Open online learning

Open learning is a fundamental part of the overarching topic area of open education. The word open is of inflationary use in today`s world while ‘rights’, ‘access’, ‘use’, ‘transparent’, and ‘participatory’ are only some of the meanings related to it. In the context of learning, particularly the meanings ‘use’ and ‘access’ play an essential but not the only role (Pomerantz & Peek, 2016). While there is no agreed-upon, comprehensive definition of open learning, central focus is commonly placed on the ‘needs of the learner as perceived by the learner’ (Coffey, 1988).

Following Fischer (2013), open learning consists of two aspects, open online courses (e.g., MOOCs, Open University, open courseware) and open educational resources (OER) (e.g., Wikipedia, TED talks, Youtube, specific OER repositories).

Instead of a definition, a set of specific characteristics which are typical for open learning exists. Examples are learners accessing freely available online content, learners enrolling on free open/distance learning courses, learners collaborating on open knowledge-building projects, or learners sharing outcomes with one another.

Thus, there is no explicit concept of open learning but the opportunity to design open learning approaches built on the principles mentioned above.


Coffey, John (1988): Guest Editorial: The Opening Learning Movement. In: Innovations in Education & Training International. 25 (3): 195–96.

Fischer, Gerhard (2013): From Renaissance Scholars to Renaissance Communities: Learning and Education in the 21st Century. In: Proceedings of the 2013 International Conference on Collaboration Technologies and Systems (CTS).

Pomerantz, Jeffrey; Peek, Robin (2016): Fifty shades of open. In: First Monday 21 (5).


The complexity of research in open and online learning (OOL), open learning, open and online learning environments, (Hannafin, et al., 1999, Gooley, Lockwood, 2012, et al.), open and online curriculum (Stevenson, 2001, Siemens, 2013, Rodrigues, 2012, DeBoer, ho, Stump, Breslow, 2014, et al.), students behavior’s analysis and recognition of  OOL achievements  and other. While there are many pubications of foreign researchers on the topics since 1986, there are still research evidence missing, especially with regards to:

  • Learning analytics (LA) method as metacognitive tool (Gasevic, Dawson, Siemens, 2015, Ferguson, 2012, Durall, Gros, 2014, et al), to understand how learners learn in todays open and networked learning environments and how learners, educators, institutions, and researchers can best support this process (Chatti, Muslim, Schroeder, 2017).
  • Assessment and recognition of OOL (Schmidt, Geith, Thierstein, 2009, Camilleri, Ferrari, Haywood, Maina, 2012, Garcia – Penalvo, Johnson, Alves, 2014). Witthaus, Inamorato dos Santos, et al.  (2016)  analyze assessment and recognition practices in Europe and particularly Mooc- based learning pointed out on need of  further research into the Member States’ regulations and practices would enable the setting up of specific strategies for advancing the recognition of open education in Europe. With the mentioned possibilities open and digital badges have a potential to become an alternative credentialing system, providing visible recognition in digital symbols in public displays (Gibson et al, 2015).

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