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The Queen presents The Open University with Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its OpenSTEM Labs

Vice-Chancellor Professor Tim Blackman and Executive Dean of the STEM Faculty Professor Nick Braithwaite being presented with the award from Her Majesty The Queen.

The Open University was presented with a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education by Her Majesty The Queen this week (22 February 2024) at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace.

It was announced in November that the OU had been awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its OpenSTEM Labs initiative – the highest national Honour in higher and further education. The formal Honours ceremony took place today at Buckingham Palace where the University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor, Tim Blackman, and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Professor Nick Braithwaite, were presented with the award from Her Majesty The Queen.

The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes are part of the national Honours system, recognising outstanding work by UK universities and colleges that demonstrate excellence, innovation and well-evidenced benefit for education, the economy and the wider world.

The OpenSTEM Labs are online facilities that allow students from anywhere in the world to participate in authentic experimental work, acquiring real data interactively as if they were at a laboratory, observatory or field site location. Many activities are available 24/7.

They 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.

Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, said:

“This is a tremendous honour for The Open University and the team responsible for the OpenSTEM labs. The award recognises our commitment to innovation and excellence in delivering quality distance learning for all. This is a very proud moment for the University.”

Professor Nick 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.”

A longer version of this story by Leah Snelus, originally appeared on OU News.

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