Guide to Open Learning

ABSTRACT: This document is an introduction to Open Learning. It examines briefly what "Open" means and the different facets of the open movement and what "Learning" means and how it is different for every person. Attention is brought to the issue of the digital divide and ways to reduce or eliminate barriers to education. We look at how to get started with Open Learning if you are fortunate enough to have access to the technologies, and possible ways of obtaining access if you don't. We then go over how to map out a personalized learning strategy that works for you. The core of the document goes over many of the different types of Open Learning resources available, and possible ways to organize and structure your learning. We will also looks at the issue of accreditation and how to receive recognition for your learning in a way that allows you to demonstrate your newly acquired skills. Finally, it finishes with ideas on how to start solo or collaborative projects as well as possible ways to get them funded.

There is a large collection of Open Learning resources at the end of this guide.

Corbin Tarrant
Corbin {at} iamcorbin {dot} net

Edited By: E J Lepke
ejlepke {at} hotmail {dot} com

Version 1.0
Released On May 12 2012

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Table of Contents

What is Open?

Issac Newton said "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." This statement embodies what the Open movement is about. Through sharing and collaboration we can do much more than we ever could on our own. Let's briefly examine the various facets of the Open movement. What is Open Learning and Open Education? "Open learning is an approach to education that seeks to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning, while aiming to provide students with a reasonable chance of success in an education and training system centered on their specific needs and located in multiple arenas of learning." - Neil Butcher[1]⁠

To define Open Learning is a challenge in itself. Since every person has their own unique way of experiencing and learning about the world around them it is different for every person. What can be looked at is the ways in which we can organize systems that foster Open Learning.

Open Learning is a system that aims to eliminate or greatly lower barriers to use, extraction, and reuse of knowledge. It is purposeful, directed learning as opposed to simply the accumulation of knowledge without really understanding why you need to know about a topic. It takes place in a volatile environment that the individual learns to customize and it provides the user with feedback that is constantly used to refine and improve upon the experience.

Open Learning is largely available because of the internet, although it is possible for it to take the form of offline content as well. It very often makes use of Open Educational Resources (OER).
What are Open Educational Resources? "OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge." - Atkins/Brown/Hammond[2]⁠ What is Open Data? "A piece of content or data is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share-alike." - Open Knowledge Foundation[3] What is Open Policy? Organizational and governmental policies that support the use and development of Open Data. What is Open Access? "An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge." - BOAI[4]⁠ What is an Open License? "Broadly speaking, an open license is one which grants permission to access, re-use and redistribute a work with few or no restrictions." - Open Knowledge Foundation[3]⁠ What is Open Source? "Open source is collective power in action. The power of a worldwide community of highly skilled experts that build, share and improve the very latest software together - then make it available to everyone." - Canonical Group[5]⁠ "The open source way is about possibility. Open source presents a new way to solve old problems. To share ideas and effort. The open source way opens doors. Open source offers a new perspective. Open, not closed. Collaboration, not isolation. The open source way multiplies. Knowledge. Effort. Inspiration. Creativity. Innovation. The impact is exponential." - Red Hat[6]⁠

Start Working in the Open!

What is Learning?

"Learning is growing new structure in the brain. This growing is done by the brain itself, it is born knowing how to do it and does it naturally...[N]eurons make connections – or communicate – with each other through their dendrites...All thinking and memory is based on this communication between neurons...[W]hen we learn, we grow new dendrites on [our] neurons and form new connections between the neurons. Learning, in fact, is nothing other than our brain's growing new dendrites and synapses – and constructing elaborate neural networks between neurons" - Smilkstein[7]⁠. The Science of Learning There are different fields that focus specifically on the science of learning and how the brain makes these connections. If this is a topic of interest to you, there is a vast amount of material on the subject. There is some overlap in these fields and they include, but are not limited to: Epistemology, Constructivism, Cognitive Science, Learning Theory, Educational Technology, Educational Neuroscience, Sociocultural Studies, Behaviorism, Educational Psychology, and Pedagogy.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. ~Confucius Experience and Necessity We can study all we want, but to truly learn something we need to experience it. The act of taking acquired knowledge and putting it into practice proves to ourselves that it actually is applicable in the world around us. It is also in this process of turning knowledge into demonstrable skills that we make mistakes, acknowledge them, and improve our abilities to carry out a given task. There is a lot of research on the topics of implicit vs. explicit learning, experience based learning, and Just In Time (JIT) learning. Getting into the details on these types of learning is outside the scope of this document. I have provided a couple links in Appendix A if you would like more information on these topics.

"All . . . by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are beloved for themselves . . . Those with experience succeed even better than those who have theory without experience". ~Aristotle

Getting Started with Open Learning

The Digital Divide I must begin by mentioning the digital divide. If you are reading this on a computer, you may be unaware that you are part of a minority. It is estimated that as of 2011 only about 34% of the world's population is online. Obviously, this percentage is much higher in developed countries but still excludes almost 30% of the population. The majority of the world's population resides in developing countries and internet usage there has seen the largest increase in recent years but still only includes less than 30% of that population[8]⁠. I believe, as members of this minority group, that it is our responsibility to take advantage of this amazing resource that we have access to and to also use it to spread awareness of this issue. There are some who may argue the dangers of the internet, such as harmful effects on community and social organization, cultural fragmentation, privacy issues, and the spread of false information[9]⁠. While these are serious issues that need to be taken into account, the benefits to a society and to the world at large generally greatly outweigh the disadvantages, especially if a strategy for implementation that educates citizens and takes these dangers into consideration is used. Getting Access If you are fortunate enough to have your own computer, great. But if not, don't give up hope. Open Learning isn't just online, but the internet is the best place to distribute and locate resources because of the ability to instantly transmit them anywhere in the world. There are places you can get free public access to computers such as libraries, schools, internet cafes, and some coffee shops. Even if you have your own computer, without a connection to the internet you are severely limited in the resources available to you. This does not require you to have your own paid internet service at home. There are public WiFi locations which can be found at the public access computing centers previously mentioned as well as at other local businesses and community centers. Depending on your situation and where you are geographically located, this may or may not be an issue, hopefully you can find something that will work for you. There is definitely a need for more public computing centers, and one solution to this could be hackerspaces or makerspaces, which are discussed when we go over the social aspect of engaging in Open Learning. The US government has also been investing funds to open more public computing centers. .7 billion has been invested in broadband infrastructure expansion and public computer center projects through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; as of December 2011 29,500 new workstations were installed in public computing centers in 36 states[10]⁠. Digital Literacy Even if you have access to technology, it doesn't automatically give you the ability to use it efficiently. This is another aspect of the digital divide: people that may have access to technology, but don't really know how to use it. According to Wikipedia's Digital Literacy entry, it "is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and analyze information using digital technology. It involves a working knowledge of current high-technology, and an understanding of how it can be used."
Understanding the tools you are trying to use will make all the difference in how much use you can get out of those tools. It will be of great benefit to you if you understand some of the basics such as: what a computer is, what an operating system is and what the major ones are (Windows, Mac, Linux), input devices (keyboard, mouse), files and folders (including how to organize them), types of digital storage devices (external hard drives, flash drives), what software is and some of the most common types (word processor, spreadsheet, internet browser, email client, etc...), what the internet is (a.k.a. "The Cloud"), the difference between saving a file on your local computer and saving it somewhere via the internet, and what email is and how to use it. These are just a couple suggestions to get started. The requirements for being "digitally literate" are constantly changing so it is impossible to concretely define. If you are new to using these technologies you may be feeling overwhelmed. Don't Panic! The best thing you can do is to lay out what you know so far and what skills you would like to acquire. Don't try and do everything all at once, start with one task and go from there. Since the role of technology and the ways in which it is used are constantly changing, the best skill you can acquire is the ability to be curious and open to learning new ways of doing things. Keep this in mind when we look at mapping out your personal learning strategy in the next section.
If you struggle with any of the tools we are going to be using, you will find it beneficial to invest some time in developing these basic skills. The more familiar and comfortable you are with making use of these tools, the less time you will spend getting frustrated with them later. These frustrations will distract you from the content you are trying to learn and greatly hinder your ability to make use of Open Learning resources. You may even be able to find free computer basics workshops at a local library in your area. If you do have an internet connection, you can find a nice video series at on "computer basics".
Something you might find helpful is finding someone you can learn with. Challenge each other in ways that force you to make use of technology. Don't feel threatened by technology you don't understand! Don't be afraid to ask questions either. Later in this guide we will talk about building a personal learning network, which will be an excellent resource for finding others with similar learning goals and help in locating answers to questions. The same resources for learning discussed in this guide can be applied to learning how to make better use of the tools themselves as well. Don't be afraid to experiment and get things wrong sometimes. You are going to make mistakes; even the professionals make them and it is only by making mistakes while being open to recognizing what we did wrong that we learn from them.

Learning never exhausts the mind. ~Leonardo da Vinci

Mapping Out Your Personal Learning Strategy

Don't try to do everything all at once! Learning is more effective if you have a clearly defined purpose. Think of things in terms of modules. Oxford Dictionaries defines a module as "each of a set of independent units that can be used to construct a more complex structure." Looking back at the definition of learning, this makes a lot of sense. It might sound silly, but we can only ever really learn what we already know or are familiar with. Now, you might be thinking that this doesn't make any sense: "How do I learn something new if I have to be familiar with it to begin with?" Well, since your goal is to learn something new and this process involves actually growing new neural networks in your brain, you need to lay down a basic structure to begin with. In order to build a new structure you need to connect it to something you already know, knowledge you have already acquired and are comfortable with. Once you have that base in place, you can grow new structures off of it and then you can fill in the details. Think of it in terms of constructing a new building. You need to start with a foundation, a solid piece of land that isn't going to wash away and will support the structure for a long time. This is the part you are already familiar with, the piece of Earth. You then need to build the basic skeleton of the building, the supports that are going to hold everything in place. It wouldn't make any sense to try and hang a painting before you even build a wall.
To really improve your chances of learning and retaining materials, you need to find a way to connect the new learning objective to things you already know and find a way to build that basic structure that works for you. If you don't have a good basic structure setup before trying to take in all the details the whole thing could just collapse and leave you very frustrated and back at square one. Start very broad and build the context for the task at hand. This is why it is so crucial to clearly define your task before you begin. You need to build a structure that takes your experience into account and is conducive to learning that particular task, otherwise it is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. Be flexible and learn to recognize when redefining your learning strategy may be helpful. This is another reason starting broad, laying down that structure, and setting up the context for the content you are going to fill it with is so important. Don't be afraid to make adjustments, recognizing when adjustments to your defined task are necessary is a wonderful skill to develop and can potentially save you months of study focused on the wrong areas. It isn't so much that you might be focusing on the "wrong" areas, but you might discover areas that could be redefined to make more efficient use of your time in a way that is more conducive to learning for you. Sometimes it is helpful to take a step back and get a broader view of everything you are working on to make sure you don't notice any areas that could use improvement. Now, with this in mind, let's think about a couple questions that help set up this structure. Clearly Define Your Task
What do you want to learn?
Don't make this too broad. When I mentioned looking at the broad context above, I was speaking of taking this clearly defined, focused target and getting a picture of how it fits in with everything else. If you make your learning target too broad, it will be difficult and potentially overwhelming and frustrating to learn. It may be useful to start with broader tasks and then subdivide each task into smaller, more targeted tasks (learning modules) that you can take on one at a time. An example of this could be if you are really interested in learning about animals. You might start with looking at biological classifications and then decide if there was a particular class that really caught your attention, such as reptiles or birds. Say you decide on reptiles, you could then subdivide the study of reptiles into the history and origin of a particular species, habits, social structures, etc. Breaking your learning up into smaller tasks also makes it a lot easier to find relevant information.

Why do you want to learn it?
You need to make this personal, if you don't have a passion for what you are trying to learn you probably have the wrong focus and need to rethink things. The learning process is going to go more smoothly if you also have a clearly defined reason for learning. If you are learning something because it is a prerequisite to obtaining some other skills, it can be easier to lose interest. In situations like this it is important to remember the larger context and to find additional ways to connect what you are learning to how you will use it later with the more desirable skills and outcomes.

What will you do with these new skills?
You should also have a clearly defined objective or task that you are going to complete that makes use of the new knowledge. Something that proves to yourself and others that you know how to make use of the new skills. Having some sort of real world application or project in mind can make the learning process a lot more exciting.

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." ~Albert Einstein

Engaging in Open Learning

Now that you know what you want to do, it's time to actually make use of Open Learning. As already mentioned, this can take on many forms depending on the objective at hand. This section will break down the different types of Open Learning resources I have discovered. Courses The first thing that comes to mind for many people when thinking about learning is the traditional classroom environment. This involves structured courses organized around syllabi. There are many different excellent options for free online courses. There are a growing number of colleges who have released their courses to the world. I must, at this point, mention the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who have really done a lot to pioneer work in the field of Open Learning. Ten years ago, in 2002, they opened their first pilot program of fifty courses to the world. They now have virtually their entire curriculum included in the MIT OpenCourseWare program, which includes over 2,000 courses! There are many other colleges who have followed suit and this number continues to grow, which you can see in the resource section at the end of this document. Many of the OpenCourseWare programs from traditional universities consist of static resources that the user can either use online or download to use offline. These resources typically consist of the course syllabus, homework assignments, tests, exams, and video lectures taped from the actual instructor led courses at their respective colleges.
Aside from the traditional university course there is also a new trend of peer-led courses, such as the excellent Peer to Peer University. This style of learning is still in the development process and is typically a lot more dynamic than the traditional class. Peer-led courses involve students connecting with each other through the internet for a common learning goal. It may make use of university OpenCourseWare resources as part of a "mash-up" of different internet content. It may also involve collaborative online tools such as simultaneous document editing and online forums.
There is also a new form of online course that we are starting to see more and more of. Rather than the static university courses that mimic their physical course curriculum, some universities are beginning to notice the explosion of new Open Learning resources and are now creating their own custom tailored courses. The problem with a lot of the OpenCourseWare material is that it is just distributing traditional courses using the internet. This doesn't really take advantages of new technology and more efficient methods of learning. These new courses are really trying to maximize the use of technology and discoveries in learning science to create a new sort of learning environment. There are quite a few of these new university courses that are actually being led by professors and allowing for student interaction and more engagement with the materials, the instructor, and each other. Something that is really pushing the movement forward is a lot of cooperative efforts between organizations and universities starting these new types of free online courses. A great example of this is the new Coursera site that brings together content from Princeton University, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and the University of Pennsylvania. They have recently begun rolling out their first round of classes, and have many more scheduled to start later this year. Another example that was just recently announced is a project between MIT and Harvard called EdX with the aim of developing an open source platform to release many more courses free to millions of people around the world. These new type of online courses, like traditional courses run for specific durations and have instructors that are presenting the materials in order to increase the number of people taking them simultaneously and encourage peer-to-peer engagement through class forums. What is different is the way in which they are presenting the information and the lack of the expensive price tags and other physical resources typically necessary to teach a class, which means this information can reach vastly greater numbers of individuals. Sebastian Thrun, Co-Founder of the new Udacity free online university taught 200 students per class at Stanford, but now he wants to teach 200,000. At launch of Udacity's first course over 160,000 students had signed up within a few weeks.[11]⁠ Textbooks The next thing to mention, which typically ties directly to courses, is textbooks. When looking at textbooks in the context of Open Learning, the primary focus is on openly licensed textbooks. There is a lot of exciting work being done to develop and promote openly-licensed textbooks. These can take on the form of more traditional textbooks that are available for free over the internet as well as collaboratively developed textbooks. Professors can also "adopt" open textbooks for use in their university courses, remove material they don't need and revise it to better suit their own purposes. Of course, this isn't limited to just university professors – anyone can revise these openly licensed materials. I mention the professor "adoptions" because it shows a commitment by professional educators to improve the quality of open content in general. This content can then be remixed by other people in turn and used for all sorts of new unforeseen purposes. For example, you could create an entirely new textbook that remixes material from several different open textbooks in different subject areas, combining them for a new purpose and adding new content to go along with it. Textbook costs have been rising at a rate that is over four times that of the US Consumer Price Index and at an increasing speed[12]⁠! One organizations trying to do something about this is The Saylor Foundation with their Open Textbook Challenge which is offering ,000 rewards for accepted textbooks that are released under a Creative Commons CC-BY license. Social The internet, by its nature, is a social organism. It connects computers around the globe and these computers are being operated by people sharing information. There are innumerable ways that this can be taken advantage of to benefit an individual's Open Learning strategy. A couple of the most useful methods I have discovered are community question/answer (Q/A) sites, targeted online forums, and building a personal learning network.
A community Q/A site is a place where anyone can ask a question or offer answers. A great example of this is Stack Exchange, one of the largest networks of Q/A communities on the internet (at the time of this writing there are 86 Q/A communities in that network on a variety of topics from cooking to theoretical computer science). Since anyone can become a member and post answers, it does mean you have to watch out for misinformation. Misinformation is a huge topic in and of itself and we won't get into the details here, but there are methods of checking facts that you should become aware of and use. Learning to identify it so as to avoid spreading it yourself is a skill that everyone needs to develop. One way in which many of the community Q/A sites have worked to dispel misinformation is by reputation systems. This reputation system pattern is being replicated around the web and consists of the ability for members to vote other members' questions and answers up or down. Some of these sites, such as Stack Exchange, also disallow the ability to vote until you earn some reputation yourself through asking good questions or providing answers that other members of the community find helpful and vote up accordingly.
When I say "targeted online forums," I am referring to internet forums (or discussion boards) that coincide with a topic you are trying to study. No matter what you are trying to learn, there is a very good chance there is already an online community organized and talking about that topic. If not, through the use of new online tools it is getting easier and easier to start your own online community of like-minded individuals, located around the globe and gathered for a similar purpose.
Next is something that really is entangled with many different aspects of Open Learning, and that is building a personal learning network. This may be the most valuable piece in the Open Learning puzzle. I have been using internet resources for self-directed learning for years, but it wasn't until recently that I realized the potential of Open Learning and the role that personal learning networks play. Sometimes I find there are concepts I am not grasping, and it holds up the learning process. I may be stuck looking at the problem from the same angle over and over again and eventually find all I needed was a different perspective. Since everyone is looking at the world from a different perspective, being able to get some different viewpoints on your problem can be extremely beneficial. Everyone already has a personal learning network; essentially it is looking at your network of social connections in the world (physically or digitally) and learning how to make use of it in a way that will support learning for yourself and everyone else in that network. The next step is to re-organize that network and build it up; this is done alongside any learning task. By integrating your learning into a social context you find other people that are passionate about what you are learning and it allows you to have conversations that stimulate new interests and help motivate you to continue learning. This is especially helpful because no matter what you are trying to learn, there are going to be times when you just don't feel like it, having friends around makes this easier by giving you that network of support.
Our communities can greatly benefit by having more locations where individuals can come together and converse on topics of similar interests, collaborate on projects, share tools, and learn from one another. You can find this happening online through Do-It-Yourself (DIY) communities such as Instructables. It is also happening offline at hackerspaces and makerspaces: places where people can come together and meet up with others in their community to converse on topics of interest and work on projects together. These locations allows people a chance to share tools they may not otherwise have access to. There have recently been a few public libraries starting their own hackerspaces[13]⁠. In case you are unfamiliar with the true meaning of the term "hacking" in this context, it is the idea of being able to take something apart, learn how it works (usually by adapting the original object to a new purpose), and in this process increase your understanding of it. The terms "hacking" and "hacker" have typically been applied to computer software and hardware, but these same ideas can be applied to learning how anything works. The philosophy of a hacker/maker emphasizes resourcefulness and reuse: trying to do the most with the least. This is made possible by encouraging curiosity, tinkering, and asking questions. In doing this we can learn to combine resources in new creative ways and potentially solve important issues facing our communities. Volunteering Depending on what you are trying to learn, volunteerism could also be an excellent way to engage in Open Learning. If your access to technology is limited, this may also be one of your best options. Find organizations or individuals in your area that are already doing things that coincide with what you decided upon when mapping out your learning strategy. Not only is this a free way to learn new skills, it is also a way to learn them directly with real world experience. In addition, it is a great way to meet new people in your community and further develop your personal learning network. Accreditation One of the biggest concerns people have with Open Learning is that of accreditation. This is why people pay universities for college educations; they are the ones who offer the degrees. There is a problem with the traditional degree system, though. It leaves out too much information and you can't really know a person and their true capabilities simply from their degree. On top of this, cost is another barrier to education. Just because you can't afford an education doesn't mean that you don't have skills. Mozilla recognizes that "it's often difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements gained outside of school. Mozilla's Open Badges project is working to solve that problem, making it easy for any organization or learning community to issue, earn and display badges across the web. The result: recognizing 21st century skills, unlocking career and educational opportunities, and helping learners everywhere level up in their life and work." Projects like this are working to further Open Learning and reduce barriers to education. In addition to the Open Badges project, there are Open Certificates being offered at the new Udacity. The Udacity website states that "Udacity was founded by three roboticists who believed much of the educational value of their university classes could be offered online for very low cost. A few weeks later, over 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled in our first class." I have just finished my first Udacity course and obtained a certificate of completion. There has also been talk of Udacity working on an Open Degree system for completion of certain branches of their open classes. In additional to the resources mentioned, there are other challenges created by people around the world that offer their own "badges" for completion such as Project Euler, which is a series of challenges that put your knowledge of mathematics and programming to the test. Organizational Tools The internet is what you make it, and it's completely customizable. The greatest challenge in effectively making use of it is organization. When confronted with a problem, find a variety of sources and then pick the ones that provide the highest quality information that most effectively target the learning task at hand. It would be inefficient to try and remember every web address you ever wanted to visit. The internet is different for every person; customize it and make it yours. The simplest way to start organizing your internet is to use a way of remembering sites you want to use later. This could be as simple as writing them down on a piece of paper or copying them into a digital text document, the latter of which will save you a lot of time. Even if you are using a computer that isn't yours, there are free internet storage locations that will allow you to save a file and then retrieve it again on any other computer that is also connected to the internet. All internet browsers have bookmarking systems built into them as well. There are also internet services like Diigo that allow you to save bookmarks on the internet for access later on other computers and also make sharing resources with others simple.
Another helpful way to organize your resources is through mindmapping. Wikipedia's mindmapping entry defines them as "diagram[s] used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea." They consist of a central node with branches coming off connecting to sub-nodes, each of which can have their own branches and sub-nodes in turn. I have been using a free internet mindmapping application called Mind42 to organize and create my own Open Learning curriculum.
Let's also look briefly at learning management systems (LMS). LMS are a way of using technology to organize courses and give students and teachers constant feedback for the purpose of enhancing the learning process. There are quite a few different options available including the popular open source solution, Moodle. Organization is a key part in making effective use of all the different learning resources available. The method you are using to do this can make all the difference in whether you are left with an unintelligible mess or a system from which you can quickly extract the information you need. A lot of these systems are designed for a classroom setup and are currently being used by both physical and online universities. I would like to see a more personalized system like this geared toward self-directed learning. I have yet to find a LMS that I am really happy with for this purpose and need to do more research on the subject. Lately, I have been using a combination of bookmarks, mindmapping, and a good old-fashioned whiteboard next to my desk to keep track of my open learning curriculum. The key to this organization and a theme seen throughout this guide, is finding something that works for you that can be custom-tailored to your specific purposes. There are quite a few free tools available that can help you.
Another great tool that is excellent for organization and saving time is Really Simple Syndication (RSS). It allows you to subscribe to content from all over the internet and combine it in one place for better organization and time-savings. There are many different RSS readers you can use, including the popular Google Reader. You will find RSS feeds that correspond to website updates, new blog posts, audio or video channels, and more.
Lastly, let's take a look at a tool to assist in putting ideas into memory called spaced repetition. Studies have shown that the optimum spacing of repetitions in paired-associate learning is beneficial to the learning process[14]⁠. Essentially what this means is as you learn something new, the better you begin to understand and remember it, and the less often you need to study in order for it to make its way into your long-term memory. Then, if you begin to forget, you decrease the interval between study sessions. One piece of software that helps make use of this knowledge is Anki (which is available for free and is also open source). Anki describes itself as "a program which makes remembering things easy. Because it is a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount you learn." Since spaced repetition aims to target the optimal times for studying it results in shorter, more focused study sessions.

"I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it." ~Pablo Picasso

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Where To Go From Here

You should now have an understanding of what Open Learning is and how to make use of it in a way that works for you. Remember that how you use Open Learning will change as you become more skilled at learning how to learn. It is important to remain flexible and to modify your learning style as you gain new skills, incorporating them into your learning repertoire. Learning to learn is a lifelong skill that no one ever completely masters. There is an infinity of things to learn and it's not possible to learn everything. Enjoy it and share the process with others!

"Live as if your were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." ~Gandhi

At this point you should have been able to learn a new skill and made use of a variety resources along the way. This probably also included new types of learning resources that you were previously unfamiliar with, which added the additional learning task of how to use those resources efficiently. You should also have been able to demonstrate your skill in a concrete way.
Now that you are comfortable with these newly-acquired skills, it is time to do something with them. When mapping out your personal learning strategy you kept in mind what you wanted to do with these skills. At this point you may have already accomplished this, but there may be some larger projects that you would like to get involved with. Typically, what holds people back from starting or completing a project is a lack of resources. There are also new options becoming available to people to help with this.
You may have heard of the terms "crowdsourcing" and "crowdfunding" before. The internet has greatly expanded the capabilities of crowdsourcing, but essentially it is working on a project with a group of people instead of trying to do everything yourself. It really embodies why the internet is so powerful. Without the internet you might be able to find people around your community to help you solve a problem or collaborate on a project, but being able to ask your community and everyone else on the internet at the same time is an incredibly powerful resource that greatly enhances the possibility for projects to become successful. I must again note that this is still only around one third of the human population that is part of this network, imagine how much more powerful it would be if everyone who wanted access to these resources could get it! Crowdfunding makes use of the internet as a way to distribute and present a project idea you have, share it with people who might be interested, and allow them to donate towards the project if they like the idea and want to help make it happen. The beauty of this model is that donations can even be very small; if you reach enough people that like your idea and each of them give you one dollar, it could add up to a lot. Say you have an idea that is going to cost you ,000. You create a short presentation (a video or document explaining the idea), post it on a crowdfunding website, and start promoting it (promotions can be online via your social and learning networks and/or offline with flyers or via word of mouth). Without the internet you could still go out in person around your town or even travel the country and present your idea looking for investors. The benefit of the internet is that you can reach an audience that is vastly larger and it's also a lot easier to collect small donations from a large number of people, while still being able to keep track of where all those donations came from.

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young." ~Henry Ford

I hope you have enjoyed this Guide to Open Learning! There is a wealth of information contained in the Resource section that follows. Use them whenever you have a new learning task at hand. Begin by finding as many different relevant sources for the specific task, and then narrow them down to those best suited to your purpose. Although the resources that will be of most use to you will greatly depend on the specific task, I usually try and start by seeing if there are any Open Courses that target what I want to learn as these can be some of the best structured resources; the Open Course search engines listed below are a great way to start. As you start to make use of these resources yourself you will get a feel for where to find what you need.
Creating this document has been an exercise in Open Learning in and of itself for me. It has been a way to refine what I have learned and share this information with others. I plan on updating this document as I become aware of new information and resources, so check for new versions of this document at I would also greatly appreciate any feedback you would like to provide on improving future versions. Thanks for taking the time to read this document and good luck on your Open Learning journey!

Appendix A: Resources

This is a collection of useful Open Learning Resources. What is Open? A Shared Curture (short video by Creative Commons)
Comparison table of open licenses
Guide to Open Data Licensing
Guide to Open Licensing
Open Access Directory
Open Access Overview
Open Data Handbook
Open Policy Presentation
Open Source Annotated Definition
Talk on Open Data
The Open Movement and it's Implications in Education

What is Learning?
Explicit vs. Implicit learning

Experience Based Learning

Just in Time learning
Universal Design for Learning

Getting Started Cornell University Digital Literacy Resource
Digital Divide and Education
Digital Divide Infographic
Digital Divide Institute
Digital Divides - The Potential of the internet for Development
Google Digital Literacy Tour
Government Digital Literacy Resource Portal
Report by The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) - The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) - Mapping Digital Competence: Towards a Conceptual Understanding
WiFi FreeSpot Directory

Course Search Engines Folksemantic
OCW Finder
OCWConsortium Course Index
OER Commons
OpenContent OCW Finder

Courses Berklee Shares, Free Music Lessons
Carnegie Mellon University
Class Central
Gresham College
Harvard's Distance Education
Harvard's Open Learning Initiative
internet Archive OER
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Khan Academy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) OpenCourseWare
MIT OCW Scholar
NASA Science
National Geographic Education
Notre Dame
Online College Classes
Open Course Library
Open Nottingham
Open University
OpenCourseWare Consortium
Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU)
Saylor Foundation
Tufts University
UC Berkeley
UC Irvine
United Nations University
University of Michigan
University of Southern Queensland
University of Washington
Utah State
Washington State - Open Course Library
World Lecture Hall

Video Resources Boston College Front Row
Discovery Channel
Forum Network
Google Video
History Channel
List of 400 Video Lectures
London School of Economics and Political Science
MIT Video
Open Video Project
Oxford internet Institute: Webcast
TED-Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing
TED: Ideas Worth Spreading
The Periodic Table of Videos
University of California TV
University of Washington TV
YouTube EDU

Textbooks & Publications Authorama
College Open Textbooks
College Open Textbooks Collaborative
College Open Textbooks online community
Directory of Open Access Journals
Encyclopedia Smithsonian
Google Books Advanced Search (select 'Full view only')
Google Scholar
Hathi Trust Digital Library
internet Archive
Library of Congress, Manuscript Reading Room
Open Research Online
OpenStax College
Perseus Digital Library Historic Collections
University of Michigan Library's Digital Collections
University of Oxford Text Archive
University of Virginia Library
World Digital Library

Social Academic Earth
Stack Exchange

Accreditation Coursera
Mozilla Open Badges
Saylor Foundation

Organizational Tools Anki
Anki Web
browser-based mind mapping applications
Google Calendar
Google Reader
Mozilla's Thunderbird
mind mapping
Mozilla Thunderbird
Personalized Learning System (PLeaSe)

Other Tools civiCRM
Mindmap of Tools
Project Euler

Openly Licensed Media Search CreativeCommons Search
Guide to image databases and websites
Xpert Attribution Search Engine

Crowdsourcing/Crowdfunding Citizen Effect
Helpers Unite
Kick Started
Rock The Post

All for Good
Create the Good
Global Volunteer Network
United We Serve

Other Organizations Cape Town Declaration
Commonwealth of Learning
Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources
Connexions Consortium
Creative Commons
IEEE-SPS/Connexions Project
Open Doors Group
Open Education Week
Open Learning Exchange
Open Society Foundations
OpenCourseWare Consortium
Shuttleworth Foundation
Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA)
Vietnam Education Foundation
Wikimedia Foundation's
Wikimedia Offline

Other Resources ArchiveGrid
Archives Made Easy
BBC Learning
Crash Course in Learning Theory
Duke Law's Center for the Study of the Public Domain
Hacking Knowledge: 77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper, and Better
Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX)
National Science Digital Library
Online Education Database - List of Resources
Pearson Education infoplease
Purdue Online Writing Lab
The Art of Complex Problem Solving
The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice
The Edupunks' Guide
The Geek Group
The Royal Society: Invigorate
The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe
University of the People
US National Library of Medicine
"If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way." ~Mark Twain


Fonts Used:
GNUTypewriter -
Jura -
Cover image remixed from Patrick J. Lynch -
Citations and Research Organized with Mendeley -
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[13] J. Kalish, "Libraries Make Room For High-Tech ‘Hackerspaces’ : NPR," NPR Online, 2011. [Online]. Available:
[14] P. A. Woźniak, E. J. Gorzelańczyk, and J. A. Murakowski, "Two components of long-term memory.," Acta neurobiologiae experimentalis, vol. 55, no. 4, pp. 301-305, 1995.

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