Open education

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Not to be confused with Open educational resources.

Open education is a collective term[1] to describe institutional practices and programmatic initiatives that broaden access to the learning and training traditionally offered through formal education systems. The qualifier "open" of open education refers to the elimination of barriers that can preclude both opportunities and recognition for participation in institution-based learning. One aspect of openness in or "opening up" education is the development and adoption of open educational resources.

Institutional practices that seek to eliminate barriers to entry, for example, would not have academic admission requirements. Such universities include The Open University in Britain and Athabasca University in Canada. Such programs are commonly distance learning programs like e-learning, mooc and opencourseware, but not necessarily. Where many e-learning programs are free to follow, the costs of acquiring a certification may be a barrier, many open education institutes offer free certification schemes accredited by organisations like UKAS in the UK and ANAB in the USA where others offer a badge.

Open education and flexible learning


Even before the computer was developed, researchers at public universities were working at educating citizens through informal education programs. In the early 1900s, 4-H clubs were formed which taught youth the latest in technological advances in agriculture and home economics. The success that the youth had in utilizing 'new' methods of farming and home economics, caused their parents to adopt the same practices. As the 4-H club idea was spreading across the country, Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act which created the Cooperative Extension Service in the United States Department of Agriculture. The Cooperative Extension Service is a partnership between the USDA, land grant universities in each state, and counties throughout the United States. Through the work of the Cooperative Extension Services and 4-H, people throughout the United States have easy and inexpensive (most often free) access to the latest research done at the land-grant universities without having to visit a college campus or attend college courses. The educational programs and resources offered by 4-H and the Cooperative Extension Service meet people where they are at and offer them the opportunity to learn what they want to know when they want to know it. In order to meet the changing needs of citizens and the use of new technology, the Cooperative Extension Service has created eXtension. eXtension provides research based, non-biased information on a wide variety of topics to people through the use of the internet.

The ability to share resources on the web at little cost compared to the distribution of hard copy means that it can be used to facilitate Open Education. An early example of this is the opencourseware program, which was established in 2002 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which was followed by more than 200 Universities and organizations. Similar to the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities from the Open Access movement, are the goals and intentions from Open Education specified in the Cape Town Open Education Declaration. MOOC is a more recent form of online course development getting more attention since the fall of 2011 which was followed by a number of non-certificate-granting programs, including edX, Coursera and Udacity. [2]

Learning philosophies[edit]

Main article: Open learning
Open education and flexible learning

Open education is motivated by a belief that learners desire to exercise agency in their studies. Specifically, people engaged in the learning process want: to conduct inquiries about potential topics of study; to have a hands-on educational experience instead of a strictly textbook-focused education; to take responsibility for their educational decisions; to experience the emotional and physical side of education; to understand how education and community are related; and, to have personal choice in the focus of their classroom studies.[2]

These learners do a great deal for one another in promoting learning. Learning in a group environment or contributing to a group is beneficial to the learner. Collaborative group work has substantial benefits, such as increased participation by all of the group members, better understanding and retention of material, mastery of skills essential to success, and increased enthusiasm that can spur the participant on to independent learning. The philosophy of an open education centers on student learning and sees the teacher become the learning assistant. Teachers are to observe, guide, and provide materials for the learners. The teachers should facilitate not dominate the learning process. Open education is optimistic in the belief that the freedom of choice and student direction will promote a better quality of learning.[3]

The basis for the learning philosophies of open education can be traced back to the work of educational reformer John Dewey and developmental psychologist Jean Piaget.

Technology utilized[edit]

Available technologies for Open Education are important in the overall efficiency of the program. After available technologies have been found, there needs to be appropriate applications on the technologies for the specific online education program.

Since Open Education is usually a different time and different place for most individuals across the world, certain technologies need to be utilized to enhance the program. Technologies that can be used are primarily online and serve a variety of purposes. Web Pages and other computer based trainings may be used to provide lecture notes, assessments, and other course materials. Videos are provided and feature speakers, class events, topic discussions, and faculty interviews. YouTube and iTunesU are often used for this purpose. Students may interact through computer conferencing with Skype or Google+, e-mail, online study groups, or annotations on social bookmarking sites. Other course content may be provided through tapes, print, and CD’s.


There are a number of concerns regarding the implementation of open education systems, specifically for use in developing countries. These include: a potential lack of administrative oversight and quality assurance systems for educators/materials in some programs; infrastructure limitations in developing countries; a lack of equal access to technologies required for students' full participation in online education initiatives; and questions regarding the use of copyrighted materials.

The future[edit]

Open education is considered to be a revolutionary approach to the future of education. This critical evolution of instruction could have the potential to create a global population that has access to rich material and incredible resources worldwide. At this crossroads is the intent to actively address real-life issues while preparing for the ever-changing, complex world of technology. In order for Open Education to be realized it must be publicly supported and publicly good.[4] The fundamental design of Open Education intends to produce a threefold educational experience that combines learning/research, communication and collaboration, and the ability to share findings with a specific population. This transformation will impact the way people learn and the way research is obtained. The openness of education is drawing immediate attention as it will act as a necessary catalyst for social development and as an agent of change. The future of Open Education redirects the flow of education from experts to students to reflect the intrinsic motivation of the student in their learning process. Advocates of Open Education are contemplating how their learning experience should look like and then act in an individualized manner to construct a personalized educational experience. The ‘original’ Open University in the UK was founded on four key principles: being Open to People, Open to Places, Open to Methods and Open to Ideas. As the movement has grown, so have the ideals behind it. Empire State College even has an ‘open curriculum’ allowing students to design their own degree course.

With the realization of 'open curriculum,' the classic idea that people will move to a place of learning, dedicate a fixed amount of time to learning, and come out with a specialized qualification shaped by local expertise is certainly no longer the only option. Tremendous growth in universities marks the late 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, while at the same time Internet connections have facilitated a move toward distance learning. Even more significant changes are happening in the world of information, however. Internet systems are causing us to question the value of personal knowledge and to establish new measures of shared and self-published information that has not been judged by conventional academic systems.

Predictions on the relatively new subject of Open Education are proportionately unknown; especially being the future of this design is strongly influenced by student demand as well as contributions by intrinsically motivated organizations, universities, and learners. A three-year project funded by the Technology Enhanced Learning Program on Personal Inquiry: Designing for Evidence-Based Inquiry Learning across Formal and Informal Settings (PI), jointly conducted by Open University and the University of Nottingham, examined the way the classroom environment is integrating technology, blurring the distinction between formal lessons, and supplementing instruction with more informal leisure time activities.[5] The focus is on how to help students learn the skills of evidence-based inquiry supported by technology across formal and informal settings. Technology, and mobile technology in particular, offers interesting ways of supporting the transitions made by learners across settings, for example between classrooms and after-school clubs, or between in-school working and working in the field.

As Open Education continues to grow, open and free technology tools will be a critical component. Studio work and virtual work will become the dominating portion of curriculum instruction.[6] MIT, a leading University that has been working with Open Education, OpenCourseWare, for over 10 years is planning to focus in the upcoming years on four major areas: Sharing OpenCourseWare everywhere, which entails making the course work easy to find, adapting the material to various distribution methods and new approaches to reaching under-served populations; Serving Key Audiences specifically high school students and independent learners; Creating Open Learning Communities where learners can collaborate on similar topics; Empowering Educators Worldwide.[7]

Open Education students have a wide availability to tremendous resources and their content should reflect this vast availability to knowledge. The primary target for Open Education Students is for them to be curators of knowledge; similar to a museum curator seeking the appropriate resources to produce their desired result. Open approaches are rather different, as content can come from many sources; the main opportunity may lie not in being a producer of content but rather in being an effective user and supporter of learners using such content. Once a significant amount of material is available, then skills in bringing together good patterns or designs for learning and connecting them with assessment and accreditation will be extremely valuable.[8]

As Open Education continues to spread, a number of issues need to be addressed, including perennial copy-right concerns. Publishers, who have been able to monopolize to some extent the production of educational materials, are increasingly up-in-arms, as governments cut costs through Open Educational Resources. Simultaneously, as Open Educational Resources spread, it is increasingly difficult to monitor quality, particularly if adapted when delivered. With regard to secondary education, younger people may require more contact hours than for which open education may provide. [9]

There is no easy answer as to how Open Education will operate in this new world, though it seems unlikely that a face-to-face fixed location model can respond as effectively as other models. Especially since there is a chance for start-ups and expanding education in the developing world to jump a generation and build more efficient and useful ways to support those for whom lifelong learning will be a necessity. The expanding model of Open Education has done one thing without equivocation; it has caused a debate to emerge to rethink the future of education.

  • Closed vs Open Education

The New York Times has decided to charge readers for accessing their information on-line, no longer making it an “open education” site. When users visit the New York Times site, they are greeted with a window that asks them to pay for a subscription to the information. The Times felt as though they would make more money charging for their on-line newspaper, estimating that 1.2 million people would access the on-line site. One in four people actually paid for the subscription and those that receive the hard copy newspaper were also granted on-line access with their paid subscription. This ends up being only about 165,000 on-line readers, compared to the 1.2 million the site was planning to generate. What does this mean for open education? Open education sites are more likely to receive on-line traffic as there are vast amounts of quality information that people are able to access for free, thus open education. Open education sites are able to sustain themselves with advertising due to the large amounts of traffic these free websites filled with information generate.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Open education for a global economy
  2. ^ a b "Open Education - The Classroom, Philosophical Underpinnings, English Beginnings, The American Experience, Controversies Questions and Criticisms". 
  3. ^ "Cooperative Learning: Students Working in Small Groups". 
  4. ^ Open Education: Precursors - WikiEducator
  5. ^ Scanlon, Eileen; Gráinne Conole; Karen Littleton; Cindy Kerawalla; Mark Gaved; Alison Twiner; Trevor Collins; Paul Mulholland (13–17 April 2009). "Personal Inquiry (PI): Innovations in Participatory Design and Models for Inquiry Learning". American Educational Research Association. 
  6. ^ Envisioning the future of education — Envisioning
  7. ^ 10th Anniversary of Opencourseware
  8. ^ Dimitriadis, Yannis; Patrick McAndrew; Gráinne Conole; Elpida Makriyannis (December 6–9). "New Design Approaches to Re-purposing Open Educational Resources for Collaborative Learning Using Mediating Artefacts". Proceedings of Ascilite. Auckland, New Zealand. pp. 200–207. 
  9. ^ Article from John Daniel
  10. ^ Editorial on the advertisement to keep content free