3.2 Teaching materials and assessments

The OU’s teaching materials are created centrally by teams of academics. This ensures that each student has access to the same high-quality materials. They are designed to blend a range of activity types, which are detailed below. As you read through the activity types you might reflect on how the delivery modes might be used to support these activities.

The materials are not simply text but include a range of different media; images, audio, animated diagrams and film clips. They include self-assessment questions and quizzes so that learners can assess their own understanding of particular sections.


Attending to information.

Students study and think about theories and concepts encountered in materials and resources, case studies, etc.

Often the first part of a learning cycle where students receive and begin to make sense of new information, before they then apply or test their new knowledge, or go on to reflect, review and communicate their understanding.

For example, read, watch, listen, think about, observe, review, consider, study.

Finding and handling information

Searching for and processing information.

Students are actively and critically engaged in gathering and manipulating information. 

Activities might include conducting research, extracting information from databases, analysing information, synthesising data and evaluation.

For example, list, analyse, collate, plot, find, discover, access, use, gather, order, classify, select, assess, manipulate.


Discussing module-related content with at least one other person.

Through dialogue, students begin to take a position concerning problems and debates, and internalise complex and interrelated concepts.

Collaboration is a step further where students (and tutors) work together to produce an artefact and through that process make new links and connections in their shared knowledge and understanding.

For example, communicate, debate, discuss, argue, share, report, collaborate, present, describe, question.


Generating an 'artefact'.

Students apply their knowledge and skills together or alone in order to create a piece of work. This could be a list, a piece of narrative text which answers a question, a reflective account, a report, a video or a presentation etc.

Because something concrete is produced, it can be reviewed, evaluated or assessed, and feedback can be received. It can also be used to support revision and further study.

For example, create, build, write, make, design, construct, contribute, produce, complete, draw, compose, refine, synthesise, remix.


Applying learning in a real-world setting.

This activity is most often found in work-based learning or practical science modules. Students are required to apply their skills, knowledge and understanding in a real-world setting.

This does not include role play and simulated scenarios but could include a case study if it is taken from the student's real-world setting. The key is that students receive real-life feedback on the activity, e.g., from customers or clients, work colleagues or the environment and have an opportunity to reflect in context.

For example, practice, apply, mimic, experience, explore, investigate, perform, engage.


Applying learning in a simulated setting.

'Interactive/adaptive' does not relate to the technology but the student activity itself.

Students apply their knowledge and skills in a simulated setting, receive immediate feedback and are then given the opportunity to adapt their approach.

Activities falling into this category might include role play, problem-based scenarios, simulated case studies and simulated experiments.

For example, explore, experiment, trial, improve, model, simulate.


All forms of assessment, whether continuous, end of module or formative.

For example, write, present, report, demonstrate, critique, peer review, self-assess, receive feedback.

The tutor's role is to mediate the student’s engagement with the materials. Many students might be meeting a particular concept for the first time and the tutor is the “subject expert”. Of course, there are areas on which the tutor might not be an expert but there are tutor forums where we share ideas and find an expert view.

At times it is more appropriate to direct a student to our web-based resources aimed at helping them develop their study skills. Tutors can also develop these skills through their approach to marking assignments, which is covered in more detail in Part 5 Correspondence tuition [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

3.3 Teaching and learning at a distance