altYuan Tianzhu, Lecturer, Learning support service center, Liaoning Open University
Overseas Based University: the Open University
Advisor: Dr. Hossein Zand
Study Area: Online Student Support System of the Open University


A Brief Report about My Stay in the UK


With the generous grant from Sino-British Fellowship Trust (SBFT), I had a most useful opportunity to study in Open University for over four months. I would like to thank Professor Naylor, Mrs. Ely and other members of SBFT for the generous support.
I'm honoured to have a chance to study at the Institute of Educational Technology (IET), Open University (OU) from July 2006 to November 2006. I enjoyed every moment of my stay in the university. I'm also indebted to my supervisor, Dr. Hossein Zand, and many other OU colleagues. They provided me with good learning support, many valuable academic activities and discussions, which made my visit very fruitful indeed.

The Aims and Contents of My Academic Study (Visit) in the UK

  1. To explore the virtual learning environment (VLE) Programme of the Open University.
  2. To study online student support system of the Open University.
  3. To know the characteristics of OpenLearn project of OU
  4. To Improve English skills in listening, speaking and writing
  5. To familiarise myself with the British culture.

To achieve these goals, I organised my schedules, together with improving English and experiencing the British culture. During my stay I have benefited a lot in a variety of ways: scientific as well as cultural. I learnt more about the Internet learner support system in OU, have been introduced to the new programme of virtual learning environment (VLE) of the Open University. Meanwhile I have made a number of friends here. My field of study has been broadened and my oral English and listening comprehension improved.


I have attended various seminars in IET and Knowledge Media Institute (KMI). With extensive discussions with a number of specialists and decision makers, I had the opportunity to acquire new ideas and we also exchanged the opinions with each other.

  1. Made a formal visit to Region centre (Region 01) in London. From where I got an overview of how the London Regional centre works as well as the English Language & Literature degree programme.
  2. Observed an OU computing summer school course at the University of Nottingham.
  3. Attended seminars and conferences organized by the Institute of Educational Technology and Knowledge Media Institute, Open University. I had discussed topical issues with Ormond Simpson, who is the author of Supporting Students in Online, Open and Distance Learning. I had gained much from his book for the benefit of my studies. After attending the seminar of launching Open-learn project of Open University, I become more confident with my educational career. This project will make educational resources freely available on the Internet, which is available to learners and educators throughout the UK and worldwide.
  4. Studied the online aspects of the learning and student's support at OU. Searching Web site from Open University, I found more helpful advice and useful ideas. At Open University student support in online learning is considered essential, it is delivered by a number of methods, including writing, by telephone, audiovisual methods and by computer, including one-to-one e-mail and computer conference. Now, with the largest use of Moodle in the world, the Open University has started a new programme to build a comprehensive online virtual learning environment (VLE) for the 21st century. Moodle is a free, Open Source software package course management system used by educators to create effective online learning communities. Currently Open University students use a variety of software in a network to access their course work, interact with tutors and other students, use the library, submit assignments and handle administrative paperwork. The new development incorporating Moodle will ensure the network is much more user-friendly and uniform.
  5. Visited some famous spots. At weekends or on holidays I visited some famous spots, such as British Museum, Natural Historical Museum, Victorian Museum, Buckingham Palace, as well as Cambridge & Oxford University. The visiting made me understand more about the history and culture of the British.


I am not exaggerating to say that the experience of my visit to UK has opened a new chapter in my professional life. I had obtained so much at the Open University, as well as have a better understanding of the society, culture and education here. I will continue with my connection with IET and the Open University for further cooperation in the future.