Open Education Handbook/Practising open learning

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The Cape Town Open Education Declaration (with over 2,500 signatories) reads: "open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues. It may also grow to include new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning".

Open learning is a term used to describe activities that either enhance learning opportunities within formal education systems or broaden learning opportunities beyond formal education systems. It often uses open education elements - such as open educational resources - but because it often takes place in a formal education infrastructure it is not always open in the way open education is.

Traditional pedagogy is based on the idea that a teacher transfers their knowledge to their students. The traditional form of teaching at a school also derives from the traditional way of knowledge storing in books and book storing in libraries. Schools and libraries have for the longest time been essential for teaching, and the easiest way was to get everyone together physically to be close to that knowledge. Teachers had to mediate between the books and the learners, i.e. they had to transfer the knowledge from the books to the learners. The situation has changed with the introduction of the Internet and the wider distribution of knowledge. Access to knowledge is (theoretically) given everywhere in the world with Internet access. At the same time, the amount of accessible knowledge has increased significantly. The challenge now is not to appropriately transfer the knowledge, but to teach learners how to appropriately extract the knowledge that they need independently. Teaching and learning is evolving from fact learning to competence development, where competence is the combination of knowledge and motivation for application.

Since the late 1970s the idea of open learning has developed. Open learning and practice (so called open pedagogy), see the blurring or removal of traditional roles such as teacher, student and educator and moves towards mentor and learner. These new approaches to learning where people create and shape knowledge openly together promotes practices and policies that advance the vision of removing barriers to learning.

Reconceived in this way, the boundary between learner and teacher can become blurred. Often in informal learning the result is individuals and groups who share personal and professional practice online through participatory blogs and online community networks.

Open learning and practice is still being shaped but there are a variety of approaches that provide interesting opportunities for more open processes.

Traditional classroom style
  • Teacher in front of class, ex-cathedra.
  • Uni-directional knowledge transfer.
  • Single holder of knowledge (person), students are mere recipients.
  • Examples: State schools, state universities.
Autonomous learning
  • DIY-style.
  • Self-driven appropriation of knowledge from a medium instead of a person.
  • Examples: Books.
Feedback system
  • Feedback in exercises.
  • Examples: MOOCs.
Collaborative learning
  • Knowledge is exchanged between equals. Teamwork.
  • Self-reinforcing system which facilitates creativity and sharing.
  • Examples: Forums (eg. MOOC discussion boards)
Workshops
  • Less strict hierarchy; mentors/coaches/moderators. Learners are encouraged to share acquired knowledge.
  • Talk about sharing of results, eg. showing works of arts or sharing results.
  • Examples: OpenTechSchool.
Expert groups
  • Individuals are assigned niche areas where they have to become an expert, only to share (teach) their acquired knowledge with others.
Peer-to-peer
  • Bi-directional.
  • Examples: P2PU.

Variations in these elements of educational systems have given rise to new forms of pedagogy. The Open University Innovating Pedagogy 2013 report suggests a number of different new and open ways of learning, including:

  • Learning analytics
  • Seamless learning
  • Crowd learning
  • Digital scholarship
  • geolearning
  • Learning from gaming
  • Maker Culture
  • Citizen inquiry

The biggest challenges associated with open learning are:

  • Culture change
  • Social change
  • Institutional ambition and evolution
  • Fostering mutual understanding between stakeholders
  • Open accreditation
  • Relevance

Further resources[edit]