The new topic of ‘Open Learning’ surfaced ideological positions related to education as a whole. Should we share our resources and knowledge with the world, now that more than ever we have the ability to do so? Is education a private or a public good? This is a binary that I have mulled over before (Tan et al, 2020). Much of the time education functions as a private good, particularly when you reach the echelons of Higher Education. Student loans in order to purchase entry into universities that take years to pay back are just one indication of that equation. The idea of “open” learning however, as I have come to understand it from our discussions of the topic, is predicated on the idea of education (and specifically Higher Education) functioning as a public good. There are already inroads made in this — Khan Academy, Coursera and other platforms for MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) have enabled millions around the world to access resources that were traditionally purely in the domain of members of the university, and the internet has facilitated this democratic move, though there are issues and challenges (Weller, 2014).

When I reflect on what I have learnt, I am lead to the conclusion that this has created two levels of education that cannot be conflated. The learning experience that results from the traditional university environment (and here I do not just mean the face to face set up, but also access to well stocked digital libraries with paid subscriptions to often expensive journals) where there are educators who deliver the curriculum to meet learning outcomes and engage with students in that process is one that is often superior to what a MOOC can achieve. This is of course not a blanket rule, and there will be exceptions.

Nonetheless, amongst the resources given to us this week I found those with the theme of social justice most compelling (Bali & Jhangiani 2020). This theme was eloquently put across in the webinar that Maha Bali led as well. With the need to fund universities as well as the competition between universities fuelled by ranking bodies that in turn draw students as well as more funding, we might not be able to fully place education as a public good. However what we have been doing by making as much as we can openly accessible to the rest of the world, particularly those who do not have economies as robust as our own, can only have a positive outcome.


Bali, M., Cronin, C., & Jhangiani, R. S. (2020). Framing Open Educational Practices from a Social Justice PerspectiveJournal of Interactive Media in Education. 2020 (1), p. 10.

Tan Y.L.L., Yuen P.L.B., Loo, W. L., Prinsloo, C., & Gan, M. (2020). Students’ conceptions of bell curve grading fairness in relation to goal orientation and motivation. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 14(1)

Weller, M. (2014). Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press.

The Topic 2 Blog: Open Learning – sharing and openness