Open learning encompasses and involves a wide variety of educational opportunities, strategies, and models. These include but are not limited to: classroom presentations, instructional methods, interactive approaches to collaborative learning, various formats in professional education, and the social cultures and dynamics of academic learning communities. These have the same goal – open access to learning and educational materials that are developed through the participatory participation of people from diverse educational backgrounds. In fact, the term “open learning” was first used in this context by the U.N. Educational Association (UNEA). This concept was further developed and highlighted at the First International Workshop on Open Education. At this workshop, held in Canada in June 2000, over one hundred participants came together to discuss and conceptualize the idea.
At the workshop, participants were encouraged to contribute to develop new approaches to learning and teaching, new ways of measurement, new methods for assessment, and new ways of implementing learning assessments. The key elements of the concept were then discussed and clarified by the participants. These included: the importance of open educational materials, evaluation of learning across multiple disciplines, assessment-based content and structure, learners’ attitudes towards learning, learners’ ideas and thoughts, teachers’ practices and attitudes, learners’ power, learners’ time, and various forms of technology. After developing and discussing these key elements at this workshop, the group proceeded to develop twelve model policies regarding open learning. These twelve policies represent the key elements of this important concept.
Although the above mentioned ideas represent only some aspects of open learning, they are crucial for any rational discussion about the future of formal education systems. In fact, these issues are relevant in any formal education system, as even students who attend traditional, classroom-based schooling can benefit from the concepts behind open learning. Even if teachers continue to use some techniques and methods that have been found to be useful in traditional classrooms, it is clear that there is room for improvement in many areas. In particular, teachers need to make sure that they are offering an informed, quality education, rather than just regurgitating facts and concepts that have already been studied. When this happens, learners will be more likely to appreciate and gain from it.