It can be argued that without online learning, there is no open. Open inherently holds the characteristic of being online, while online does not inherently hold the characteristic of being open. Early online courses were almost entirely closed, and the proliferation of closed learning management systems (LMS) has, unfortunately, become the norm. This continuation of closed online learning culture is largely because most central services supporting online learning on campuses present the closed LMS option by default to those who request moving or creating a course online. As comfort and experience develops in an online modality, so does the likelihood that the instructor will embrace an open ideology. It can be argued, then, that the typical transitional route is from face-to-face to online (closed) to open.
The affordance of multi-access learning (Irvine, 2009; Irvine, Code, & Richards, 2013) is the expansion of the mainstream brick-and-mortar campus face-to-face courses into online modalities without creating a separate stream of online offerings (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Multi-Access Learning Framework
Once a course is in part online, the synergies between having choice of modalities and opportunities for supporting diverse and concurrent learning pathways are considerable. New flexibilities can inform and influence new pedagogies to transform pre-existing beliefs about online and open. For today’s learners, there is less “distinction between face-to-face and virtual,” which may lead to a greater acceptance and demand for online learning modalities compared to previous generations (Mulder, 2011, para. 5). It is hopeful the next step is for less distinction between online and open. This change can occur at the point of decision on sharing educational resources or “ERs” into closed environments vs. OERs into open ones.
The growing acceptance of open in learning is a positive direction for mainstreaming open education; however, many tools still do not allow for the layering of access from private-to-open content and for credit-to-open learner access as warranted in differentiating for these multi-access learning communities. In order for mainstreaming to occur, it is the instructor of credit courses who must opt to make her/his courses and/or resources open. Currently, many open courses are created as entirely new courses that are completely separate from credit offerings. This practice is burdensome as many faculty cite existing campus credit teaching workload to be heavy. Efforts to explore expanding the layers of existing on-campus courses into synchronous online, asynchronous online, and open access is a pragmatic approach to mainstreaming open education.
Irvine, V. (2009). The Emergence of Choice in “Multi-Access” Learning Environments: Transferring Locus of Control of Course Access to the Learner. In G. Siemens & C. Fulford (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2009 (pp. 746-752). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Irvine, V., Code, J., & Richards, L. (2013). Realigning higher education for the 21st-Century Learner through Multi-Access Learning. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2).
Mulder, A. (2011, September 12). Open education resources and the role the university. EDUCAUSE Reviews Online. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/open-educational-resources-and-role-university