What do you see as the promise of Open Learning as an emerging technology/pedagogy/philosophy?
I struggle with how to connect this idea of open learning that happens whenever a student desires with the more traditional classroom that tends to still be the norm in most American schools. How do you balance the two or is it one way or the other exclusively? John Coffey, in his Guest Editorial for the journal Innovations in Education & Training International, spoke about his 1977 article titled “The Open Learning Movement”. He stated that, “We have to try to persuade administrators and politicians to provide funding for setting up arrangements which will allow learners to study what they want, when they want and in ways that suit their circumstances and skills. Such apparent anarchy is too hard for administrators” (p.195). It definitely seems like a system that many schools would struggle to wrap their heads around. Especially, as Coffey goes on to argue that these schools have prescribed standards that may not necessarily align with what a student may want to learn about.
I also wonder how much students would utilize open learning platforms on their own. It may be that some would, but most may never opt for this type of learning unless directed by a teacher. I agree with “Open Learning in a K-12 Blended and Online Environments”, when it talks about K-12 Massive Online Open Courses being a way to, “Supplement student learning beyond prescribed courses and curriculum and to provide student exposure to diverse and cultural or international perspectives” (Graham p.11). We use some open learning at my school now, such as Khan Academy, Moodle, and STEM, but I don’t think most of the students would be driven to use them without teacher suggestion. Maybe these systems are best used to enhance our practice, not replace it.
One thing that I found interesting in Zawacki-Richter’s work is the idea that learning within distance or open systems isn’t completely independent or individual. The author states, “Thus, learning is seen as a social process that is facilitated by interaction among learners and teachers. The provision of opportunities for interaction, communication, and collaboration between students and their teachers as well as among students, via electronic media, is seen as a constituent of distance education” (p.8). I am speculating, but I wonder if the failure of many students to finish MOOC classes is somehow tied to a lack of meaningful social connections within the learning environment. Having never actually experienced these classes, I do not know. They do seem like a wonderful way for internally motivated students to learn; however, for other students the open learning platform may not have the necessary structure for them to be successful. Is this because these students have been in a traditional system and are not ready for the internal motivation and organization needed to be successful in such a learning environment? If the K-12 system were to change and include more open learning, would these students then be ready to participate in open learning on their own as adults? I do not know the answer to these questions, but find them thought provoking.
Coffey, J. (2006). The open learning movement. Innovations in Education & Training International, 25 (3), 195-196.
Graham, L. (2014). Open learning in a K-12 blended and online. Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning Environments, 415-445.
Zawacki-Richter, O., Alturki, U., & Aldraiweeh, A. (2017). Review and content analysis of the International Review of Research Open and Distance/Distributed Learning (2000-2015). International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(2), 1-25.