One main take home message from Topic 2: Open education is that open and closed should be seen as ends on a continuum rather than two fixed categories (we discussed this with Creelman and Oddone during the webinar). If continuing that line of reasoning, it becomes interesting to reflect upon how you position yourself on this scale and why. This blog post will deal with these issues.

The word closed could perhaps have different connotations, but from my cultural context it often suffers with negative connotations. For instance, when listening to Wiley (2010), he states that course management systems have become a “technology used against its own potential made to conceal and withhold”, implying that open is better for several reasons. Risking being perceived as reactionary, I would like to linger a while regarding closedness. Is it just a matter of concealing and withholding in the name of screaming “mine”, or could there be sound pedagogical reasoning behind such a stance on the open-closed continuum?

My colleague have lately began to use the concept training arena when we discuss teaching and learning designs (thank you for giving permission to refer to your thoughts Gedda). In order to get away from the negative connotations of closed I am in this blog post trying to think of the continuum as a gliding space between (closed) training arenas– and (open) public scenes.

For a PhD student the training arena could be the seminar room, where article manuscripts are dissected and discussed in great detail. The scene could be seen as the journal where the manuscript are published and the conversation with the reviewers as well. To practice a conference presentation at your home institution as part of competence development for colleagues could be seen as a training arena for the PhD student. Carrying through the presentation at a conference could be seen as an example of a public scene. Another example is a university pedagogy course versus teaching in the classroom. For students’ their time at their university could be seen as a training arena and later the working life constitutes the public scene. I think that part of our mission as teachers then becomes to determine when the learning situation calls for more (closed) training arenas and when it calls for more (open) public scenes.

One could ask what the point is in learning on a training arena instead of an open scene. Well, to learn is to practice and the result of practising often leads to failure in some aspects. And, as you know, we learn by making mistakes. Usually we are not that proud of making mistakes. To know that you are going to make mistakes could make you feel troubled. Our mission as teachers is then to organise a learning situation that is safe enough for students to feel comfortable enough to try something out – even if that sometimes (most likely) lead to failure. Organising such a learning situation – or a training arena – must perhaps at sometimes be more closed in order to be safe. A closed training arena afford sensitive discussions, a safe climate where you can test not fully developed ideas without losing your face in front of people you may not even meet, or perhaps meet when you are applying for a job. To try out skills and test new knowledge in relation to others could be seen as something scary, and therefore enjoins a safe climate – a training arena rather than a public stage. One of the strengths with a more closed training arena is that it affords the possibility to wipe the mistakes away while keeping the end results – learning outcomes. Perhaps the end results (knowledge, expertise, skills) could be more surfaced by badges (Weller & Anderson, 2013) or showrooms for products?

To summarise: by the end of the day I think it all comes down to the pedagogical rationale again. I think it is up to the teacher to determine if the learning outcomes, the character of the students and the subject matter calls for more of a (safe) (closed) training arena or more of an (open) public scene in order for students to reach the learning goals. Perhaps we could find fruitful ways in combining closed training arenas and public scenes during a programme, based on a pedagogical rationale? I think both training arenas and public scenes are needed in order to prepare students for the labour market and their lifelong learning.


Weller, M. & Anderson, T. (2013). Digital resilience in higher education. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 16, 53.

Wiley, D. (2010). Open education and the future, Short TED-talk by David Wiley.

Public scenes and training arenas – reflections on open and closed technologies for teaching and learning