The need for an open university in Bangladesh was felt long ago. The history of distance education in Bangladesh dates back to 1956, when the Education Directorate was assigned with the responsibility for distribution of 200 radio receivers to educational institutions. This led to the creation of an Audio-Visual Cell, which was upgraded to Audio-Visual Education Centre in 1962. No further progress in distance education was made till 1971. After Independence, Bangladesh faced the challenge of meeting the educational needs of mass people. To meet this challenge the necessity for a new mode of education was widely felt. As a sequel to that feeling, the School Broadcasting Pilot Project was launched in 1978. The project was transformed into National Institute of Educational Media and Technology (NIEMT) in 1983. NIEMT was later replaced by the Bangladesh Institute of Distance Education (BIDE) in 1985. Apart from producing audio-visual materials, BIDE offered the Bachelor of Education (BEd) program in distance mode. The success of BIDE encouraged policymakers to take up a major plan for establishing an open university. The plan became a reality in October 1992 when the Bangladesh Open University Act 1992 was passed in the Parliament.
Bangladesh Open University runs its programmes ranging from certificate to tertiary level through open and distance learning (ODL) mode where self-learning materials (SLMs), radio-TV broadcasts (RTBs) and face-to-face (f2f) tutorials.