The Open University
• Established in 1969, celebrated 50th
birthday last year!
• Since then over two million students
• National Student Survey highlights
the OU’s consistent quality – in the
top 3 universities to have consistently
achieved over 90% for student
We believe that education
should be open to any
one, any time, any place
Our mission is to be open to
Typical OU module
• Students study part-time from home
(or work, bus, train, prison, submarine…)
• Modules run for 6 or 9 months
(30 or 60 credits)
• Average 16-20 study hours per week
• Student:Tutor ratio around 20:1.
• Teaching material structured around the module website, with links
out to our real time collaboration tool of choice, Adobe Connect
• Weekly study planner
• Face-to-face and online tutorials – currently face-to-face are cancelled for
the rest of 2020
• Everything online, but physical materials also important: books, etc.
Online tutorials at scale
• Using Adobe Connect since October 2016 – integrating Adobe Connect
with the OU’s Virtual Learning Environment
• Over 4500 OU staff trained (tutors and central academic staff) – many
• On average we can have up to 3500 concurrent users and at peak this
goes up to 5500
• ~40,000 scheduled online events per year
• Over 43,000 recordings with a total view count of >1 million
• Wide range of learning events: from 1(tutor):20(students) tutorials to
module-wide events with 350+ participants
Seamless and consistent
• The OU is already operating at scale
• Centralised admin for set up of rooms, groups and timetabling
• Consistent approach to accessing online rooms and recordings – give tutors
space to concentrate on how they deliver their tutorials
• Training resources for ~4500 tutors – skill set
• Sharing knowledge
Challenges facing online learning
• Remote learners have a variety of requirements:
• Varying technical abilities
• Different devices, operating systems and internet connection
• Responsibilities: work commitments, children, carers, etc.
• Accessibility requirements
Everyone wants to be online…
• Requests to add more rooms for staff to use
• Training staff that have never used Adobe Connect before
• Supporting staff to adapt presentations or delivery style for an online
• Adapting guest access guidance
• Ensuring we have the capacity
• We cannot fix everyone’s internet connection…
Increase in online tutorials
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Number of planned tutorials
2019 2019 2020 2020
Increase in online tutorials
Overall the demand for scheduled tutorials has not
We are already operating at scale, with the majority of
tutorials being online.
Increase in other rooms
Use of rooms outside the scheduled online tutorials
has significantly increased
Contacts with students outside their modules has
increased with supportive sessions during lockdown
Use of staff online rooms tripled!
4. Tips for managing
different types of
What do you need to do?
Keep people connected.
Reach a diverse audience, working remotely and on various devices.
Planning is similar to that of a face to face meeting/tutorial.
• Who is hosting the room and how many participants do you
• Why do you need an online meeting/event/tutorial?
• When will the session take place?
• Where – set up a room for your session and the URL is the location.
• What are the types of activities you want in your room?
• How will you achieve this?
Delivery of online tutorials
• Good audio, USB headsets recommended.
• Good quality webcam and internet connection.
• Pace the session.
• Leave thinking time and reaction time.
• Learning and teaching events are more than a video conference.
• Control participation, e.g. mics, webcam and draw.
• Plan your session and describe the room and content as part of your
• Providing materials in advance if requested and add supportive notes for key
• Speak slowly and clearly – repeat or rephrase what you have said.
• Remind Participants they can use the text chat and status icons to
• For busy sessions over 30+ consider two Hosts, one to talk and one to handle
text chat and status.
One size does not fit all, but small adjustments can make a difference to many.
Requirement for students to access online rooms without tutors present. Use
Adobe Connect templates to provide rooms in a managed way.
• Social space to build
• Familiarisation of
Adobe Connect and
preparation for online
• Group activities
linked to learning
team activities to
Extended use cases
• Enabled staff to train advisors – both internally and externally
• Study skills workshops with students, can be larger events 200+
• Exam monitoring sessions using webcams
• Poster competition with OU Vice Chancellor announcing winner
• Academic Professional Development events for staff and research students
• OU Student Association workshops and virtual pub quizzes
• AL online conference with over 430 attendees
• Many research projects
Continuing objectives at the OU
• Create a rich digital learning experience using innovative learning
• Allow a supported learning journey with collaborative communities of
students and academics.
• Enable and use of state-of-the-art teaching and assessment methods.
Ongoing challenges for online tutorials
• Ensure users have the right technical set up
• Training is key
• Adapting for any event
Zoe Gipson – The Open University