Open Eye: World's largest IT course wins the industry's top award

A revolutionary new Open University course, designed to help Britain prepare for the next millennium of computing, has won the IT world's equivalent of an Oscar.

Computing: An Object-Oriented Approach, accepted its first students in February this year, and with more than 5,100 students, has already become the world's largest computing course.

The British Computer Society IT Awards are recognised as the most prestigious annual prizes bestowed by the computing industry. The OU entry was one of three to receive the top award, and was chosen out of more than 60 nominated projects, and out of eight finalists.

The citation for the award says that `the OU has led the way in using television to teach students.'

Now, in the information age, its computer science department has been recognised for its innovative use of the Net, software, common text, computer conferencing and multimedia in a revolutionary computer course.

The decision to adapt an object-oriented programming to teach the course was a radical one, and means students can access interactive material, hold on-line tutorials and relax in the on-line common room.

Dr Mark Woodman, head of the team of 25 people, including academics, editors and BBC producers, who developed the course, admitted that some of the team, "for sincerely held reasons, were worried about our strategy, both in pedagogy and use of the media."

He said that there were two things that really pleased him about the award. "First, it vindicated the radical approach the course team had taken and which had worried a lot of people; it confirms what we believe - that the OU is at its best when it has a vision, is at the forefront of some area, and will take risks.

"Second, it confirmed our view of computing and how it should be taught as being what industry wanted, whatever others in academia might think.

"The members of the judging committee had a wide variety of backgrounds and we feel extremely proud to have been given a Winner Award by the British Computer Society."

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