Notes on: Bates, A.  (1975) 'Obstacles to the effective use of communication media in a learning situation'.  In Baggaley, P.  et al (eds) Aspects of Educational Technology VIII.  Pitman Press: Bath: 15-28.

Dave Harris

One problem is the existence of BBC codes which value 'smoothness and imagination of the production'.  Instead, there is a need for more rational control in terms of setting objectives, measuring effects, considering organization and costings.  Educational media has been developed in some other countries, including Thailand, where the resources were first made available, but this has led to a subsequent search for the most effective use [this pretty much describes the situation at the UKOU as well, where the BBC was roped in and told to provide, partly to cover costs and also to lend prestige]. 

25 functions for television have been identified for the OU, including to 'increase the sense of belonging to the OU', to demonstrate experiments, to change student attitudes to unpopular parts of the courses, and to be able to demonstrate educational processes through performance, as in televised drama.  The use of case studies is both popular and interesting, because they offer a strong storyline, but they often also  feature unclear objectives: they need backup, and students need to be taught to use them [one example of the ways in which the audience read case studies conventionally is provided by Thompson].  Contradictions with the correspondence texts to be avoided.

The whole process requires organization and a rational division of labour.  The media are only one 'means of distributing information.  It requires coordination.  The course team offers the most promise here as the greatest innovation (23) [a bit disingenuous, because although BBC producers sat on course teams, they were lords of their own domain once they got into the studio.  It was hard to criticize the advice and practice of the professionals].  The whole Open University needs to be organized like this rather than being dominated by Faculties and Regions.  Only the course team represents 'the interests of the University as a whole' (24).

The piece ends with a plea for a separate specialist internal research outfit to investigate the use of the media.

more education studies