It was perhaps extremely fitting that Topic 2 coincided with the busiest time of the year for me: exam period (during which time both of my kids helpfully decided to contract chicken pox). It was a situation that allowed to reflect on some of the key benefits and detriments of open learning.

If we consider the broader impact of open access to education, it is clear that moving beyond the classroom and into digital education settings have greatly improved the accessibility of education. Increased opportunities for access to information and the sharing of knowledge and ideas, can have an enormously positive impact, both for learners and educators. (De Lissovoy, 2011; Suoranta, 2015)

However, as Anthony Lane problematises, ‘throughout any discussion of the emancipatory effects of education will be the contrasts and compromises between the intentions and the actions of different groups of actors, in particular learners and teachers, but also educational institutions, and thus how emancipatory and systemic those intentions and/or actions might be.’ (Lane, 2013, 34) He points in particular to the role that infrastructure, digital or otherwise, in enabling positive outcomes in access to education.

This point, namely the digital infrastructure that frames the user’s experiences of an online course, is something I have begun to reflect on both as a student and teacher during this course. While I have thought the design and infrastructure of the Open Networked Learning Course have been great, there is no doubt that the flexibility and online learning space have affected my ability to engage as much as I had wished. When one is used to education taking place in a physical space, it is somewhat of a mental leap to begin to engage in a learning experience online. There is no doubt that without the wonderful help and guidance provided by our learning coordinators, particularly Lotta, the struggles I experienced in the beginning of the course would likely have led me to drop out.

This leads be to think how incredibly crucial it is that when designing online learning experiences that there are resources in place to help students engage, particularly those who may not have established learning practices in place. Flexibility is a wonderful thing for students, but support must be in place to ensure their learning doesn’t become incoherent and/or fragmented.


Lane, Andrew (2016). Emancipation through Open Education: Rhetoric or Reality? In: Blessinger, Patrick and Bliss, TJ eds. Open Education: International Perspectives in Higher Education. Open Book Publishers, pp. 31–50.


De Lissovoy, N. (2011), Pedagogy in Common: Democratic Education in the Global Era, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43: 1119–1134. doi:10.1111/ j.1469-5812.2009.00630.x

Suoranta, J. (2015), Jacques Rancière on Radical Equality and Adult Education, in Michael A. Peters (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory.


Sharing and Openness in an Age of Uncertainty