Open University and support for Mac users

Moving to a browser-based rather than PC-based policy has been on the cards for a while at the OU. Now Macworld has picked up on our new Mac policy which is summarised here:

Since the 1990s The Open University has primarily supported PC users. This decision was made on cost grounds as fewer than 3% of the population used Macs. Some of the University’s students have recently launched a petition on the No 10 website protesting this policy.

Happily, the situation for Mac users is changing dramatically. The Open University has recently introduced a purpose designed Virtual Learning Environment which makes material available to students via the internet and can be accessed by Mac or PC. The University’s FirstClass conferencing system can be accessed by Macs and assignments can be submitted electronically by Mac users using rich text files (rtf) or open office software available for free download.

There remains a (diminishing) number of legacy courses where material is available on CD Rom or DVD which are PC only. It is simply uneconomic to replace this material before the courses are replaced or re-made but most Mac users find PC emulation software works well to access this material.

One problem has been Mac users studying languages who need to use an audio-conferencing/whiteboard system called Lyceum which is PC based. This is currently being replaced with a synchronous collaboration system that will run on all platforms.

For Mac users a range of guidance is available at an Open University Mac self-help group site http://macgeneral.webhop.org/

The Open University is committed to supporting Mac users and also users of other platforms such as Linux in all future activity.

A more detailed summary of the current situation and the OU’s plans for the future regarding Mac use is available.

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