As a Learning Strategist, a key part of my role is to facilitate students’ development as they grow in their understanding of learning processes. This allows me to witness barriers students face on their learning journey, working with them to move beyond these barriers towards their learning goals. A common question I hear from many students, particularly those newly arrived on campus, is, “do I really need to buy the textbook for this class?”. High textbook costs create a real barrier to full engagement in classes for many students.
Open Education actively works to promote social justice and access to learning opportunities. Creating high quality open learning resources allows all students equal access to the information and learning materials that support their success. Open Resources dismantle key barriers to full participation in learning. Besides the textbook cost barrier, what other opportunities might the Open Education paradigm create to support access to learning?
The implicit expectations of academic culture create another barrier for students transitioning to post-secondary education. As “insiders”, faculty have mastered the expectations of classroom behaviours, communication styles, and academic language and literacies, and may struggle to find the language and tools to make these expectations explicit to students. Post-secondary institutions’ learning centres work to help students through their transition into the academic community through programming such as transition workshops, academic skills workshops, and writing skills development programs. Though these programs remain vitally necessary, they unfortunately do not reach all students who need them.
What can Open Education Resources add to support student access to the academic culture? Besides knowing what to learn in a course, students must also master the learning skills required to meet course outcomes. In my work, the open education movement has provided the catalyst to create open learning strategies materials, including:
- An Open Learning Strategies text. The e-text format allows for a great deal of flexibility. A student may choose to follow the pathway outlined in the text through a semester. Or, a student can easily choose to access or revisit specific skills as needed.
- Online workshops and mini-modules (for example, workshops on reading texts or time management, and short learning skills videos). Many students prefer to (or must) access learning resources outside of traditional class or workshop times. Freely available digital materials allow for free, flexible access.
Another key benefit of open pedagogy is creating further opportunities to bring key learning skills directly to students in the classroom. Openly available learning skills resources allow faculty to easily select those relevant to their course and students, and to embed them in a class session or learning management system. This increases the likelihood that barriers to acquiring the skills that promote meaningful engagement in the learning process will be reduced for all students.
The Open Education movement has opened a critical discussion about justice and access for all of our students. As we work together as educators to provide meaningful learning for all of our students, our collaborations can also include the development of open learning resources on “how to learn” in the disciplines we teach.