in an advanced way. It also aims at training the lecturer on how a specific teaching method can be combined with a certain technology in addition to providing guidelines, best practice and strategy concepts for lecturers and universities. Open University of the Netherlands is a partner in this EU (Erasmus) funded project. See https://sites.google.com/site/aduleteu/home.
- Università degli Studi Guglielmo Marconi: The University was established in 2004 by the Ministry of University and Research (MUR M.D. March 2004) as the first Italian Open University with the aim to spread and produce knowledge, giving everybody access to proper learning tools in Italy as well as worldwide. USGM adopts innovating learning modalities by developing suitable research strategies for most advanced technological solutions and by integrating non- residential communication means (e-learning, chat, forum, videoconference, etc.) with seminar activities (workshops, seminars, etc.).
- Restructuring Student Support: Regional centres were a key part of the fabric of Open University UK when it began in 1969-70. The growth of online learning and online supports led to their closure in 2015-16 and a new way of supporting students using online resources was developed. See https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/open-university-set-shut-seven-regional-centres and also https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/oct/20/open-university-strike-ou-regional-centres-moocs.
- Open Universities Australia (OUA): An online higher education organization previously known as the Open Learning Agency of Australia. The chairman is Professor Bruce S. Dowton and the chief executive officer is Paul Wappett. Seven Australian-based universities own OUA. A Board of Directors, consisting of nominees from the university shareholders, governs OUA. There are also up to five independent directors on the Board at any one time. While the majority of enrolled students are based in Australia, courses are available to students globally. Most undergraduate courses offered have no first-year entry requirements and there are no quotas for most courses. The organization has approximately 170 qualifications available online, which are provided by Australian universities and other education providers. See https://www.open.edu.au/about-us/.
- i-Advising and i-Counselling System: Open University of Hong Kong developed a self-help academic information, course selection, program planning, and degree audit system which makes extensive use of advanced technologies.
- Library Services Innovation: University of South Africa (UNISA) knowledge resource system developed the largest academic library in Africa, online research commons, personalized librarian service by discipline using chat, e-mail, phone or in-person, information literacy tutorials and on-line self-help research guides, mobile library. See http://www.unisa.ac.za/sites/corporate/default/Library.
- Library Services: Wawasan Open University, Malaysia created a system for online access to two academic collections plus a range of digitized resources including reserved readings, e-books, OERs, papers, reports, and images). See http://woulibrary.wou.edu.my/.
- Advocacy and Resource Centre for Students with Disabilities: University of South Africa (UNISA) provides comprehensive services including assistance with applications, orientation, accessible versions of learning materials, advice, advocacy, and referrals. See http://www.unisa.ac.za/sites/myunisa/default/Student-Affairs-&-SRC/Support-to-students-with-disabilities.
- Student Support Centre: Athabasca University’s Faculty of Business and its psychology programs offer a student support model in which a student connects to a student advisor who then connects to appropriate expertise – academic experts, senior program advisors or others. This is different from a one course = one tutor model previously used by the programs (and still used by other program areas within the University.