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Open Access Learning Environments
ARTICLE

Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration Volume 10, Number 1 ISSN 1556-3847

Abstract

Educational institutions are increasingly adopting "closed" learning environments that hide learning materials in password-protected areas. While this may be a logical solution to a range of problems, much is lost in this mode of course delivery. Although there are logical reasons for moving toward closed environments, we may be erring too far on the side of caution. Educators and administrators are encouraged to consider the advantages of alternative models that respect the need for privacy while opening learning opportunities to a wider population. Many of today's online learning environments are private. This privacy is the consequence of institutional decisions that have resulted in the closing of learning environments to all but those who have officially enrolled in an institution or particular course. While many of these decisions are logical from an administrative standpoint, educators interested in making learning opportunities available to the masses may have a different perspective. While the Internet creates the opportunity to publish learning opportunities that are available to millions, at relatively low cost, educational institutions are increasingly responding to issues of privacy and intellectual property by hiding entire learning environments behind passwords. The convergence of issues related to technology, course management systems, copyright, intellectual property, and privacy become apparent in an examination of online learning environments. Issues related to technology are at the forefront, often to the extent that we may forget the primary objective - teaching and learning. This may be a temporary memory lapse, as the rapid expansion of instructional technology has provided many opportunities for the construction of effective, learner centered, teaching and learning environments. This perspective may also change as educators gain additional experience with the full range of tools available for online learning. However, with the exception of an active group of "early adopters" (Jaffee, 1998:24), many who have been teaching online for several years, the majority of today's online educators use the course delivery system provided by the university. These course management systems have become the primary entry point into using technology for instruction (Morgan, 2003). These programs effectively resolve many challenges faced by early adopters, and the institutions in which they are employed, but over-reliance on these systems has the potential to stifle innovation -- especially in settings in which educators are discouraged from experimenting with different models. As a result, many educators are just beginning to reflect on the impact of technology, and the variety of tools available, so their experiences may be limited. While these educators may agree with the philosophy of open access, they are just beginning to invest the time needed to develop a deeper understanding of options available for online learning. Shulman (1999:12) writes that learning "is least useful when it is private and hidden; it is most powerful when it becomes public and communal. Learning flourishes when we take what we think we know and offer it as community property among fellow learners so that it can be tested, examined, challenged, and improved before we internalize it." Other scholars have also argued that scholarly activities should be open to public scrutiny and public response (Boyer, 1990; Glasick, Huber & Maeoff, 1997; Richlin, 2001; Shulman, 2004; Trigwell and Shale, 2004). In their examination of the benefits of public learning, these scholars encourage us to look at learning as a process through which we take what we know (or think we know) and compare that to other realities and experiences before reintegrating this new knowledge. This process requires a public process.

Citation

Mentor, K. Open Access Learning Environments. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 10(1),. Retrieved September 26, 2020 from .

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