The De-Schooling Scenarios: (2) Free Learning Rules

The De-Schooling Scenarios: (2) Free Learning Rules


The second of the "de-schooling" scenarios -- Free Learning Rules, can be summarized as “openness wins.” One way to understand the related worldview of education is captured in the introduction of Curt Bonk's book The World Is Open (p. 7): "Anyone can now learning anything from anyone at anytime."

Another way is to look more closely at the notion of what "openness" means in this context, as it has two important dimensions: open content, and open interaction. Open content, most commonly referred to as open education resources (or OER), means a lot of different things to different people, for example:

  • Creating free or low-cost content to combat the spiralling (and to some, out of control) costs of textbooks and other commercial education resources;
  • Providing access to educational opportunities for aspiring students in poor countries (e.g., the Education for All movement);
  • Providing convenient and flexible access to online video lectures by distinguished professors at prestigious universities such as MIT, Harvard, and Yale; or
  • Improving instruction by building courses which use various tools and techniques which foster improved learning, as is the focus of Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI)

Open interaction takes several forms, including sharing content, interacting with other participants using personal learning networks, and "learner participation in open information communities" (one of Bonk's "ten openers for learning) using a variety of social media tools.

The dissolution of formal education is also central to the “Free Learning Rules” scenario. Its advocates believe passionately in the vast potential of digital resources to revolutionize learning and education. Many of them are involved with the OER movement in one way or another; many of these believe that the openness of online resources is itself the key quality which will lead to radical transformation. For instance, David Wiley describes openness as the “cornerstone” which “underpins everything interesting happening online” (see slide 43).

On its surface, the Free Learning Rules scenario seems to be beyond reproach -- what would possibly be wrong with free learning for everyone? A lot, unfortunately -- more on that in a later post.

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