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