Thursday, 13 February 2014

How would you judge OpenLearn in terms of your definition of innovation?
My personal definition of innovation centres upon the words 'unique', 'applicability' and 'relevance'. Innovation might relate to a thought, an action, an invention or a commodity that is unique, can be applied and is relevant to our world. Innovations exist for better or worse, there is no implicit assumption that an innovation is automatically for the common good. The creation of innovative ideas or inventions can, at times, lag behind public acknowledgment, understanding or recognition.  
The Open Learn website is one of several that offer free structured learning opportunities. MIT opened its doors back in 2002 when it offered 50 courses online (MIT, 2014). Other institutions have developed their own responses to 'open learning'. Consequently, the OU's Open Learn is not so much an innovative site, but a site that has developed and improved upon some aspects of other's good practice. It is a 'work in progress'.

How open did you find OpenLearn?
For me 'open' relates to ease of  access to the site and around the site. There does not appear to be any obvious barriers to accessing the site or moving within the site. It pays heed to the 3 clicks rule and is clean and simple to negotiate. Access to formal support from academic staff seems to be implied  but is not apparent in contrast to the tangible opportunities available for discussion and collaboration with fellow students.

'Open' also relates to the variety of learning opportunities and support available. 

My interests are around 'learning and development' related to business. The options in this area were limited (unlike Wharton and Stanford who publish  their MBA materials as OERs online). There also appears to be some reliance upon collaborative productions with the BBC, which gave the site, at times, the feel of an extended BBC iplayer. Other courses appeared to be tasters rather than entire modules designed to whet the appetite and lead the learner onto a paid course. This felt slightly deceitful. Harvard offers accreditation for those following their own OER, accreditation was not obviously available on the Open Learn site.

I am glad to see that the courses have been updated, the last time I looked at the site most on offer were recently archived out-of-date OU courses.

Open relates to the ease with which collaboration can ensue.

McAndrew identifies 'social learning' as a takeaway from this type of site, perhaps ignoring the possibility that many who are new to this type of learning may be unfamiliar with online forums. The business course that I viewed had no comments at all. "Be the first to comment" can be more terrifying for some than the idea of studying in isolation. 'Opportunities' do not always lead to 'actualization'.

There are obvious limitations to the Open Learn site, none of them insurmountable and providing that the OU can stay solvent, will no doubt improve year on year.

As an aside, learners are also taking responsibility for establishing their own OER based degree equivalents. "Meet the MOOC MBAs" (Pickard, 2014) demonstrates how individuals can create a portfolio of courses, which replicate those of a traditional MBA, through self-directed learning.
McAndrew, P. et al (2010) [Online] Available from: (Accessed 11/02/2013)

MIT (2014) [Online] Available from: (Accessed 10/02/2014)

Pickard, L (2014) Meet the MOOC MBAs [Online] Available from (accessed 12/02/2014)

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