OpenLearning is a platform that students and teachers can use to create social and collaborative wiki-based courses. Course content formats include audio, video, text, blogs, quizzes and different types of assignments. OpenLearning’s system is based on the principles of student autonomy, diversity of learning materials, openness of resources and social interactivity. Anyone can create a course and anyone can take a course, which allows sharing of knowledge across generations.
The OpenLearning software encourages students and teachers alike to aggregate, remix and repurpose learning resources within a course to create a rich, motivating and constructive environments in which meaningful learning experiences are stimulated. This allows teachers and students to help each other more effectively and improve the course as they progress through it. The mission at OpenLearning is to inspire students and foster their creativity.
“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 crowd-sourcing and community-centered approach to the enrichment of the online learning environment,” explains Adam Brimo, co-founder of OpenLearning. “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.”
OpenLearning, based in Sydney, Australia, has worked closely with the University of New South Wales Computer Science and Engineering department since the conception of the learning portal. UNSW senior lecturer Richard Buckland experimented with a range of online learning tools including wikis and forums. He tested different ways to keep students motivated and engaged in a course, and in 2008 and 2009 Buckland placed his beginner computer science lectures on YouTube and received almost two million views.
“This inspired us to build a platform that enabled students to learn in a far better and more enjoyable environment,” continues Brimo. “The University of New South Wales has been an early supporter of OpenLearning and they’ve used it during our beta period for half a dozen computer science courses. Now, we allow teachers worldwide to create open public courses for free while only charging universities and colleges who wish to keep courses private.”
When it was time to deploy and run OpenLearning, the team looked to Rackspace and the Managed Cloud option as an extra layer of support, as a provider of necessary services and for the 24/7/365 access to a trained cloud support team for its cloud computing infrastructure. “Rackspace’s Managed Cloud really suits our needs,” points out Brimo. “It’s extremely easy to setup new servers and we can install all the software we need. The Domain Name System (DNS) and load balancers services are also vital and we like keeping our entire configurations in one place.”
“One of the unique things about our team is that while we are all engineers, we are also all educators with everyone involved in OpenLearning having taught students before,” concludes Brimo. “We have a passion for education and we feel that all existing education platforms do not foster deep learning and that they constrain students. Over 1,000 students have already used OpenLearning during beta and we’re expecting thousands more to join these courses. We are dedicated to building a social, wiki-based learning environment that has gamification tools to motivate and engage students. And, we’re extremely excited to launch OpenLearning with some amazing public courses.”
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