Development of First Full Online Courses at the Open University of Japan

The Open University of Japan
掬茶, The Open University of Japan, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Open University of Japan (OUJ), being established in 1983, has been offering higher education services in Japan for the last 33 years through television and radio broadcasting, print materials, and face-to-face classes at 50 study centers nationwide. OUJ is the only university in the world, which owns and operates a terrestrial digital television broadcasting station as well as a Broadcasting Satellite (BS) television broadcasting station, and broadcasts its pre-recorded instructional programs on its own dedicated television channels from 05:00 to 24:00 every day.

The recent decline in student enrollment and the reduction in its governmental subsidy have been forcing the university to reconsider its system of teaching and learning and to innovate its operation. In order to increase the student enrollment, to increase the number of courses the university can offer, and to improve the educational model from a teacher-centered to a student-centered, OUJ developed its first online courses in the fiscal year of 2015 and began offering the courses in April 2016.

The first eight courses offered at OUJ marked the university’s history; however, the online teaching is still considered as experimental and we are now facing a number of issues ranging from budgetary constraints to the different images of online education held by the teachers and students. The major challenge is to shift its long-standing organizational culture based on the educational model of broadcasting pre-recorded lecture programs to a more dynamic and interactive educational model.

I have been involved in developing the online courses at OUJ as the leader of the instructional designer team as well as the principal instructor of one of the online courses. In the following, I will recount the experiences of developing first online courses at OUJ and describe the challenges OUJ are now facing in making use of the interactivity afforded by the learning management system.

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