With the rise of MOOCs there has been much speculation about the meaning of ‘open’, particularly with respect to the Higher Education business model. It is clear that ‘open’ can be interpreted in a number of different ways.
In relation to MOOCs the term ‘open’ relates principally to open access, i.e. anyone can attend – there are no entry requirements. This could apply to face-to-face courses, as when University lecturers welcome members of the public to attend their lectures, and to online courses, where anyone with an internet connection and the appropriate technology can attend the course.
‘Open’ is also often associated with ‘free’, as in open resources on the web which can be freely downloaded and according to the creative commons license can be ‘customised’ to suit the user’s purposes.
Perhaps most significantly for Higher Education, ‘open’ can be associated with transparency, which involves a way of ‘being’ or a ‘state of mind’. Martin Weller has raised awareness of the need for scholars to be ‘open’ in his book ‘The Digital Scholar’, and ‘open research’ and ‘open journals’ are steadily gaining momentum as a way of working.
Open access and free courses in which all learners and teachers freely share their expertise is thought by followers of many MOOCs, particularly the original cMOOCs, as the means to democratize education (See Fred Garnett’s blog post for further thoughts about Building Democratic Learning).