ABSTRACT. On July 23, 1969, the Chancellor Lord Geoffrey Crowther gave the inaugural speech of the UK Open University, renowned for the words starting its four paragraphs: “we are open as to people, as to places, as to methods, as to ideas”, stating a concept of openness which characterized the mission of the Open University and still does so. The concept of this institution has been set since 1963 with another name, “university of the air”, aiming to take advantage of the new technologies in order to allow higher education to reach a wider public, namely adult students. In this paper we focus on the switch that took place from 1963 to 1969 to the new concept, “openness”, that linked the two traditional aspects, “people” and “places”, with the methodological issue, coming in the same years from the curriculum theories. We then discuss how the concept of openness evolved thereafter, with the introduction, in the last 15 years, of the Open Educational Resources and the Massive Open Online Courses.We then report an extract of the transcript of Lord Crowther’s speech, after highlighting its importance in the history of Distance Education.
A college at the University of South Africa embarked on a formal mentoring programme to mentor newcomer academics in appropriate teaching skills relevant to a contextualised open distance learning environment. The mentors who took part in the in-house mentoring initiative were experienced academics who will be retiring from the system over the next decade. The aim of the research reported in this paper was to determine which open distance learning-related teaching skills are considered most important to be conveyed through in-house mentoring. Based on an interpretive paradigm a mixed-methods research approach with document study and individual e-interviewing was used. Main findings included that a student corps with diverse characteristics and needs still necessitates an emphasis on tuition via print media, but with an increased incorporation of technology to arrange for constructive learning through interactive communication so as to respond to viable imperatives for technology application. Major teaching skills pertained to the developing of study material in the proper register for reader understanding and to employ myUnisa (a web-based learning system) to facilitate learning. The research contributes to a refining of the discourse on constructive open distance learning teaching within an environment that is increasingly exposed to using digital technologies to adhere to global imperatives for knowledge-based relevancy.