The Open University (OU) has been awarded a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its OpenSTEM Labs initiative.
The OpenSTEM Labs are online laboratories that allow students from anywhere in the world to participate in authentic experimental work, acquiring real data interactively as if they were in the laboratory. Many activities are available 24/7.
The OpenSTEM Labs challenge the traditional methods of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) teaching and the need to be in a lab during specific hours by offering learning online where time and distance need not be a barrier.
From virtual microscopes and wind tunnels on the OU’s Milton Keynes campus to observatories in Tenerife, students have access to quality STEM facilities at the touch of a button.
The OpenSTEM Labs grew out of initial grant funding from the Wolfson Foundation in 2013 followed by capital investment from the Higher Education Funding Council for England in 2015.
Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, said:
“We are honoured to be receiving this award, a testament to our commitment to innovation and delivering quality distance learning for all. The OpenSTEM Labs have successfully enabled over 120,000 people to study practical STEM subjects at a distance, embodying our mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.”
Professor Nicholas Braithwaite, Executive Dean of the STEM Faculty and founding Director of the Labs, said:
“By creating the OpenSTEM Labs as “an Internet of Laboratory Things” we have realised our vision for inclusive and accessible facilities for practical work in The Open University’s distance-learning setting. This award is a fitting tribute to the efforts of the team and we look forward to further developing OpenSTEM Labs in conjunction with our new OpenXR Studios, bringing the power of VR and AR to distance-learning.”