Jørgen Bang
Aarhus University, Jutland Open University
PHONE: +45 8942 1963
FAX: +45 8942 1952

This paper is a discussion of the educational, pedagogical and didactic considerations behind a new model for academic collaboration in open learning and distance education using information and communication technologies. The offspring for the project is two running Socrates supported projects:

  1. The What is Europe? Remake - a curriculum development project
  2. The CEFES project - Creating a European Forum for European Studies - a ODL project.

Between 1989 and 1992 the course What is Europe? was developed jointly by Open Universiteit (The Netherlands), Jutland Open University (Denmark), DIFF (Germany), FIED (France) and Open University (UK). Since 1992 the course has been offered in slightly different versions in several European countries, and in 1998 a European forum has been set up to facilitate a discussion of European issues among the students/learners taking the course at the same time. Parallel to this enhancement of the existing course a remake has started, aiming at a presentation of a totally revised course content by year 2001 in which the forum dialogue is fully integrated.

The existing course is basically a paper based course with four core text books, study guides and a map booklet plus an additional set of audio tapes - five cassettes - and a television programme produced by the BBC educational section. The core text books have been published in a commercial edition by Routledge in 1995. The Open University took the responsibility for production and final editing of the English version of the course, consequently the chosen format is very close to the OUUK traditions for course presentations. In the German edition each essay from the core text has been dedicated a separate booklet in which the study guide is incorporated. A Portuguese edition under preparation only includes 2/3 of the core texts. In Denmark and The Netherlands the English edition is used with locally produced study guides, but working in different directions: in Denmark the course has been expanded with additional material to at full year degree programme in European Studies, in The Netherlands the course has been reduced by leaving out several of the original essays from the Dutch curriculum. Only one of the volumes have been translated into French.

The different usage of the same jointly produced course material is a logical consequent of the different university traditions in European countries. We have our national requirements for curricula and examination, and, on top of that, we have locally developed teaching and learning styles to which we have to adapt. At the same time we have to respect these differences and to learn from them. They are obstacles to the idea of exporting courses produced at one university to other universities and to standardized joint course production, but they are excellent offspring for collaboration and exchange of ideas and materials for the benefit of students/learners - adding a European dimension to their studies.

In the remake of the 'What is Europe?' course we focus on collaboration among the participation universities both in the initial rewriting of the course and in the later delivery of the course. The main objectives are:

  1. to produce a core text based material in five volumes covering five subject areas within European Studies. Hopefully these volumes will be published by a commercial publisher for a global market. Both partners in the production team and other universities will have free access to this material.
  1. to create an educational database or resource bank in which additional educational material such as study guides, readers, commentaries, references, audio and video clips (documentaries, interviews, etc.) will be placed. Institutions participating in the collaboration and students/learners taking the course will have access to this material through the WWW. A constant updating of the resource bank will take place as the course develops. Each time an institution offers a rerun of the course, the responsible team of teachers may draw on the material in the bank and add new material to it. Copyright issues should be managerial by restricting access to students/learners taking the course.
  1. to integrate a European discussion forum into the course by facilitating students/ learners taking the course with access to a computer conference system directly related to the resource bank. The collaborating team of institutions decide a series of themes based on the available educational materials and relating to hot European issues of the day. The task of moderation will be divided among the partners. Extracts of the discussion and, even, student essays produced for exam in relation to the themes may be integrated in the resource bank. This dialogue dimension has to be an integrated part of the course structure!