SI521 "Open Educational Resources at the University of Michigan" Open Textbook/Open Learning

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Abstract[edit | edit source]

Open Learning, is an alternative way of learning that refers to students working within a collaborative environment where they are self-guided, and interest-driven. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Open Learning is defined as, “Instructional systems in which many facets of the learning process are under the control of the learner. It attempts to deliver learning opportunities where, when, and how the learner needs them.” The instructor or teacher takes on the role of a coach or guide during the student’s learning experience. Open Learning suggests a way not only for students to become more active in their learning, but also for educators to become more reflective in their pedagogy.

With the increase of the integration of technology and resources and services from the Internet into the classroom and into the students’ learning experiences, open education is spanning far beyond the walls of the school. The is a growing number of Open Educational Resources (OER) available online. OER is defined as educational materials and resources offered freely and openly for anyone to use and under some licenses to re-mix, improve and redistribute. Open educational resources include: ▪ Learning content: full courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections, and journals. ▪ Tools: Software to support the creation, delivery, use and improvement of open learning content including searching and organization of content, content and learning management systems, content development tools, and on-line learning communities. ▪ Implementation resources: Intellectual property licenses to promote open publishing of materials, design-principles, and localization of content. [1]

Today, through the use of Open Educational Resources (OER), educators and learners alike can structure student-centered authentic learning experiences around these open materials. The increasing availability of OER could foster collaboration among teachers, students, and learning communities beyond their classroom.

This chapter will look at the umbrella topic of Open Education, and consider how Open Learning and Open Educational Resources together can foster the transfer of teaching methodologies as well as knowledge and ideas over the Internet.

Introduction to Open Learning[edit | edit source]

Open Learning vs. Open Education[edit | edit source]

Over the decades, Open Education has taken on many different meanings, but still holds as an over-arching term that refers to the free transfer of teaching methodologies, ideas or information used for student-centered educational purposes but now includes the Internetand other new technological advances.

Within the topic of Open Education, Open Learning presents itself as a teaching methodology where the pupils are “self-determined, independent and interest-guided learners.” However, it also encompasses the idea that educators themselves are learners. Open Educational Resources (OER) provide materials and resources that can aid in the progress of Open Learning by sharing these resources freely via the Internet for educators, learners, and anyone who wants to utilize them. As OER become increasingly available, learning interactions are more easily built around these objects and resources. OER can serve as building blocks upon which instructional experiences are built in the non-traditional online “classroom.” This allows educators and learners to take on somewhat different roles from the traditional classroom where the learners are coached or guided through learning experiences by educators, and increasingly, other learners. These web adaptations of the teaching methodology of Open Learning supports the original objectives and creates new Open Educational opportunities that extends the classroom and experiences for the students.

In the book Opening Up Education [1], Clifford Lynch suggests, “A difficult and subtle distinction between learning and education is actually central to questions about open education and to understanding why the treasure troves of material on the Internet do not “solve” the open education problem.” Lynch, the long-time director of the Coalition for Networked Information and adjunct professor at Berkeley’s School of Information, explains that a learning opportunity in and of itself is not enough. To achieve the higher goals of Open Education (which, Lynch claims, take into account such ideas as interaction, adaptation, evaluation, and personalization of a classroom environment), educational opportunities must be present for the learner.

What makes Open Learning so different from “Open Education”? Both Open Learning and Open Education share the common goal of collaborative learning in a student-centered real world project. But Open Learning environments incorporate OER materials and the learners are engaging in collaborative learning experiences around the OER content objects, or materials. In this way, learners interact not only with the OER, but also with each other. The goals of many Open Learning initiatives are to create authentic, dynamic, and interactive instructional opportunities for learners and educators at every level. This can take the form of educators collaborating with educators in a learning environment with peer review or feedback. It could also take place between the knowledgeable educator and the novice learner. Most recently, Open Learning has taken shape as “Learning 2.0” with the advent of Web 2.0, as discussed later in this chapter.

Arguments for Open Learning[edit | edit source]

Individualized Learning[edit | edit source]

The “treasure troves” of material that Lynch [1] speaks of could be likened to the large amounts of OER available on the web. Some, if not all, of Open Education’s goals seem likely to be met through Open Learning environments. For example, the goals of “interaction” and “evaluation” could be met through the collaborative environments Open Learning provides. Peer review, and feedback loops could provide increased interaction between educators, which the traditional learning environment does not always foster. Learners interacting with one another, as well as with educators offer scenarios where the classroom environment could be easily personalized over the internet. Web 2.0 fosters collaboration among learners with similar interests and educational backgrounds. Individuals choosing the environments and OER materials that suit their interests instantly personalize these interactions.

Open Learning offers a chance to “personalize” education to fit each learner’s needs. In the traditional classroom this personalized environment was made possible (if at all) by the teacher or professor. It moves away from the “shoot for the middle” or “one size fits all” attitude about education in order to allow individualized education. OER provides a vast array of materials and experiences for teachers to create personalized learning environments that meet both student needs and interests. Additionally, Open Learning potentially provides Open Access to education (see: OpenAccess) for learners all over the world.

The Open Classroom[edit | edit source]

Simply providing the learners with OER materials to view, edit, reuse, or contribute to and expecting this alone will create an Open Learning experience is not likely. It is true that some self-guided learners may effectively seek out other learners and begin to build an Open Learning environment on their ow. In other words, creating a learning environment (likely virtual, at least in part) where learners, and educators collaborate around OER and other materials in learning “experiences”, rather than simply engagement with the OER.

Historically, many initial OCW sites such as MIT produced much OER that served as a starting point for learner engagement with material. However, the next step that Open Learning seeks to take is realizing that publishing content openly on the internet has not created the learning experiences that would mimic some, or potentially most, of the learning experiences in the classroom. but increasingly, educators like Tony Wagner and Clifford Lynch [1] are recognizing the value of creating an “open” or “21st century” classroom.

If we think of Open Learning as a continuum, we can begin to build various scenarios involving types of learners, types and uses of OER, and technology interacting along it. On one end of the continuum would be the open classroom with a mentor or teacher as guide, and on the other end, an unstructured, social environment where learning may or may not take place. Thus, in an open classroom, Open Learning would be centered around a “learner” and a “teacher” of sorts, where the teacher or mentor guides the interest-driven learner into learning experiences involving technology-based OER materials and experiences. Although groups have been dabbling with the idea of an “Open High School” [2] or “Open University”, most of these efforts have not been successful in replicating the teacher or mentor experience in an authentic way. That is, the face-to-face interactions between teacher/educator and learner/student.

More successful have been the “midway” attempts at opening up the classroom. Carnegie Mellon’s OLI has automated the teacher-learner interaction. A computer program analyzes an incorrect student response, and like a teacher would do, responds with the next possible learning path, or materials for re-teaching. Though this is a step toward authenticity of the virtual learning environment, there are obvious limitations by automating responses to learners.

Some of the more informal learning that has taken place via Web 2.0 has laid groundwork for the opposite end of the Open Learning continuum where Wenger’s Social Learning dominates. Web 2.0 applications such as blogs and wikis have given small niche communities a voice on the Internet that can be searched and connected with by interest-guided learners. As described later in this chapter, a case could be made for Open Learning taking place in these self-regulated social environments, or “classrooms” of the 21st century.

Open Learning Initiatives[edit | edit source]

Beyond Open Content[edit | edit source]

Open Learning Initiatives go beyond open content initiatives such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare to include tools which allow for interaction and feedback. It is becoming quite clear as colleges and universities add interactive features to their Open Educational Resources that Open Learning is much more than simply making lectures and syllabi freely available. In The Tower and the Cloud[3], Andy Lane describes these basic OER/OCW resources as, “OER 1.0.” It is important to recognize that Open Learning initiatives are not simply an open content initiative (although many times based off of models such as that of MIT), or even only an e-learning program. Rather, Open Learning environments go beyond offering course materials and provide the tools to create and foster dynamic instruction [3].

Carnegie Mellon[edit | edit source]

The Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University began with the idea that, “Using intelligent tutoring systems, virtual laboratories, simulations, and frequent opportunities for assessment and feedback, OLI builds courses that are intended to enact instruction – or, more precisely, to enact the kind of dynamic, flexible, and responsive instruction that fosters learning[2]. [2] The OLI at Carnegie Mellon seeks to bridge some of the gaps between the traditional classroom environment and an open, internet-based learning environment. For example, the “dynamic, flexible and responsive instruction” addresses the challenges of individualizing instruction in a non-traditional learning environment. Where the teacher would typically respond to the learner in the classroom as they are learning, the OLI responds in real time. Along with this idea, the component of feedback is addressed by OLI’s attempt to enact responsive instruction within the learning environment for both students and instructors. Through a series of “feedback loops” they, “…refer to corrections, suggestions and cues that are tailored to the individual’s current performance and that encourage revision and refinement.” This individualization and responsiveness to learning contributes to a more authentic learning environment, rather than learning activities in isolation.

Carnegie Mellon’s OLI can be seen as somewhat of a “halfway point” between a completely open classroom and a freely, unguided social learning environment. However, the limitations of OLI lie in the structure of the OLI computerized instructor system. By predetermining likely student responses, the OLI analyzes student’s incorrect responses, and advises toward next steps in their learning paths. Unlike face-to-face encounters where students are able to ask questions to a teacher who would respond with a unique answer, the computerized OLI lacks these individualized interactions, which are at the heart of true Open Learning.

Open Learning Communities[edit | edit source]

Open Learning communities often offer feedback to those in the learning community. Both educators and students work together in a collaborative environment, rather than simply reaping the benefits of OER resources. Open Learning initiatives are alike in that they place the content as the “mediating object” between teacher and learner, and attempt to aid in the interactions between these two. They become environments where the learner is considered within the OER resources, especially the inexperienced learner.

For example, the OpenLearn initiative at UK University builds off of the MIT model [3] of offering a collection of free course material. It is also similar to the OLI at Carnegie Mellon as it attempts to offer tools to, “support collaborative learning environments.” OpenLearn offers two parts of their community: the LearningSpace, which offers the Open Educational Resources (OER) themselves, and the LabSpace, where students and educators can use and re-use the content.

Approaches to Open Learning[edit | edit source]

Educator to Student Open Learning[edit | edit source]

Open Learning & the Traditional Classroom[edit | edit source]

John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler describe the difficulties with traditional methods of engaging students in learning[2]. They suggest, “Nor is it likely that the current methods of teaching and learning will suffice to prepare students for the lives that they will lead in the twenty-first century.” Brown and Adler recognize the challenges twenty-first century learners will face, and address the idea that these students will need a variety of new skills. Tony Wagner affirms this idea in his book The Global Achievement Gap when he describes the needs of the twenty-first century learner: “Effective communication, curiosity, and critical-thinking skills, as we will see, are much more than just the traditional desirable outcomes of a liberal arts education. They are essential competencies and habits of mind for life in the twenty-first century.” Wagner continues that, “…our schools were never designed to teach students how to think [3]." These "competencies and habits of mind" may not be easily described, but both Brown and Wagner are encouraged by the prospects of Open Learning and what it offers in terms of modifying traditional classroom practices.

Open Education models such as that of Maria Montessori’s schools, and the “Free Schools” of the 1960’s and 70’s appeared to promote self-directed and self-guided learning, with the teacher seen as “director” or “guide.” However, critics have suggested that students were still not prepared with the focused skills needed for the ever-changing workplace.

These ideas indicate that traditional schools are seen as lacking in their current methodology of teaching and learning. Speaking mainly of higher education, Brown and Adler [2] describe traditional schools as following a Cartesian model of learning where “knowledge is substance”, and “pedagogy is knowledge transfer.” At one point, Brown describes to Wagner the educators in Singapore; “Their new mantra is teach less, learn more,” and “Schools need to focus more on projects and the inquiry method. They need to engage students with passion.” The new pedagogy of Open Learning could foster these inquiry-oriented experiences through OER available to students of the twenty-first century. No longer does the student need to rely on the traditional instructional methods where the teacher transfers knowledge to the student. But now the student could engage in learning engage in learning activities that foster a more authentic learning experience and mirrors experiences that occur in the real world, with or without a mentor/teacher, driven by interest and curiosity.

Educator to Educator Open Learning[edit | edit source]

Professional Learning Communities & Communities of Practice[edit | edit source]

  • Overview

They have been called “professional learning communities” in K-12 education, “communities of practice” by higher education, and “learning organizations” in the business world. However, all of these learning communities revolve around the idea that educators will perfect and improve their teaching based upon collaboration with others. At the center of all learning communities is the goal of improving student learning. No longer are the students the only learners, but many schools and institutions of higher education are taking on the principles of a learning community where feedback and peer review are valued, and the “closed door” policies of traditional classrooms and lecture halls are a thing of the past.

  • Opening Up the Classroom

Open Learning coincides with the learning community concept via virtual interactions with peers or other educators. Lynch describes the new “cyberinfrastructure” where learning and research blend and become networked. Lynch poses the idea of content analysis-oriented learning communities which would focus on various Open Educational Resources.

Opportunities for a “window” into the classrooms of today can provide educators with an honest look at their own teaching, and the teaching of others. Thus, this idea fits easily with the concept of a reflective practicum as described above. Educators are not reflecting upon their teaching in isolation, rather, collaborating to improve pedagogy and primarily, student learning.

At the postsecondary level, this might take the form of an open research community with peer review (see below). Open Learning coincides with the learning community concept via virtual interactions with peers or other educators. Lynch [1]describes the new “Cyberinfrastructure” where learning and research blend and become networked. Lynch poses the idea of content analysis-oriented learning communities which would focus on various Open Education Resources.

  • Peer Review

Additionally, Open Learning connects with the ideas of peer review quite naturally. Many Open Learning initiatives have adopted the idea of a community of practice, and built their projects around peer review. Even early initiatives, such as that of MIT [4], acknowledge that, “Down the road, we envision a more organized effort to facilitate two-way interaction among suppliers and consumers of OCW materials, eventually leading to an ‘ecology of knowledge’ in the educational context.”

In K-12 education, “peer review” might take the form of a “learning walk” through another teacher’s classroom, or a video taped lesson that other teachers view and critique. Although these are not completely reliable, they do give educators a sense of what types of practices their peers are engaging in. This model of observation and reflection has led to efforts to form communities of practice in K-12 education.

Building a Reflective Practicum[edit | edit source]

Although Open Learning considers the relationship between student and teacher, it also considers the relationships between educators and improvement of pedagogy. One aspect of Open Learning between educators is the idea of building a “reflective practicum.” A reflective practicum includes consideration of the effectiveness of lessons and teaching styles on individual students. In terms of Open Education, this reflective practicum would be built as a community where peer evaluation was considered necessary for success.

Student to Student Open Learning[edit | edit source]

John Seely Brown & Richard P. Adler: Learning 2.0[edit | edit source]

Within these Web 2.0 constructs, many educators are pointing to the value of conversation and talk over the Internet between students in meaningful ways.

Students are now, more than ever, learning not only from educators and teachers, but from each other. With the advent of Web 2.0: blogs, wikis, social networking sites, and other ways to freely connect with others, students are naturally sharing more information over the Internet than ever before. have described situated learning as learning within social contexts. This new “Social Learning” as John Seeley Brown contends, allow students to interact with each other over the Internet, and share information quickly, and efficiently. He slightly alters Wenger & Lave’s definition of Social Learning by saying, “…based on the premise that our understanding of content is socially constructed through conversations about that content and through grounded interactions, especially with others, around problems or actions. The focus is not so much on what we are learning, but how we are learning.” Human interaction is a key component of Social Learning, but it appears that this interaction does not have to be a physical interaction, but rather it can exist in a virtual community. The second component of Social Learning is a form of apprenticeship in the field of study. Traditionally this would include observing and learning about a subject matter and then attempting the same observed skills with the expert watching. Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger describe this process as “legitimate peripheral participation” meaning that newcomers can observe from the outskirts of the learning community prior to becoming a full participant. In this way, students (or self-learners) can watch other students, and emulate their work. Students are not only observing each other, but can demonstrate their ability to each other, and move closer to becoming a full member of a community. Students are thus taking on various roles, at times teacher, mentor, and student during the learning process.

Another byproduct of Web 2.0 is the new focus on “talk” and the value of talk within Social Learning environments. David Wiley at Utah University required students to share their coursework publicly. After a few weeks of mediocre posts by his students, he then encouraged them to read each other’s writing, and comment. What Wiley considered the “power of peer review” pushed students and incentivized them to be more thoughtful writers and critics on their class blog. It appears that having an authentic audience may have been a driving factor as well, when outsiders began to subscribe, read, and comment on the student blogs as well.

Heidi Elmendorf and John Ottenhoff’s article: The Importance of Conversation in Learning, and the Value of Web-based Discussion Tools [3] adds to the contention that talk amongst students (particularly in higher education/scholarly situations) is valuable. For example, Elmendorf and Ottenhoff explain, “Intellectual communities are the foundation of scholarly disciplines, and these communities are shaped by the intellectual discourse of that discipline: the vigorous, argumentative, evidentiary, passionate, and ultimately constructive, conversations that fuel our work.” Through their work in higher education, Elmendorf and Ottenhoff see the value of scholarly discourse growing between students through the use of Web 2.0 components.

Future of Open Learning[edit | edit source]

Advantages of Open Learning[edit | edit source]

Open Learning poses many advantages when compared with traditional models of teaching and learning. It builds on the foundations of traditional learning environments where learning is the central focus, and collaboration among educators is a valuable tenant of the process. Now more than ever, OER materials are available in large quantities on the Internet, giving Open Learning a strong outlook.

Web 2.0 serves as a starting point for educators and learners who want to engage in communities of practice that will inform their teaching and learning. With more OER appearing every day, these content objects form a centerpiece for which educators and learners can engage within an internet-based learning community.

A clear advantage of open learning is the open, adaptable, diverse, and complex nature of the system [6]. These “ecologies of learning” as Brown describes, offer a diverse range of niche communities where learners can focus on their areas of interest, and be self-guided in their approaches. Many Open Learning initiatives are partially or completely self-organizing, which allows them to constantly evolve and change. Peripheral participation is an advantage of these learning communities where the idea that a learner will work their way up to an expert level understanding of the content is built in.

Challenges of Open Learning[edit | edit source]

It is clear that students are utilizing social networking devices and informal forums to communicate, but Elmendorf and Ottenhoff describe these conversations over the web as “degenerating” into “meaningless chat” rather than true scholarly discourse. Often they find that students are eager to speak more often than listen, and herein lies one of the challenges of utilizing the potential of Web 2.0 for student to student Open Learning.

“The major limitation for learning activities that a teacher embeds within educational resources is that any feedback to the responses that learners make to an activity has to be either predetermined or left to the learners to judge for themselves.” This is in contrast to a traditional face-to-face learning experience where the teacher is able to respond to the individual learner. In computer-based systems, the outcomes have been predetermined, and do not leave room for negotiation.

For the learner, challenges also remain. For example, some OCW and OER materials are not coherently organized. This makes access to materials abundant, but not structured. Aside from a lack of coherence among individual sites containing OER, sites with similar or related content are not always linked, or easily comparable.

Despite these challenges, that advantages offered by Open Learning communities cannot be denied. With further development and participation, Open Learning can become the next step in providing education for everyone equally.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c Iiyoshi,Toru & Kumar, M.S. Vijay. Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge. MIT Press, September, 2008.
  2. a b Brown, John Seely. Minds On Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0. EduCause: February, 2008.
  3. Wagner, Tony. The Global Achievement Gap. Basic Books, New York, NY. 2008

References[edit | edit source]

  • Brown, John Seely. Minds On Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0. EduCause: January/February, 2008.
  • Brown, John Seely. Growing up Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education, and the Way People Learn. Change. March/April, 2000.
  • Iiyoshi,Toru & Kumar, M.S. Vijay. Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge. MIT Press, September, 2008.
  • Katz, Richard N. The Tower & the Cloud: Higher Education in the Age of Cloud Computing. Courant, Paul N. Scholarship: The Wave of the Future in the Digital Age pgs. 202-208.
  • Vescio, Vicki; Ross, Doreen & Adams, Alyson. A review of research on the impact of professional learning

communities on teaching practice and student learning. Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 80–91.

  • Wagner, Tony. The Global Achievement Gap. Basic Books, New York, NY. 2008.
  • Wenger, Etienne, & Lave, Jean. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge University Press, 1991.

"Open educational resources." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 09 Apr 2010. Web. 11 Apr 2010. <>.

  • Yuan, Li; MacNeill, Shiela; & Kraan, Wilbert. Open Educational Resources: Opportunities and Challenges for Higher Education.

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]