Definitions and links

Open Learning and Formal Credentialing in Higher Education: Curriculum Models and Institutional Policies makes use of the word “open” in its title. “Open” has emerged as a popular word in association with terms like: open learning; open education practices; open education resources; openness; open and distance education. Although terms like “lifelong learning”, “workplace learning”, “workbased learning”, “networked learning” and “personalised learning” do not include the word “open”, nevertheless each of these terms and their related concepts, theories and contexts touch on learning in a digital age, and therefore openness.

No single agreed definition of the word open in the context of learning exists. Authors writing chapters for the Book will draw on definitions that they choose that make sense of their epistemology, theoretical frameworks, lenses and contexts.

The following are offered as useful links, not definitive resources, to trigger thinking. Please send us anything you’d like to add to this humble collection of links!

Blended Learning

  • The Sloan Consortium defines blended learning as a course where 30% to 70% of the instruction is delivered online. While this is a useful guideline, it may not be sufficient to define fully an institution’s blended program.

The ratio definition should be viewed as a guide, the preferred description is by University of Central Florida (UCF), which approaches blended learning somewhat differently.  UCF describes mixed-mode or blended learning as a modality that “combines the effectiveness and socialization opportunities of the classroom with the self-directed and active learning opportunities that the online environment offers” (Dziuban, et al, 2004). At UCF blended learning is offered in two out of the five modalities available through the school’s Center for Distributed Learning.  Both options use different formats, 1) video streaming lecture content, labs, web activities and select face-to-face interactions including proctored exams, and 2) instruction that has both required classroom attendance and online interaction, activities and content delivery.

Collaborative Learning

  • In computer-based training (CBT), also called computer-assisted instruction (CAI), collaborative learning incorporates a wide array of communications tools, including Internet-based communication, to enable groups of learners to develop knowledge through interaction.

Continuing Education

Distributed Learning

– emphasises the learning itself rather than the type of technology used or the separation between teacher and learner;

– makes learning possible beyond classrooms; and

– when combined with classroom modes, becomes flexible learning


  • Education via the Internet, network, or standalone computer. e-learning is essentially the network-enabled transfer of skills and knowledge. e-learning refers to using electronic applications and processes to learn. e-learning applications and processes include Web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms and digital collaboration. Content is delivered via the Internet, intranet/extranet, audio or video tape, satellite TV, and CD-ROM

e-learning was first called “Internet-Based training” then “Web-Based Training” Today you will still find these terms being used, along with variations of e-learning such as elearning, Elearning, and eLearning.

Flexible Learning

  • The term flexible learning emphasises the creation of environments for learning that have the following characteristics:

– convergence of open and distance learning methods, media and classroom strategies;

– learner-centred philosophy;

– recognition of diversity in learning styles and learners’ needs;

– recognition of the importance of equity in curriculum and pedagogy;

– use of a variety of learning resources and media;

– fostering of lifelong learning habits and skills in learners and staff.

Lifelong Learning:

  • A philosophical concept in which learning is viewed as a long-term process beginning at birth and lasting throughout life; a conceptual framework within which the learning needs of people of all ages and educational and occupational levels may be met, regardless of their circumstances.
  • The process of acquiring knowledge or skills throughout life via education, training, work and general life experiences


  • Writing in 1975, MacKenzie, Postgate, and Scupham said, “Open Learning is an imprecise phrase to which a range of meanings can be, and is, attached. It eludes definition. But as an inscription to be carried in procession on a banner, gathering adherents and enthusiasts, it has great potential” (p. 15). Rumble (1989) added, “Nearly 15 years later, one has to ask oneself whether there is a greater degree of clarity” (p. 29). In fact, the situation with regard to this word “open” is largely unchanged almost 40 years later.


  • Openness, when looked at in terms of OER, is centrally concerned with freedoms as expressed in the open licences applied to them:

– freedom from paying any money to access and use the content for specified purposes,

– freedom to copy and make many more copies,

– freedom to take away and re-use without asking prior permission,

– freedom to make derivative works (but not necessarily freedom to make profits from them).

For more info:

Open Access

  • The term open access implies a lack of:

– formal entry requirements;

– prerequisite credentials; and

– an entrance examination.

A way of providing learning opportunities that implies a lack of formal entry requirements, prerequisite credentials or an entrance examination.

Open and Distance Learning

  • The term open and distance learning and its definition are relatively new in the field of education, having gained prominence only in the past 15 to 20 years. The language and terms used to describe distance learning activities can still be confusing, and geographical differences in usage — for example, between North America and Europe — can add to the confusion. Among the more commonly used terms related to open and distance learning are the following: correspondence education, home study, independent study, external studies, continuing education, distance teaching, self-instruction, adult education, technology-based or mediated education, learner-centred education, open learning, open access, flexible learning and distributed learning.
  • The United States Distance Learning Association has its own formal definition of “distance learning”:

The acquisition of knowledge and skills through mediated information and instruction, encompassing all technologies and other forms of learning at a distance.

Open Education Practices

  • Open Educational Practices (OEP) are defined as practices which support the production, use and reuse of high quality open educational resources (OER) through institutional policies, which promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path. OEP address the whole OER governance community: policy makers, managers and administrators of organizations, educational professionals and learners.

For more information:

  • Wenk (2010) repeats the definition put forth by in defining openness:

– The freedom to use the work and enjoy the benefits of using it.

– The freedom to study the work and to apply knowledge acquired from it.

– The freedom to make and redistribute copies, in whole or in part, of the information or expression.

– The freedom to make changes and improvements, and to distribute derivative works (p. 435)

Tuomi (2006) takes another approach to defining openness, though one still focused on permissions. Tuomi describes OER as “sources of services” that:

(a)  provide non-discriminatory access to information and knowledge about the resource (level I openness)
(b) the services of which can be enjoyed by anyone with sufficient non-discriminatory capabilities (level II openness)
(c) can be contributed to (level III openness) (p. 34)

Open Education Resources (OERs)

Open Learning

  • An approach to learning that gives students flexibility and choice over what, when, at what pace, where, and how they learn. Open learning often includes aspects of e-learning.
  • Learning based on independent study or initiative rather than formal classroom instruction.
  • The educational philosophy of open learning emphasises giving learner’s choices about:

– medium or media, whether print, on-line, television or video;

– place of study, whether at home, in the workplace or on campus;

– pace of study, whether closely paced or unstructured;

– support mechanisms, whether tutors on demand, audio conferences or computer-assisted learning;

– entry and exit points.

  • An approach to learning that gives students flexibility and choice over what, when, at what pace, where, and how they learn, commonly using distance education and the facilities of educational technology.

Open Learning Australia

  • (OLA) An educational organisation that enables people to undertake tertiary or vocational study wherever they live and beginning at any time of year, using materials supplied to their home, often supported by online study resources and television and radio programs.

Assessment Challenges:

Open Learning in the Workplace

Other Interesting Links:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s