OpenLearning – Learning Made Social and Collaborative

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We are in the era of digitization. Everything done manually is slowly shifting online. Education is no exception with lot of websites offering online education. OpenLearning is a Sydney based startup launched in Oct 2012, aims at sharing knowledge across generations. One look at the website and you can tell it’s different. We had a short chat with Adam, who is the co-founder of OpenLearning. Here is the excerpt:

Congratulations on the launch of OpenLearning on Oct 15, 2012. So, tell us what exactly is OpenLearning?

The OpenLearning platform provides a social and collaborative area for teachers to create courses. A course can include a range of content (audio, video, text),  blogs,  quizzes and different types of assignments. OpenLearning’s system is based around the principles of student autonomy,  diversity of learning materials,  open-ness of resources and social interactivity. The software encourages students and teachers alike to aggregate,  remix and repurpose learning resources within a course,  to create a rich,  motivating and constructive environment in which meaningful learning experiences are stimulated. This allows students to help each other more effectively and improve the course as they progress through it.

What kind of preparatory work went in to launch Open Learning? Share with us the journey so far. How long Open Learning been in beta?

 We have spent over a year working on the Open Learning platform to prepare it for launch. There are a large number of features and systems that needed to be in place to run a large scale computer science course. A number of people have been involved in development, promotion, course creation and we have enjoyed the support of a number of former students and colleagues.

Is it mainly for Uni students or anyone who wants to learn online? Is there a chance of closed courses, where a particular university lecturer can offer to their students only – using your website?

 Yes, Open Learning is open to people of all ages who want to learn and find a course that they are interested in. We provided the ability for teachers and lecturers to run public open courses or private closed courses – we already have a number of private courses running in addition to the public ones that you can see on the site.

Are all the courses supposed to be free? And how about the content? Is there a plan to allow all content from A – Z or is this open learning more on academic subjects? 

It is entirely up to the person creating the course whether they want it to be free or paid. We allow people to create some public courses for free in the hopes that people around the world will find their courses useful and interesting. We don’t have any restrictions on the subjects that people can offer courses on – already we’ve had courses from computing, marketing and sports.

Is the content generation (for teachers) under any approvals? If people can start creating courses on their wish, how can you guarantee that Open Learning will host only clean content going forward?

We will allow people to create their own courses however we regularly verify that the content complies with our terms of use. We are very selective in which courses we feature on the site and promote.

 From the website, it says it’s social like Facebook and Collaborative like Wiki. How?
OpenLearning has an everywhere-is-a-forum approach to its content and has a rich set of commenting, rating and aggregating features to allow a crowdsourcing and community centred approach to the enrichment of the online learning environment. Much of OpenLearning’s functionality is geared towards the enjoyment of the learning experience, with features designed to motivate both course progression and community involvement.

Some examples are the visual communication of your course progress and community involvement, social-media style notifications of new discussions and course interactions, rated and user-commended content and the aggregation and suggestion of the most useful related resources.

What’s the initial investment like? Are you looking for any sponsors at the moment?

We have some initial investment however we are looking for additional partners who can not only be involved in the company but also utilize the Open Learning platform in their business.

What’s the USP of Open Learning?  Why do we need another learning website, when there are lots of websites, iTunes U recently launched?

There are many websites that allow you to deliver learning content but few (if any) that actually provide a rich and compelling online learning environment. We see learning happening when there are interactions between students, when they help each other solve problems and when the content is delivered in a rich and exciting way. This is what Open Learning provides and we aim to allow anyone in the world to create courses and share their knowledge through Open Learning.

Tell us from the students perspective – how does their experience differ from other online learning websites?

Students and teachers can comment and have discussions around any content on OpenLearning. Students can earn Karma points when another person likes one of their comments, forming the basis of a qualitative assessment of a person’s contribution to the community.

Rather than focusing on marks or grades, a simple progress bar follows students around their course. The progress bar will always be green so long as the student has completed all the assignments that have been released so far. When a new assignment is released, the progress bar will decrease slightly until the student has completed the task.  The progress bar motivates students to keep up with the course and provides direct feedback to the student.

Students are encouraged to communicate with each other and to create and share content. New content can be discovered through a newsfeed type page in a course and people can rate the content they find the most useful.

What’s the business model for Open Learning? How do you plan to get revenues?

We welcome people to create public open courses for free. We plan to charge organisations, universities and colleges to run private courses where they can restrict enrollment in their course. For private courses we charge the course administrator about 10$ per student per course, regardless of the duration of the course.

What are the future plans for Open Learning?

We would like OpenLearning to host thousands of public and private courses for millions of students around the world. We believe that people have the knowledge and ability to create and contribute to courses themselves. We will provide the platform to these people along with universities and schools worldwide to improve education for everyone.

About Team OpenLearning

OpenLearning was formed towards the end of 2011 and has spent about a year in development. The ideas and concepts for OpenLearning extend further back from the work of senior lecturer Richard Buckland. The OpenLearning team has grown to five full time members in recent months. Adam and Richard Buckland are the co-founders while David Collien,John Garland and Ricky Setiawan take care of the development.

You can find the website here: https://www.openlearning.com/

And to find out what they are upto:

https://twitter.com/openlrning

http://www.facebook.com/pages/OpenLearning/347961805277601

For those interested in Computing, their next batch for the Computing course  taught by Richard Buckland is starting December 3d. Do have a look.

We wish OpenLearning all the best and hope to see awesome courses featured in their website.