In response to the needs of students unable to use printed study materials such as course units (nearly 1000 OU undergraduates), the Multimedia Enabling Technologies Group has been developing new methods of producing and accessing alternatives to print. In 1999, CD-ROM versions of the first courses to be transformed into alternative media were handed over to the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). They included audio recording produced in the OU’s Recording Centre in OSD. Students access the integrated media through an interface, ReadOut , designed by Mary Taylor which provides a link to enabling technologies such as synthetic speech and braille for students with a visual impairment.
A typical course requires about 6 to 8 CD-ROMs for the course units. Although this is a significant step forward by comparison to often needing over 100 C90 cassettes for the recording of course units, the target has always been to get a course on to ONE CD. This is where innovations in new technologies help. The advent of DVD technology has provided an opportunity to reach this target. On the 7th March 2000, the first DVD disc was pressed which included all of the course units for SD206 (Biology: Brain and Behaviour) in alternative media.
Note: the DVD workstation was provided by an Institute of Educational Technology capital equipment grant. Funding for the project has been received from HEFCE, GDBA and the OU Development Fund. The workstation was set up by a placement student from Milton Keynes College, Damien Dodswell, seen in the photograph with Professor Tom Vincent who leads the MET Group.