Open University to bring course content online

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The Open University will become the first institution in the UK to offer free course materials online to students and the wider public later this year.

The university will select educational resources from all levels from access to postgraduate study and from a full range of subject themes, including arts and history, business and management, languages and science and nature.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

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The material will be free to teachers and students studying in the UK and abroad, with the project following a long partnership with the BBC, which broadcasts the university's television programs. The material will not only be course or subject specific and students will also be able to access a range of study skills material to improve their research.

In 2001, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) made nearly all of its course materials- including lecture notes, course outlines, reading lists and assignments- available online for free. The US institution now has material for 1250 of its courses online and expects to have all of MIT's undergraduate and graduate courses on the web by next year.

The university plans to provide both educational material and a range of learning support, with one site aimed for learners, where material with suggested learning pathways will be offered. The second site will be mainly for course creators to encourage the sharing and re-use of materials.

The Open University has more than 210,000 students studying courses this year, with around 40,000 studying outside the UK. The online project will start in October.

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