Case Study 13. University Departments or Centers. Birkbeck College 
This case study is a transcript of an interview written by Robin Mason. 
Birkbeck College is one of the many institutions, which make up the University of London. It 
specializes in adult education, though not primarily at a distance. The most outstanding course 
offered by the College on the Web is Principles of Protein Structure. It claims to be the first 
(at least in the UK) to be offered totally online for a global student body. The first pilot (free) 
version ran in 1994. Now it has been refined and made part of the fee paying, accredited 
course structure of Birkbeck. It was innovative and news worthy in its first instantiation and 
continues to be so. In 1997, it won the UCISA Web Award. 
The course is totally Web delivered: presentation, communication, administration and 
teaching are all carried out on the Web. Students are referred to textbooks and papers, but a 
considerable amount of course content has been designed and produced specially for the Web. 
The course contains outstanding graphics, simulations and interactive teaching modules 
appropriate to the subject. When this course was first launched, it used a MOO for real time 
interaction. It still does. Consultants (experts in the field) are used in addition to tutors to 
engage in discussions and activities with students. As a global postgraduate course, the inputs 
of students form part of the tutoring/teaching of the course. However, each student is also 
assigned to a Birkbeck tutor. 
Assessment is by means of tutor marked assignments and a final written examination. This 
must be taken under proctored conditions for students outside London. The course leads to the 
award of a University of London Advanced Certificate. The cost of the course is as follows: 
Students from the EU pay  312 
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