Lesson Ten Reading

6. Limitations of Open Learning

Open, distance, flexible and online learning are rarely found in their ‘purest’ forms. No teaching system is completely open (minimum levels of literacy are required, for instance). Thus, there are always degrees of openness. Openness has particular implications for the use of technology. If no-one is to be denied access, then technologies that are available to everyone need to be used. If an institution is deliberately selective in its students, it has more flexibility with regard to choice of technology. It can for instance require all students who wish to take an online or blended course to have their own computer and Internet access. It cannot do that if its mandate is to be open to all students. Truly open universities then will always be behind the leading edge of educational applications of technology. Despite the success of many open universities, open universities often lack the status of a campus-based institution. Their degree completion rates are often very low. The U.K. OU’s degree completion rate is 22 per cent (Woodley and Simpson, 2014), but nevertheless still higher for whole degree programs than for most single MOOC courses. Lastly, some of the open universities have been established for more than 40 years and have not always quickly adapted to changes in technology, partly because of their large size and their substantial prior investment in older technologies such as print and broadcasting, and partly because they do not wish to deny access to potential students who may not have access to the latest technology. Thus, open universities are now increasingly challenged by both an explosion in access to higher education generally, and in the use of online learning by conventional universities. For instance, in Canada, Donovan et. (2018) report that nearly all universities and most colleges are now offering fully online courses (although access is still mainly based on prior qualifications). New developments such as MOOCs, and open educational resources, the topic of the next section, are further challenges for open universities.