I am an open learner :-)

Activity 24: Considering Open Learner Literacies

For this activity, we’ve been asked to draw up a list of open learner literacies and justify each element on our list. My list of open learner literacies is based on the elements that I feel have been necessary in order to learn successfully in this MOOC on Open Education. I also admit to have included some elements from my own formal education context that I find relevant but that need upgrading to the open and digital age.

From colourbox.com

From colourbox.com

But what are open learner literacies?

Sukaina Walji, one of my fellow MOOCers on H817open defines it like this in her blog post:

“Open learning literacies therefore focus on those capabilities that enable learners to survive and thrive in an open learning environment. This means surviving and thriving beyond a course, in the absence of a course or getting the most out of a cMOOC. More broadly, open learning literacies are those literacies that enable lifelong learning in an digital environment with abundance of content and opportunities afforded by others’ increasing open practices”.

(Walji, 2013)

I like Sukaina’s definition because the focus is on the open learner and not any tool or device that must be mastered to achieve open learner literacies. Furthermore, her definition stresses my own point of view, namely that successful learning should be seen through the lens of social constructivist pedagogy combined with connectivism to capture the full potential of the open aspect and also the full potential of the online aspect.

In my list of open learner literacies below, I’ve tried to focus on the literacies that “help learners bridge the gap between their informal knowledge practices and the demands of study” (Beetham, 2010:7). I.e. what is needed to go from a bit of internet surfing and social networking to open learning?

I first had a look at the Jenkins et al. list of 11 new skills for learners to find out what learner literacies have already been labelled and defined. I came across some literacies that cohere with my ideas:

Play – the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem solving (Jenkins et al., 2009).

I’d rather call this literacy “experiment” as I see it as a drive to investigate how e.g. social media tools work and how content can be used and reused. A sort of “trial and error” approach that I think is necessary for learners to make the most of open, online learning. “[S]hortfalls in learners’ […] confidence to use new devices and applications, or to use familiar technologies in new ways” have been identified (Beetham, 2010:12-13); therefore the ability and confidence to experiment and try and try again is very important if learners are to fully engage in open learning.

Appropriation – the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content (Jenkins et al., 2009).

This literacy is a version of “Remix skills – the ability to identify, evaluate and select relevant content on the web and remix this into new works that respect any copyright and licensing of the content used” that I wrote about in my blog post for activity 17

Multitasking – the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details (Jenkins et al., 2009).

With the abundance of content, some decision-making is needed to cope within the time available and to secure that you’re focussing on what’s important to your particular learning needs.

Judgement – the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources (Jenkins et al., 2009).

This literacy, or source critique as it’s labelled in formal education, becomes increasingly relevant because we have access to an ever growing pool of content on the open web. As the amount of information grows, learners’ judgement, or the more encompassing information literacies, seems to fall behind: “Information literacies, including searching, retrieving, critically evaluating information from a range of appropriate sources and also attributing it – represent a significant and growing deficit area” (Beetham, 2010:16). Studies show that learners “[…] do not possess the critical and analytical skills to assess the information that they find on the web” (Beetham, 2010:12).

Appropriation, multitasking and judgement are literacies that are needed in order to meaningfully navigate and make use of the abundance of content on the open web. So a heading could be “Coping with abundance”.

Jenkins further suggests “Networking – the ability to search for, synthesise and disseminate information” (Jenkins et al., 2009). However, I find that the focus is on information/content rather than on people which, I believe, should be at the centre of things. So my version of this literacy would be:


Connecting captures the people angle. I find that what motivates, engages and drives me forward is very much the connections to other learners. Reading and relating to their ideas, thoughts and interpretations and receiving comments that nudge me on and that makes me feel included in a learning community.

Inspired by Walji (2013), Beetham (2010) and Weller (2012), I’d also like to add this literacy:

Identifying oneself as an open learner

I.e. coming to grips with embracing openness in your approach, attitudes and behaviour. Embracing the idea of being on open learner and being able to identify the means to survive and thrive in an open learning environment.

“Aggregating their own services, managing their own identities, building their own networks, and mashing up their own content, demand different attitudes and a much stronger sense of self-efficacy compared with participation in an institutional learning environment” (Beetham, 2010:9).

During this MOOC on open education, we’ve discussed how the lack of open learner literacies can be a barrier to successful participation in open, online education. Thus also being a barrier to the fulfilment of the altruistic goals of providing learning to all. Open learner literacies therefore become quite vital for digital inclusion (Beetham, 2010). But how can we help develop open leaner literacies?

I’ve had some inspiration from Beetham in her review of the research study “Learning Literacies for a Digital Age” (Beetham, 2010:16). She mentions several approaches:

  • Tutor support – is relevant, extremely helpful and highly needed as most of us have discovered in the course of this MOOC.
  • Embed literacies into curriculum – this is an approach that highlight the need to work with open learning literacies in general to prepare people for lifelong learning and for a life as a digital citizen.
  • Learners need to be engaged in their own development – learners’ existing practice should be recognised – this approach attempts to build on what learners already do in terms of engaging with people and tools on the web and from there motivate learners to develop existing skills and behaviour into open learner literacies.
  • Academic staff must rethink own practice – Academic staff must act as role models that learners can imitate.

The project “From the Transforming Curriculum Delivery through Technology” suggests to provide “learning experiences in ways that support the development of autonomous digital learners” (Beetham, 2010:17). I feel that this is exactly what the Open Education MOOC has been all about. We’ve been asked and encouraged to engage in the learning activities provided in ways which have helped us develop into not only digital, but open learners.


Beetham, H. (2010) Review and Scoping Study for a Cross-JISC Learning and Digital Literacies Programme: Sept 2010, JISC. http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/elearning/DigitalLiteraciesReview.pdf

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. and Weigel, M. (2009) Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, Chicago, IL, The MacArthur Foundation. http://digitallearning.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7E0-A3E0-4B89-AC9C-E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF

Walji, S. (2013). Considering open learner literacies. http://littlegreycellsblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/considering-open-learner-literacies/

Weller, M. (2012) ‘The openness–creativity cycle in education’, Special issue on Open Educational Resources, JIME. http://jime.open.ac.uk/jime/article/view/2012-02


3 thoughts on “I am an open learner :-)

  1. Thanks for the link to my post; glad you found it useful. I think you ask a crucial question ‘what is needed to go from a bit of internet surfing and social networking to open learning?’ It helps to visualise that it is possible but also there is work to be done including tutor support and modelled activities.

  2. Pingback: 100+ONLINE COLLEGE RESOURCES on OPEN COURSEWARE and MOOCs | Education Progresses Best When Knowledge is Shared Openly and Freely

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