A learning module is a package of selected information
which focuses on a specifi c subject that has been
appropriately designed to provide the learner with
an educational opportunity in a self-directed learning
format. Experience has shown that diverse audiences are
highly receptive to obtaining information through learning
What is the rationale for most open universities in
spending time and money on preparing course material in
modular form when course materials in suitable formats are
readily available in vast number in the form of textbooks?
Focus and a self-directed learning format are the two module
elements that are often missing in a textbook.
The quality of the learning environment is dependent on the
soundness of both the content and instruction contained in
the learning materials, not merely technology. Advancement
in technology, however, changes the way courses are
developed and delivered. The module remains an important
element in the teaching and learning process of the open
and distance education system in the face of changing
technology and learning culture.
The Open University in United Kingdom (OUUK), one
of the top-ranking universities in the world, is recognised for
having an excellent teaching record. The university, which
was started with the idea of combining broadcast lectures
with correspondence text, still provides modules as printed
materials, thus keeping true to its mission to be open in its
method of delivery. It has increased its methods of delivery
to include web-based materials and has created a campus
in Second Life (this is a free 3D virtual world where users
can socialise, connect and create using free voice and text
chat). The purpose of the campus is to enable the varied
and widely dispersed student body to meet, work and live
together in a virtual community.
Elsewhere, the Athabasca University, a leading open
university in Canada, offers print modules also. It employs
a broad spectrum of distance learning methods and relies
on a variety of information technologies to deliver course
materials and instruction to students. The study structure
is designed to allow individualised study using course
materials in print or online form. The option to study in
groups is also available. Similar to OUUK, it also offers
additional formats of learning material such as multimedia,
web, Internet, CD-ROM, computer software, audio/video
tapes, TV and radio.
The Indira Gandhi National Open University in India,
which has a large number of students from diverse locations,
also uses modules in print form. The learning environment
at this university is supported by the use of audio-video
production to suit the needs of its student population.
A slightly different learning environment is offered at
the Korea National Open University, where textbooks are
provided along with workbooks instead of modules. The
textbooks are partly written by the teaching members of
the university. The workbooks contain summarised core
items, supplementary learning materials and exercises for
self-evaluation; these are designed to promote learning.
Supplementary learning materials using a wide range of
technologies are provided as in other open universities.
Closer to home, both Universitas Terbuka Indonesia
and University of the Philippines Open University also use
modules as teaching materials.
What types of learning materials are used depends on
the setting of the open university as well as the diversity
and learning culture of its students. In order to produce
highly effective modules, a university must have academic
manpower support, suffi cient experience in open and
distance learning and understanding of its students' learning