An Open System of Education
The main paradigm upon which the pillars of an open system of education stand lies in its flexibility to accommodate a wider base of Higher Education (HE) seekers, thereby offering open opportunities of education to many qualified applicants. This is attributed to paucity of constraints of admission hitherto found in traditional institutions.
AOU recognizes that its open learning platform is mainly a blended education approach with quality standards as top priority. AOU open learning platform relies heavily on the tutoring process, thus promoting proactive learning. AOU's delivery methodology is based on programmed and progressive course lectures, besides other supporting forms of delivery, such as internet – based learning, blended with various components that aim to offer an environment of supported blended learning. Library and computer-based resources are also deployed throughout AOU's operations. These are augmented by a number of Learning Centres (LCs) in all our various regional branches. This approach is starkly different from the traditional education by correspondence concept.
Admission criteria for undergraduate programs at the Arab Open University revolve around student's providing an official general secondary school certificate. Other criteria, AOU considers for admission Community College (CC) graduates seeking to earn additional credits to complete the requirements to graduate from the CC. The AOU also considers students who have successfully completed "relevant" courses at a recognized higher learning institution.
Media of Learning
The AOU fosters a diversified number of appropriate and latest learning media including printed material, audio and videotapes, CD-ROMs, and Internet-based support. In addition, further instructional support is provided by the Learning Centers (LCs) via a dedicated integrated satellite network that includes a host of VSATs. A mixture of independent study and scheduled tutor-assisted sessions is provided to comprise the generic format of the learning platform at the AOU.
Learning Centres are deployed in each participating country as integral components of the University branch. These LCs will be well equipped with local networks of personal computers, multimedia workstations, and multimedia facilities
A Tutored System of Independent Study
The philosophy of blended learning systems revolves around the idea of tutored independent learning. Typically, a student registered in a course would receive a package that contains printed material, audio-visual aids (video tapes, audio cassettes), and perhaps, compact discs (CD-ROM). The printed material comprises a comprehensive content of readings and a schedule of term assignments. Thematic term projects are programmed over the entire term in order to gauge and monitor the students' progress. Each course culminates in a final exam weighted against other elements in the course. Exams are held at all University branches at the same time, and centrally controlled by the University Head Offices in Kuwait. Exams are weighted at 50% of the total grade for the course, with the remaining 50% assigned to term work including TMAs and quizzes.
Major component of self-learning at AOU revolves on tutorials held regularly and according to pre-announced schedules. Tutorials aim at establishing communication between students and teachers/tutors. They provide platforms for exchanging experience on the different aspects of self-learning and distance education, as well as fostering ties among students themselves.
An Integrated Platform of Learning
In principle, for every 20 students, a course-specialized tutor is assigned. The time schedules of the tutorial sessions are fully arranged prior to the commencement of the term. While these sessions allow for positive interaction between tutors and students, they also entice them to explore other logistic support resources available at the Learning Centres.
LCs, in different AOU branches are connected by an integrated satellite network supported by a host of VSATs.
Computer and multimedia laboratories are also intended to play an important role in enhancing the learning experience. These laboratories will be deployed at the LCs as integral components of logistic support for the learning process. Plans for utilizing various forms of information technology (IT) resources including the Internet as a medium of course delivery and support, in whole or in part, form primary components of the AOU's strategic planning.