I am part of the Broadcast Strategy Review group at the OU at the moment. This is currently realised through our relationship with the BBC, with the general audience programmes and the excellent open2.net stuff. But in an e-learning, internet age the very definition of broadcast needs to be re-examined. The OU needs to reexamine what it means from pedagogic value and return on investment perspectives. To put it crudely, is it better to have 10 high quality programmes or 10,000 lower quality podcasts/feeds. There are a number of issues here:
Quality – generally people are prepared lower quality on a lot of internet media, e.g. podcasts, video clips, etc because they are getting material closer to their needs. There is a trade off here between appropriateness and production quality.
Integration with courses – the traditional OU model was to make programmes for specific courses (you get minus ten points if you mention kipper ties here). The last agreement was focused around more general interest programmes, fulfilling an outreach function. An internet focused model has the potential to be course, or subject area specific.
New models of outreach – TV is the broadcast medium par excellence, and much has been made of the difficult to market things on the net. However, there are effective models, and also initiatives like the Open Content project have the possibility of fulfilling the outreach function.
Range of providers – put bluntly, if you want to make TV programmes then the BBC are your best bet of partner, and there is a pretty limited pool to choose from. If you want internet content (be it regular feeds, multimedia, podcasts, articles, etc) then the choice of providers is much broader (although BBC online is probably amongst the best here too).
This will be a consultative review, and I don’t know what the conclusions will be, but it strikes me as one of those zeitgeist projects, so I’m quite excited about it.