This paper notes the move towards resource‐based and distance learning within higher education institutions and briefly describes the Open University's approach to the development of such materials. In this context the need for clear evidence of the educational effectiveness of new technologies to support learning is explored. This is illustrated by reference to a course called ‘E211 Learning Matters’, which is currently being produced at the Open University (OU). A comparison is made of student activity on a ‘traditional’ OU course and E211. This analysis is based on a theoretical model presented to Alt‐C96 by Diana Laurillard This model involves looking at the distribution of student activity in terms of ‘attending’, ‘practising’, ‘discussing’ and ‘articulating’. The outcome of the analysis supports the view that by changing the balance of media used on E211 away from paper and towards new interactive media, the quality of the course will be enhanced. However, the model is limited in that it only explicitly deals with the quantity of use of each media. The paper explores some of the implicit assumptions within the model and illustrates them with reference to E211. It also highlights ways in which changing the balance of media has been found to impact on the underlying view of learning implicit within the course
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