Institutions of distance education started with a similar focus, to bring higher education to students who are unable to participate in a traditional brick and mortar school setting, however these schools are in no way cookie cutter images of each other. This paper is intended to compare and contrast the University of South Africa (UNISA) and that of the British Open University (OU) to investigate the similarities and differences between an institution based in a developing country, UNISA, to one based in a developed country, the OU.
The University of South Africa has the distinction of being one of the oldest institutions catering to students who wished to participate in education but were forced to do so unconventionally (Peters 2010). The British Open University opened in 1969, is one of the forerunners in distance education and supplies the model by which many of today’s distance education universities are based. (Peters 2010) The UNISA and the OU will be discussed in terms of their historical background, mission and values, population served, educational organization, technology evolution, and teaching models.
The UNISA and the OU are each pioneer institutions in their own right. Though their beginnings are vastly different they have each grown to be powerhouse institutions today.
The UNISA can trace its early history back to 1873 when the University of the Cape of Good Hope (UCGH) was organized and opened to be a “examining university” ( UNISA, The history 2013). For many years UNISA continued as a testing facility where student who were working on credits at universities such as Oxford and Cambridge could take exams and verify their credits( UNISA, The history 2013). UNISA changed their focus in 1946 when Professor van der Walt was tasked to determine if correspondence education was a viable option for the institution( UNISA, The history 2013). Within ten years UNISA morphed into a separately functioning university offering correspondence courses in which capacity it continued through the 1970’s (UNISA, The history 2013). Having the ability to be self-functioning allowed UNISA to service students throughout South Africa who were under apartheid rule and unable to attend traditional institutions. In the 1980’s UNISA made yet another metamorphosis to a distance education institution and continues to evolve with in the distance education community as technology becomes more readily available through today. (UNISA, The history 2013)
The OU has a much briefer history beginning in 1969 when a Royal Charter initiated by Harold Wilson to improve the number of students who had access and the ability to attend higher education. (Bates 2011) . In 1971 the initial students were admitted to pilot programs and by the end of the year it was determine that there was sufficient participation to continue. (The OU 2014) At its inception the OU did not make any attempts to conform to models previously in use, instead a...