If open is the answer…

Catherine Cronin asks “If open is the answer, what is the question?” #oer16

Catherine invites us to answer this question to inform her keynote at #OER16 and a webinar she is doing this week with Viv Rolfe and Lorna Campbell in the lead up to the conference.

My own reply reflects the session I am doing with Kathrine Jensen. My question is “what will characterise the future higher education learner?” In explaining this I have to challenge two meanings for openness (apologies friends!):

  • OER where ‘R’ stands for Resources is problematic. It anchors us in a world of content-centred learning. OER emerged from the era of learning objects, content packages and understandings of learning in which content delivery maintained the simple idea of transactional learning. Such thinking has a tendency to decontextualise learning – though I am not saying that it necessarily does this, only that it suggests learning is first and foremost about the learner’s relationship with content. We need a more sophisticated, multi-faceted understanding of context and situation. Once we have this understanding of situational learning, especially in this connected day and age, I suggest, open is first and foremost about the relationship of the learner to the world, in particular their connection to peers throughout life.
  • OEP where ‘P’ stands for Practice. This is better – it shifts our interest to a human dimension, primarily the practitioner or teacher. To put it simply, OEP is about sharing practice and about practicing across boundaries. (Define practice and boundary for yourself). This is great, but why are we only focusing on practice and the practitioner? Couldn’t we pay attention to the habits of the learner?

The lifelong open learner

The open learner is where higher learning has its future. The learner’s openness is an outcome of higher education. Good learning habits and capabilities, including a healthy approach to self-reflection, are the sign of today’s higher learner. The idea of open learner describes graduate dispositions developed and scaffolded through undergradutae study and exploited increasingly through open learning opportunities including post-graduate CPD and new definitions and models of postgraduate study. Open learning and a culture of open scaffolding ensure that we all have the capability to foster our own self-determined, lifelong learning trajectory.


About Andrew Middleton

NTF, PFHEA, committed to active learning, co-operative pedagogies, media-enhanced teaching and learning, authentic learning, postdigital learning spaces. Key publication: Middleton, A. (2018). Reimagining Spaces for Learning in Higher Education. Palgrave.
This entry was posted in Learning Space and Place, Open Learning and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to If open is the answer…

  1. Interesting post, Andrew! I look forward to exploring this with you and Kathrine Jensen next week at OER16. The terms ‘open’ and OER are layered with history, assumptions and expectations. I’m very interested to see you unpacking these, as you lay out here. In reviewing the OER16 programme I note there are several sessions, including yours and Kathrine’s, that adopt a critical stance towards openness and open education. I think this is an important direction for research and reflective practice — I’m looking forward to the discussions, collaboration and writing to come 🙂

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