|The Open Universiteit Nederland, funded in 1984, is the youngest university of the Netherlands. It is the only Dutch university that provides open higher distance education. In the nineties, the Minister of Education, Cultural Affairs and Science added an important new element to this task, namely "supporting the innovation in higher education in the Netherlands and Flanders by disseminating expertise to institutes of higher education". Recently, a third element has been added, namely reducing the teacher shortage in the Dutch primary and secondary schools.
Working together within networks and alliances, Open Universiteit Nederland develops, provides and promotes higher distance education of top quality. The university is a pioneer in the innovation of higher education and aims at meeting the wide-ranging needs of students, the market and the community at large.
Open Universiteit Nederland seeks to be an institution that is strongly anchored in the Dutch higher education system through its educational, research and innovation activities. An institution that operates successfully in the field of lifelong learning and is a much wanted provider of market-oriented and commercial education. It is a frontrunner in open higher distance education and a leader - also internationally - in educational innovation.
Since its scope of activities links up well with the public demand, Open Universiteit Nederland can count on a broad interest, as reflected in the significant enrolment numbers for its different educational offerings. Open Universiteit Nederland offers a professional and result-oriented working climate that activates the competencies of its staff toward joint realisation of objectives.
Total freedom of study
Many people choose to study at Open Universiteit Nederland because it allows them to personally decide their pace of study. This is possible because the programmes are comprised of modules, all course materials can be studied independently, and there are no mandatory lectures or meetings. The course materials do not only consist of hardcopy texts but also of interactive CD-ROMs for instance, and much of it is accessible via the Internet. Student counselling takes place mainly by e-mail or telephone. Furthermore, Open Universiteit Nederland obviously makes full use of the possibilities offered by e-learning. Since 1997, Studienet has been in use for that purpose. It is an electronic learning environment that enables students to organize their personal virtual study desk. It provides additions and corrections to course materials, answers to FAQs, texts, software and information about examinations. In addition, it allows for communication between teachers and students and among students.
All these facilities give students the freedom to decide for themselves where, when and at what pace they want to study. It enables them to combine their study with their work and family life or with a stay abroad.
Academic programmes, courses and in-house training
Open Universiteit Nederland offers academic programmes in Cultural studies, Business and Public administration, Environmental sciences, Psychology, Law, and Informatics. Students who do not want to follow a full academic programme can choose from nearly 400 courses. These represent the building blocks of the academic programmes and consist of self-contained units of learning material. Aside from this, Open Universiteit Nederland offers a growing number of training programmes on a commercial basis. These are often developed and carried out in combination with professional schools, private educational institutes and companies. Some programmes are based on open enrolment, while other programmes feature in-company and customized training. Through its abbreviated higher education programmes, Open Universiteit Nederland responds to the demand for short-term professional education.
Frontrunner in innovation
In 1997, the Dutch government granted a second legal assignment to Open Universiteit Nederland, namely to contribute to the innovation process of Dutch higher education. That is hardly a coincidence. Open Universiteit Nederland has been a trendsetter in the development and application of new learning, didactic and technological models for education, especially in the field of e-learning. Its well-considered educational approach, the result of cooperation among various disciplines, provides a fruitful ground for innovation. Open Universiteit Nederland wants to share this expertise in the development and implementation of electronic learning materials with other universities and professional schools. It does so, for example, through Digital University. This is a foundation which consists of ten institutions of higher education, working together on innovative projects.
The specific expertise that is needed to achieve innovation in higher education must be constantly expanded. Such is accommodated through programmes for research and development. In both fields, Open Universiteit Nederland has an excellent reputation, both in the Netherlands and abroad.
Tackling the teacher shortage
Meanwhile, a third legal task has presented itself. At the end of 2001, the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science assigned Open Universiteit Nederland to contribute to the effort to reduce the teacher shortage. This assignment first of all means that the university needs to develop distance education for lateral-entry candidates, i.e. people with an alternative career history, into the teaching profession. The new task may also involve refresher training in didactic skills for incumbent teachers. For the long term, there is the interesting perspective that Open Universiteit Nederland may develop into a partner for teacher training institutes and schools regarding the renewal of the programmes for teaching professionals.
To a certain extent this new task is a logical extension of the mission and tasks of Open Universiteit Nederland. Firstly, it matches with its role as partner in educational innovation. The new assignment also partly matches with the task of offering adults a second chance or second approach to gain higher education. And lastly, collaborating towards the solution of this pressing problem fits with its mission, which focuses on meeting the demands set by today´s society.
Open Universiteit Nederland
Central Visiting Address
6419 AT Heerlen
Further information: http://www.ou.nl/