The FernUniversität Hagen in Germany is a distance learning and research university in the public sector. It was established in 1974 to reduce pressure on traditional universities from the ‘baby boomer’ generation. Hagen was chosen for the site, as it was badly affected by unemployment caused by the decline of the steel industry.
Flexible location as well as study time make the courses appealing to self-motivated students who can learn from home or in study centres. Compared with traditional teaching methods, distance learning is more depersonalised and is focused on the syllabus rather than the teacher. However, although it provides less opportunity for personal exchange, digital communication systems now enable interaction both with staff and other students.
Online tools and methods have proven to be successful: the university has been positively evaluated over the years, and the FernUniversität’s range has become important in the education sector. Hagen has the highest number of students in the country, and the FernUniversität is now the largest employer in Hagen.