Topic 2; Open Learning, Sharing and Openness

This topic got me engaged as I had to study newer concepts in depth on licenses resources.  I have never reflected on what openness would mean to me in my teaching and in social engagement. Having gone through topic two, openness can mean the materials being taught and sharing with colleagues. Openness is also about sharing knowledge and in this process, one also gains in knowledge. Openness can also mean the resources used in teaching and in education.  Openness and sharing in education is essential to education; that has always been the case even in traditional settings where the teacher shares what they know with students.  Due to the nature of knowledge, the more given out, shared more, the more one gains.  Openness has now broadened to include tools to use in education.  The ability to give without giving away expertise and the expressions of expertise has made sharing attain unprecedented levels (open education and the future, TED -talk, David Wiley).   

The traditional models of learning which is teacher centered, does not favor open learning because many professors may not know how to integrate open learning practices in their courses. If we want to call our courses truly Open we need to remove all barriers to learning. This is not always possible given that most universities are still traditional to their approach to open learning. Open learning must be scalable but also flexible.   Almost every course curriculum in most Universities have a pre-requisite and  this means if you are not a degree student it is more or less impossible to participate in the course. Therefore, following this criteria,  opening up  courses would  need a redoing of the  whole curriculum. 

This idea of having the education space opened up is still new in my setting but is gaining ground.  The University bureaucratic systems and ownership of curricula and other education issues gives a challenge to anybody wanting to open up; this would include issues like minimum required grade which is out of the competency of the individual.

Open learning can be facilitated by using open educational resources (OER), like online lectures,  (Bates 2016, chapter 10). Most often, this type of material is designed with potential students in mind, such as for an online course such as this. Other times however, OER can be designed and even co-produced together with people, communities or groups outside of academia.

There are four key areas that have been central to the developments within open education: open access, MOOCs, open education resources and open scholarship, Weller, M. (2014). Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press.
These are direct benefits for the University in the 21st Century.  There are also many benefits to be gained by open learning such as international visibility; new collaborations with other academics and non-academics.  MOOCs for example have expanded rapidly in the last few years because of the need, flexibility, scalability and accessibility.  There are also risks in open learning which can be hidden.  These may include course materials developed by non-tenured staff and useful for career progression.  If opened, they may lose the opportunity for upward mobility.

Getting digital content legally using Creative Commons (Creative Commons. Org) in its variants has opened learning without having to go through the rigours of copyright issues.   The video session on this topic was clear and accessible.

What about closed and open technologies, their advantages and disadvantages?  A closed technology like a Learning Management System guarantees flow of information between students and staff, handling of assignments, statistical analysis of the learning process but on the other hand, these systems come with some financial obligations that may not be affordable in our part of the world.  These always also have a licence attached and an enabling technology support on the ground.

The open web allows for collaborative learning and innovation ( such as the ONL); engaging with students in an environment which they feel comfortable is also easy as most of them are digital residence. Naturally issues of assessment, records, grades can be a problem.  What is proposed is a more blended system of both which gives a more structured environment and seamless interface.

I have done several MOOCs which were engaging but running at my own comfort. I have had to be more disciplined with this course due to the synchronous learning.  Most of the MOOCs are structured in a way that you do the course at your own flexible hours but meeting the course deadline.  ONL has both synchronous and asynchronous learning and this can be challenging sometimes although the opportunity is given to listen the recording of the lesson; its never quite the same. However, the community in the ONL course spurs one to engage and to learn from each other.  One would say, it is blended between the closed and open systems in a way.



One thought on “Topic 2; Open Learning, Sharing and Openness

  1. Thanks Florence. I agree completely – universities and other traditional learning institutions have their own well established rules and regulations which can mean that it is challenging, if not impossible to bring in open practices. Small steps might work, though. I think many of us already do this every time we step away from the text book and develop our own lecture notes or ask students to watch a video or read an open article as part of our strategy to enrich their learning. Once practices like these are commonplace and recognised as open practice, then the powers that be might not see Open Education as such a threat. Funding is a big issue though and it is something that needs to be carefully thought out across different settings so that each institution can work out a model that will suit them and their students.


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