Open and closed learning communities

I know I have not finished this course yet and I am definitely dragging the chain here. I will get to the final part of this very soon promise.

from Hagit's photos on

Open door: from Hagit

Image Open door. From Hagit’s photos on

One reason for the delay is that I have already enrolled in, and I am participating in another course through Otago Polytechnic. This one is Constructing Courses to Enhance Learning in Midwifery and I cannot give you a link to this course as, unlike the two other similar courses I have participated in over the last year, this one is closed. It is delivered entirley through the moodle learning management system.

The first course, along this line, that I participated in was Facilitating Online Communities. This course was an enormous amount of work for me, but mostly I was self driven as I enjoyed it so much. It opened up my eyes to the possibilities for open access  to educational material. This was not totally new or foreign to me. As a rural midwife I often bemoaned the tantalising tit bits of information that could be accessed for free, from midwifery and medical journals, and then you are asked for an enormous some of money, for an article that is quite possibly of no real relevance. I was very enthusiastic when I discovered Biomed Central and Rural and Remote Health journals which send email alerts of their articles and give full access to everyone for free, Wonderful!! So I was very open to open access. I started blogging and got a bit carried away with that from time to time. I enjoyed sharing learning with others and learned about RSS feeds to keep track of everyone. I also learned about del-ici-ous and other Web 2.0 social networking tools. So many things that I truly do not believe I could have learned had the learning not been open and accessible with all the potential that the world wide web has to offer.

The next course I engaged with is this one Designing for Flexible Learning Practice, which is taking me longer to get through and is a bit more of a struggle for me, not because it is any less interesting but because I had to take a break in the middle and so have lost that sense of community that I believe drives one forward and inspires one to keep going and explore. Also my soul mate in the previous course dropped out of this one, how sad :(. She is now flying high in lots of other directions and I am left plodding on. None the less the learning I have achieved through this course has also been quite amazing I think. And I do think the openness of the course contributes to that for me. I like communicating with others through a blog. When I blog I am writing for myself and my own learning but happy to share that with others too. I do not find the moodle discussion groups or other moodle communication tools, at least those I am so far aware of, as liberating for me. I feel constrained and do not want to explore too much as I am aware that others are being forced to look at what I am writing in this shared learning space. In my blog, I can write what I like, others can read it if they like, it is just a totally different concept.

In the open access courses I felt quite happy to use open access resources such as slideshare to share my learning with the group or anyone else, and for presenting my work. I am not concerned about it being out in the WWW. If people find my work useful and applicable to their situation, fine. If not they can leave it alone. Yes, I need to make sure my work is based on the best available evidence, wherever that evidence exists. I am acutely aware that my writing may somehow reflect on my institution, who are the first Polytechnic in the world to have embraced an open access policy to staff work, something of which I am very proud. I am free to publish my work wherever I wish and to make it as open and available as I desire. I have been storing several of the resources I am developing in slideshare.

As I have been working towards the development of the new curriculum for undergraduate midwifery education I have become aware of the discomfort and distrust of others toward and open environment for midwifery education. Despite this I have found it to be enormously helpful to have access to the open resources that others have made freely available on line such as this. I retain a belief that we should be as open with our edcuational material as we can be. I will continue to work towards this as a personal goal. Open access definitely suits something in my personality, which I believe is open and honest and some would say is too open and honest. I know that openness leaves many feeling uncomfortable and unable to contribute and for this reason perhaps it will take a  long time before we see a broad policy of open access in midwifery education in New Zealand.

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  1. Dear soulmate

    I miss you! We need to do some face-to-face bonding – down the pub, I think!!

    I found this post to be really interesting, and you have echoed what I think. Isn’t it funny, I am so used to an open environment now now I feel weird ‘learning’ in a closed one. Its probably a lot to do with the context of the course, as well. What I especially miss is the outside perspectives we get in an open course. If I had posted this post, I would have used a image of a cage which I think is a lot more relevant to how I feel at the moment.

  2. Glad to see you stopped by. Sorry I was out.
    I thought you would feel this way too!
    Actually I think this picture kind of says it for me. I feel like I am in this place where there is a lot of potential but it is a bit dark and I am finding it kind of hard to see. Outside in the open it looks bright and I can clearly see all the potential that is out there but I feel if I try to go that way the doors will close and the potential will be lost.So it is better to stay where I am for now and maybe in time we will all move closer towards the door.
    I think a good hot curry and a session at the pub sometime would be just the bees knees 🙂

  3. davidmcquillan

     /  August 31, 2008


    It is weird isn’t it once you’ve jumped over to the open-ed paradigm to talk with people who just don’t get it.

    Most of my peers are private training institutions, and they’re s**t scared of opening up their IP to others.

    … but it’s so hard for me to understand why they can’t see how amazing it would be if we would share our information.

    Oh well, I guess there are about 12-15 educational institutions in NZ, but there are at least 10 times that in the US. There must be at least 1000 throughout the world. If I can persuade only 0.5% of those to contribute to the project, it’ll work. 🙂

  4. Good point Dave, and to that end we need to work carefully towards internationalisation – which again puts us way out in front, exposed for criticism and cut backs. Open access is easy compared to internationalisation. Now that we are ok with openness, how can we design and develop our courses in a TRULY culturally sensitive/inviting manor so that we are sure to have the least amount of barriers to that important collaboration?

    One thing is not to express our learning objectives in too much of a context specific manor. This is the first place educators will look.. So where we use NZ unit standards, or other formal expressions, think of an international audience. And then the next step is to proactively seek out where our courses directly relate to other courses, contact the other course administrator, map the outcomes and be able to say “our course is equivalent to their course” and work towards collaboration from that..

    We are in that process with the DFLP and FOC courses

  5. davidmcquillan

     /  September 2, 2008

    I have kind-of done that with the Massage Therapy Educational Resources project.

    Material is categorised in two areas. One is categorised by content, one is categorised by a set of learning outcomes that have been developed in NZ.

    There’s an invitation to contributors to discuss these learning outcomes, the idea being that this process may facilitate movement towards a set of internationally agreed learning outcomes (at some date in the far off future). I could make this invitation quite a lot clearer if I put some time into it, but I don’t have it at the moment.

  6. Hmm, so how can we invite collaboration on that? Collaboration in developing a library service might be a little harder. We all have our prefered methods of collecting resources… I wonder if a wikibook development would attract interest? A definative text book for massage therapy, always freely accessible, always up to date. You could use this initial work to inform the development. There is some grant money floating around with AKO Aotearoa that might fit.

  7. davidmcquillan

     /  September 2, 2008

    I’m pretty sure that I could get funding from the Massage Therapy Foundation (US-based), and I’m also pretty sure that collaboration will come.

    As I see it funding would be applied to marketing the idea initially, and administration on an ongoing basis. There needs to be someone who fields queries from newbies, organises training or lets people know about training, and manages quality & consistency. I plan to get onto this next year if I can find the time.

  8. I wonder if there is scope for collaboration with Carolyn with the subjects she teaches. You are both for the Health Sector and you both share core competencies.. or perhaps there is an opportunity for a specialty.. massage pregnant women for example

  9. Great to see you here David and Leigh, Thanks for dropping by my blog and starting this interesting conversation. I have had a look at the wikieducator link you supplied David and found a lot there that I think would be useful for midwifery students as well as massage therapy students. I can see you have been very busy developing this whereas I have not really done anything much on the resources I started work on in FOC. You probably remember that I started a midwifery page but did not really get any help or support in that endeavor. None the less I have been using it as a repository for online resources that I have located that I think may be of use for midwifery students.
    This page is here, . It is less developed but along similar lines to the resources you have been developing. I can see that many of the resources you have included would be useful for midwives and could be useful in developing this up further. I do however feel that this midwifery resource lacks legitimacy if it is only me that is working on it. Not sure how i can stimulate interest with others in this. The other problem at the moment is that I have no time to work on it but will continue to add resources as I find them. I am open to any suggestions about this and would happily collaborate if and when I have the time.

  10. I know you guys are going to shoot me for saying this but I still find wikieducator difficult and feel that it is not a good platform for newbies, & I would say it can be quite off-putting. I spent quite a lot of time in wikied at the weekend, & I have to say that I found it difficult to navigate around, & I like to think that I am fairly knowledgeable. ‘Our’ midwives would hate it.

  11. When you say you feel wikieducator is difficult for newbies do you mean as learners or as educators Sarah? I found it to be really good for accessing an open course such as the ones that we did. I find it very clear and easy to follow, of course that depends on how it has been set up.

    I agree it is a learning curve as a course developer to set up material in wikieducator. I can manage the basics but still have not mastered putting images in. I just have not got the time a present to work on learning this, particularly as I am not using it in my day to day work. If I was I don’t think it would take me too long to develop the skill necessary to do this. I agree, if educators were required to use this as a platform and were already uncomfortable about the idea of online resources and open access, then the complexity of wikieducator would probably be overwhelming.


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