What is open learning?
With the increasing costs of a university education and the stringent admission requirements, the popularity of open learning has been slowly increasing over the past few years. Open learning or open education essentially removes the barriers to learning, requiring no prior qualifications and affordability for everyone.
No-one should be denied access to an open educational program and it must be scalable. Access to publicly funded education in state schools is one example of open learning, but so is distance education. With the increasing requirement for highly skilled and qualified workers, further educational options that offer open access, characterised by affordability and scalability are the way of the future.
What is open learning?
Open learning gives students greater control over what they learn, where they learn and how they learn. It provides flexibility, scalability, mobility and value for money. Broadening people’s access to education can be undertaken in a variety of ways, but essentially this type of learning is based on providing open courses, open resources and different methods of teaching.
What are open courses?
One of the most well-known types of open courses are the MOOCs (massive open online courses), which are free, available online and can often have a enrollments of 25,000 students or more. Completion rates of many MOOCs however, can be quite low, sometimes as low as 15%. Rather than considering this a failure of open learning however, it might be better to consider another perspective – that these students may well have reached the level of learning they needed and so simply left the course.
Recognising these low completion rates, some universities now offer shorter and more focused open learning courses, similar to MOOCs. These can be credited towards further studies at the institution and may help to increase completion rates. Today, there are also a variety of short courses offered by online colleges and institutions, other than universities, who offer affordable and accredited studies that help to upskill or retrain workers.
What are open resources?
Open resources provide students with a very affordable way to access all the materials needed to complete their online studies. Many online institutions provide high quality resources, either directly from recognised experts or those that are available via open licensing or already in the public domain. Open learning has replaced the more traditional methods of requiring students to buy expensive textbooks with a plethora of online resources that can be updated or changed to suit the student’s needs, very quickly.
Different methods of teaching
Digital open learning courses use online videos, PDFs and other content materials to educate their students with online assessments in place of written exams. Many of these teaching and assessment methods are clearly different to those used in traditional classroom situations and have proven very successful with students.
In an effort to create more realistic and beneficial assessments, some open learning courses have now begun to include ‘real-world’ projects as a form of assessment. These projects involve creating content that is beneficial to the student’s workplace or to other members of the public, taking the focus away from disposable assessments, towards tangible outcomes that have real-world implications.
Open learning offers a broad range of students an affordable, accessible and attainable avenue for self-learning, giving them the opportunity to upskill, explore new industries or simply to indulge their passion for learning.