The Challenge of teaching degree level psychology by distance learning

Andrew, Christopher
Robert Gordon University,
Aberdeen, UK

The Open University is one of the world’s largest higher education establishments, which delivers its courses solely by means of distance learning. As part of its portfolio of courses it offers a number of open access psychology courses, which lead to a psychology degree recognised by the British Psychological Society (BPS). This paper explores the challenges and difficulties of delivering psychology course through distance learning, with particular focus on;

  1. Teaching undergraduate psychology to students with no formal qualifications.
  2. The difficulties of teaching psychology with limited face to face contact time with students.
  3. The challenge of doing experimental work at home.
  4. The role of residential schools in providing «top up» academic input.
  5. The increasing role of new technologies as a means of delivering psychology.

The Open University’s policy of allowing open access to its psychology courses irrespective of qualifications, means that some students gain a place on a psychology degree course which they would almost certainly otherwise not be given. Added to this is the limited amount of face to face tuition, which is provided in distance learning courses. A requirement of a recognised BPS psychology degree is that students undertake practical work. This poses difficulties for students with limited access to participants for experiments at home.

The challenges posed by these issues can to some extent be resolved by designing material and practical work suited to the home environment, topping this up with an intensive residential school and making use of new Information Technologies such as www, CD-ROM and other audio visual materials.