What do you see as the promise of Open Learning?

I started this week with a very basic question: What is Open Learning. As I researched, I discovered that Open Learning is not unlike blended learning, a topic about which I am familiar. Graham, LaBonte, Roberts, O’Byrne, and Osterhout (2014) describe open learning as “learning that occurs in a shared and transparent manner in which others can reuse, revise, remix and/or redistribute the evidence of learning with others” (p. 2). Further reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute are the four practices when dealing with Open Education and Open Education Resources.

Open Education has three main values: student empowerment, authentic, active learning experiences, and focus on community (Collien, D., 2015). The goal of Open Learning is to utilize technology in a way that is beneficial for all and gives students control over their learning to intrinsically motivate students to want to learn. Open Learning contains various resources from full online courses to textbooks and videos (Graham, et al., 2014). The graphic from Forysthe, G. (2013) helped connect the dots between all these components.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 11.34.09 AM


I see great promise to Open Learning as it further emerges into education. Last year about this time, my current school was considering new approaches to attract middle school aged students and their families to enroll. One alternative that was discussed thoroughly was a blended-learning approach for those students. The idea presented described middle school students taking their core subjects online through distance programs with a teacher as a mediator to assist as needed. Other subjects, religion, music, P.E., etc., would be taken with students in the school. Ultimately our school did not choose this route; however, much of the work that our middle school students completed this past year was online. Each student was given a Chrome book and students were trained in using Google Docs. For part of the year, language arts was online through a program called Edgenuity. Math was online the whole year through Khan Academy.

Being a teacher at a small Catholic school has given me many opportunities to see these emerging philosophies of teaching. Further, having a principal whose background is technology has allowed me to see benefits of what emerging technologies can do for student learning. While I still require training in many areas, I see the benefits to giving students control. Student-centered learning has always been something that I value. The idea of open collaboration and working with others around the world is such a wonderful idea – bridging the gaps around the world and learning from others. Though the research is limited on K-12 Open Learning (Graham, et al., 2014), I only see Open Learning continuing to emerge in the world of education.


Collien, D. (2015). OpenLearning pedagogy and educational values. Retrieved May 24, 2015, from https://www.openlearning.com/Pedagogy

Forysthe, G. (2013). Open learning initiative: using learning science to iteratively improve course design. Retrieved May 24, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/9103802528

Graham, L., LaBonte, R., Roberts, V., O’Byrne, I., & Osterhout, C. (2014). Open learning in K-12 online and blended learning environments. In HandBook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning. ETC Press, Chapter 19.


10 thoughts on “What do you see as the promise of Open Learning?

  1. Wow, the school you are working out sounds incredibly progressive and exciting! Did you get to work with students who were taking the online classes? If so, what was the experience like and has your school decided to continue or expand its use of online education?


    1. I have worked at this school for the past three years (since I graduated with my Bachelors degree) and it has become quite progressive, mostly in the last year. A great deal of this has to do with the fact that we are a private school and therefore have more freedom to make the changes we’d like; however, curriculum is limited, which can be a huge challenge.

      To answer your question, I did not work with the majority of students taking the online courses. I did have one student who is exceptionally gifted, especially when it comes to reading. I taught reading in ability leveled groups, but this student was higher than any of the other groups. Because of that, I set him up on a language arts class online that some of the older students were also completing. Though it was hard for me to monitor his specific tasks, he was challenged and did well working independently. If I did it again next year, I would rethink my approach on how I could better see what he was learning. The other fall back was that it was a middle school course for the whole year, but there was a ton of content. By the end of the year, he wasn’t even half way finished with the course. There was a lot too it and at times it seemed like overkill. Aside from that specific online course, after the first semester of teaching math to my students (also by ability groups), I went to only online with Khan Academy, which had it’s advantages and disadvantages.

      As for continuing it next year, I know my principal is doing training next week with the local school district on the Edgenuity program, which was the program my student did language arts with. The online classes seemed beneficial for some and a great challenge for others, especially our lower level students. If we were to expand it next year, we would need to do some evaluating on how best to utilize it for our students.


  2. I have many questions about how the students did in language arts and math online! Was Khan Academy enough? How did the students do compared to students in a regular classroom face to face with the teacher? Did the student have access to a teacher when ever they needed assistance?


    1. I only adopted Khan Academy online for the second semester and it did seem to work for most students. My biggest challenge was that I didn’t have an aide or parent help and often times there wasn’t enough me to go around and help all the students individually. However, there were other times when students were able to work at their own pace or watch videos to help them with their difficulties. There would be time when multiple students would need my help, but the nice thing about Khan was that they were able to work on other skills while waiting for my assistance. My highest achieving student completed the Early Math mission and 3rd grade Mission as a second grader.

      I found that the students really enjoyed being able to do math online and preferred Khan to the other online supplemental math programs we had used before (IXL and Mathletics). Plus, Khan is a completely free resource. When I sat down with the upper grade teacher (5-8), we discovered there were some gaps with her students and their understandings. Some students were working at grade level when it might have been better for them to start lower. I didn’t have that problem because most of my students were starting as low as they could with the Early Math Mission. I started all my students at their grade level and all of them finished that mission by the end of the year (January-May). We have talked about incorporating Khan next year because it is a great resource but also doing more research into the program and deciding the best way to use it with our students, especially the older ones who had more difficulties.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I don’t think you will ever get away from and educational system that does not contain a mentor. It would be interesting to compare learning results between traditional classroom models and non-traditional models.


      1. I didn’t actually ever have a formal mentor teacher at my school. Because we are a small school, I’m always able to talk with colleagues and share ideas. Additionally, I have had contact with a woman involved with the state mentor program. Both of my co-principals are veteran teachers, which helps considerably, but it is a definite weakness of our school to not have mentors.


  3. The idea of blended learning is something I need to learn more about. It seems like an effective way for teachers to allow students more options in their learning while maintaining control over the topics students are exposed to. Public schools typically have extensive standards that the teachers must meet. This means there’s not a lot of time for kids to explore on their own. Blended learning may be a good way to meet some of the open education ideas while keeping kids focused on the standards.
    I agree that open education will become more prevalent. i believe the influx of online coursework is just the beginning of this trend. How that will work with k-12 education is still a mystery. As you said, research is still limited. Let’s hope that changes.


    1. I have found that blended learning works very well for my high achieving and independent students and not as well for students who don’t have those characteristics. The past two years I have started with some lower level second graders, but by January, they are more independent and willing to try these new tasks on their own. Many times if they have a question, and I don’t know the answer, I’ll encourage them to get their iPad to look it up so they’re in control. While I have standards to cover too, I want my students to be in control of their own learning. I try to have various projects that allow for students to do this; however, I, like you, still have learning to do when it comes to blended learning.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your school seems like it’s ahead of most when it comes to open/blended learning! The elementary school that I work at has recently started looking at Khan Academy and using it for our upper grades, and we are hoping in the future to adopt more programs that will allow our students to be exposed to things outside of the classroom environment and challenge them as critical thinkers. Thanks for sharing your ideas on blended learning and how it looks at your school.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think your school is impressive in the idea that your resources are multiplied by using online coursework. I agree that monitoring and helping students is hard when you are also teaching other students. I do a similar activity in my classroom for math and language arts because I this year, I taught first, third, fourth, and seventh grades at the same time, and I had to monitor the online portions and reteach when needed while still maintaining my other three groups. I would like to learn more about what your school is doing for differentiation! Thanks for the insight.


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