Studying computing with The Open University in the 80s and now

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Open University Sense screenshot

Studying computing with The Open University in the 80s and now

In my spare time, I’m currently studying for a BSC (Hons) degree in Computing and IT with The Open University.

The Computing and IT degree consists of textbooks, DVDs, online material and even fun bits of hardware to plug into your computer (such as the “Sense” which was used with module TU100 aka My Digital Life).

Open University study in the 80s

Recently I came across some interesting videos from the Centre for Computing History (a great computer and technology museum based in Cambridge) relating to studying with The Open University in the 1980s.

The first video is about the “Hektor” computer which was provided to students to learn about computer engineering and software design.

The Hektor computer was a reasonably basic specification and tailored for the needs of the OU course.  Supplied with the machine was a peripheral board which provided a range of inputs and outputs which would have probably been the 1980s equivalent to the USB Sense board provided for TU100 students.

The second is a video about Information Technology in Education from 1982 which features a look at the technology used by OU students  who couldn’t make it to a face to face tutorial.

As an OU student now it amazes me at the technology they had available back in the early 80s.  Back then technology was still in its infancy but students had access to online tutorials which now run over the Internet with collaboration software similar to Google Hangouts or GoToMeeting.  Fortunately we do still have face to face tutorials too so we can meet our tutors and fellow students in person (although for some travelling to a face to face tutorial may be problematic due to distances to a tutorial or perhaps physical disabilities).

It made me  wonder how OU students of the future will study, perhaps in 10 years they’ll be using VR headsets for online tutorials and in 30 years online tutorials will take place in our own home holodecks?

For now, though, I’m happy with the technology I have.  When I was younger going to University wasn’t really an option for me and I’m thankful for the Open University so I have the opportunity to study for a degree alongside running my computer services business (allowing me to study during quiet periods) and having just received a distinction in TU100 I’m looking forward to starting the Level 2 modules in October (only 4 more years until I graduate! :-D).

If you’re considering further education then I can highly recommend The Open University.  Not only does the distance learning offer an opportunity to study alongside work or other commitments it’s a great way of meeting new and interesting people, making new friends and expanding your horizons.

The OU have a wide range of courses in a variety of subjects with the option to study an “Open Degree” allowing you to mix and match modules to obtain the 300 credits for a degree, or 360 credits for a degree with honours.




July 19, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Just think it’s all changes again next year, goodbye sense and hello python


    July 19, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    Yep. While I enjoyed Sense I think Python may be a bit more relevant. Still, Sense taught some good fundamentals of programming, when I wrote a Pong game in Sense I could see how that could possibly be translated to another programming language (now I just need to learn the other languages 🙂 ).