The term “Openness” has been used in multiple ways causing confusion of what it really means. When we started this topic, I had to do some research on what it really means in the educational context and think about to what extent I have experienced openness.

Generally, Openness in education refers to open entry and easier access to study however, when I think of Openness in a broad sense, I see it as lifelong learning which is a process you can control. In fact, there is no lifelong learning without self-direction. You need to develop a desire for knowledge which can be either for personal or professional growth. I see lifelong learning as very much a focalized process, and at the same time, an open process.

Since there has been a recent resurgence and interest of open learning, it would be necessary to step back a little and look at some of the trends in open education to get a broader sense of open learning in general.

According to Tony Bates, open education can take many forms:

  • education for all: free or very low cost school, college or university education available to everyone within a particular jurisdiction, usually funded primarily through the state;
  • open access to programs that lead to full, recognized qualifications. These are offered by national open universities
  • open access to courses or programs that are not for formal credit, although it may be possible to acquire badges or certificates for successful completion. MOOCs are a good example;
  • open educational resources that instructors or learners can use for free. MIT’s OpenCourseware;
  • open textbooks, online textbooks that are free for students to use;
  • open research, whereby research papers are made available online for free downloading;
  • open data, that is, data open to anyone to use, reuse, and redistribute, subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share.

The internet has always been a place for exchanging knowledge and today more and more people are asking the internet for information and are enthusiastic about online learning. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) make use of the internet and offer interesting options for studying, where communication and participation plays a very important role. However, along with the benefits, there are also some disadvantages to taking a massive open online course.

Pros Cons
Free No real certificate on completion
Location of course is irrelevant No individual feedback
No participation cap Not much pressure to pass
Flexible times Computer and internet must always be available

I see many more advantages of MOOCs in which one can learn from peers from around the world and perhaps even a learn a language for free. It may be possible that some courses can be available in different languages and this reduces the barriers to entry through quality low-cost course materials. Furthermore, it is certainly an investment for students as it is a supporting process of connecting learners to registered institutions by helping them to move to formal assessments and continue their studies in the formal system.

It seems to be a good concept and if used correctly, MOOCs may be the future of higher education. However, further steps would have to be taken to ensure that the disadvantages don’t cancel out the advantages of such courses.

During our discussion, our PBL group recognized the different perspectives we all had on “Openness” and we created and shared an interesting reflection by choosing an image of something that symbolizes the concept and what it means to each of us in the group. It was exciting when it all came together, looking at the diversity and openness of our thoughts and opinions.

I have learned that we all have different perspectives when it comes to openness in general considering our fields of interests and expertise. This has definitely broadened my thinking in terms of online education and open access and its many benefits for learners from different backgrounds.

Bates, T. (2015) What do we mean by ‘Open’ in Education? Available: [Viewed 1 April 2021]

Topic 2: Open Learning: Sharing and Openness