altMao Hanling, Professor, President, Guangxi Open University
Overseas Based University: the Open University
Advisor: Uwe Baumann
Study Area: Distance Education and Learner Support Service


The Investigation on Framework of the Supported Open Learning

at the Open University of UK


Under the support of SINO-BRITISH FELLOWSHIP TRUST I had the academic visiting at the Open University (OU) during the period from 27th July to 26th Nov. 2007. I was hosted by the Faculty of Education and Languages Studies (FELS) of OU and supervised by Mr. Uwe Baumann, Senior lecturer, the head of Languages Department.
During this time I focused on my research topic "learners support service" exactly. With the help of my supervisor and colleagues the academic visit and study are fruitful and successful, and I reported as follows.

Main Academic Activities

In order to explore the teaching and learning support service system in the Open University, I was engaged in the following activities:

  1. Interviewed with experts in the fields of the teaching and learning service support
    With the help of colleagues I have made the appointments with many experts from different departments, and had an academic discussion about my interesting topics, described as following.
  • Interview with Vicky Amos, the director of international development, she introduced the open university with PPT in detail, and showed us that OU makes higher education (HE) available to many more people—widening participation, exploits technologies, methods and pedagogy to achieve increased access to HE, pioneers a new system of education: "supported open learning", provides high quality, cost-effective, open learning—accessible and inclusive.
  • Interview with Patrick Kelly, an assistant director of the Learners Development, discussed about the Learner support Framework, very useful and helpful about the learning support service, especially focus on the tutor employment and framework.
  • Interview with Ms. Sarah Heiser and Dr. Helen Peters, the staff tutors for language in London region center. We discussed the organization and administration of the region centre, the students supports, the academic staff tutors and the tutors in part-time, students learning venues and the tutorials at the venue, courses experiments and the relation with local universities.
  • Interview with Antony Gribbon, managing director of OU worldwide, discussed about the open distance education development in the world, the OU worldwide was designed to facilitate the world market for OU particularly.
  • Interview with Mr. Alan Fletcher, the manager of the Knowledge Media Institute(KMI) and Dr. Dawei Song, senior lecturer of MKI. They introduced their research products such as the semantic web, search engine and internet communication etc.
  • Interview with Dr. Ross Mackenzie, the expert of the institute of educational technology. He introduced the virtual learning environment based on Moodle.
  • Interview with Mrs. Anne Gaskell, the assistant director of Open Learning Department. She introduced the recourses for open learning, and how to meet the student's diverse needs with different styles.
  • Interview with Mr. Ben Palmer, Head of Assessment, Credit and Awards. He introduced the whole procedure of examinations included the question papers, exam venues and monitoring, marks etc.,
  • Interview with Mark Endean, Head of the faculty of technology. We concentrated on the experiments and practice support service for the engineering students.
  • Interview with Dr. Haosin Zand and his wife Barbara.
  1. Attended tutors training and seminars
    To experience the academic life in OU campus and enlarge or rich my knowledge, I attended a tutors training and some of academic seminars, described as follows.
  • The head of department of languages, Uwe Baumann invited us to join the Tutor Briefing Training. The activities were presided by Mrs. Anna Proudfoot ( Course team chair) and Uwe addressed the welcome reception, then Anna introduced the course and websites, assessment , discussed the TMA (Tutor Mark Assignment) marking and feedback.
  • Attended a seminar, the speech with the topic "Click and Bricks from the OU to Leicester University, from Distance to Mixed Mode" was made by Prof. Gilly Sahnon, who are professor of Leicester University.
  • Attended the seminar was given by Muge Satar with the topic of "TASK-BASED LANGUAGE LEARNING IN SYNCHRONOUS COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATION".
  • Attended the Seminar was given by a visitor from the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology, Catherine Doherty, with the topic of "Compromised methods for an adapted ethnography: researching pedagogic interaction in online internationalized education".
  • Attended the L203 Standardization exam board meeting.
  1. Surf the Open University' Intranet website and visited the OU library
    There are a lot of information which are my most interesting in the intranet websites, I accessed all website pages which I was permitted and downloaded some material which are permitted, such as Charter and Statutes, Government and Management Structure,Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education, The University's strategic and development plans—2012),Student Toolkit,Supporting the open learners. I have read these materials to understand the service support system of OU. In the OU library especially its E-resources database and E-journals, I have searched a great number of academic papers from the database and read some of them.

    Main Academic Results

    After interviewed with experts and read some materials I have understood the service support system of OU further, in order to introduce the achievements and experience of OU four papers had been written in Chinese which of one had been published on our university journal, its topics and abstracts as follows.
  • The Fundamental Investigation on the Operating Status of the Open University in UK
    ABSTRACT: The basic status of the open university was analyzed in the three respects such as students, staffs and finance, the governance and the characteristics were extracted, finally the achievements and the assessment were described. The fundamental investigation on the operating status of the Open University was completed in some specific data.
  • The Template to Learner Support Framework of the Open University in UK
    ABSTRACT: The supported open learning was launched by the Open University, this ideas were practiced for nearly 40 years in OU, and the template to learner support framework was constructed. The aims and contents of the learner support were analyzed, the template to the framework was comprised of ten key activities with the emphasis on the career advisory service, and the some remarks were presented.
  • The Tutors in the Supported Open Learning
    ABSTRACT: The tutors are key roles for realization of the supported open learning. The duties, the recruitment and training, the service, the assessment and payment for the tutors in the open university in UK were analyzed, the course tutorial frameworks were remarked.
  • The Framework of the Certificates and Courses Development Based on the Open Ideas
    ABSTRACT: The open ideas of the open university were extracted first, the framework of the certificates and courses developing were analyzed seriously, and the satisfaction of diverse needs for the learners were revealed by the practical examples, the some impacts to us were shot.
    The Open University is ranked amongst the top ten UK universities for its teaching quality, I felt very lucky to have a four months stay at OU. From the achievements of OU, I have more confidence on the distance education with high quality and believe that the distance education will have a promising future. From the methodology and pedagogy of OU, I have found out solutions for some problems in our university on learning support service. From the experience at OU, I have understood the specific operations to improve our organization and administration on distance education. In a word, my visiting and studying will benefit our work, benefit our students, and benefit our country.
    In addition, I have visited London, Cambridge, Oxford, Bath and Edinburgh, bought and read many British books, made some friends and enjoyed British style food. These made me have a chance to approach to the amazing traditional and modern history and culture of Britain, to experience the outstanding natural scene of Britain, to improve my language capability. I'll cherish the friendship, and try my best to do something to improve and widen the communication and friendship between our two countries.


would like express my deepest and most sincere gratitude to the Sino-British Fellowship Trust first and foremost. With their generous sponsorship, I had this precious opportunity to study in Britain. Many thanks will go to Chinese Scholarship Council. They sponsored my return tickets from Beijing to London. I owe my loving thanks to the Education Section of Chinese Embassy; they gave me lots of assistance.
At the Open University, many colleagues gave me useful instruction, warm assistances and kind regards, such as Mr. Uwe Baumann, Mrs. Vicky Amos, Mrs. Babette Oliver, Mr. Mark Endean, Mrs. Lyn Singer, and many interviewed experts, I am grateful to them all.
I am grateful to Mrs. Anne Elizabeth Ely specially; she gave me kind regards and actual assistances from the beginning to the end.