Day-to-day education fails to provide the necessary room for many exciting things that we can learn. How then can we fit these activities into our routines? Due to the time we spend at school, work or university, and the commitments we have during our free time, most of us have very little motivation, energy or time left for the things that we are truly passionate about or that really interest us. This situation begins at a very early age: our learning environments (our schools, universities and training institutions) rely on set content that often takes up all of the available learning time. Consequently, it is only when we conduct presentations, academic and scientific research and other similar projects that we actually get a chance to concentrate on the things that we are truly interested in. Unfortunately, many of us no longer have the time or the tenacity to do so when at home by ourselves.
However, the current trend towards freeing up enough time and space for us to focus on our interests is even affecting traditional learning environments and can be felt in contexts ranging from nurseries to adult education. Many nurseries have now moved away from subject-based early support and are providing more time for free play. Free play has been shown to deliver an optimal setting in which children can develop their social and physical skills. Lots of school curricula are now based on the view that intensive learning has to be built on learners’ intrinsic motivations; put more simply, learning needs to reflect things that learners are interested in. This understanding has led some schools to ensure their timetables offer weekly slots for open learning. Similarly, university degree programs now integrate individual student projects into their teaching, and the number of people joining study groups with no set curricula is continually rising.
Open learning also involves learners taking on responsibility for themselves
As open learning environments enable learners to follow their own interests they help them develop a greater zest for learning. On the personal level, this can lead to an appreciation of the need for learning. Clearly then, open learning environments also involve learners taking on responsibility for themselves, and, in many cases, this can constitute a first step towards self-determination. Open learning also enables people to develop an individual portfolio of competencies that can ensure learners are better placed to find work later in life. Due to the multitude of available programs, combined with the demands on employees to demonstrate individual abilities, specialist skills and their own passions, we continually need more space outside of our leisure time so that we can dedicate ourselves to these aspects. However, this approach works best when it is properly accompanied, led and structured.
Importantly, openness can also lead to randomness and poor-quality learning. The experiences gained from open learning demonstrate that learners need time to step away from extrinsically motivated contexts (learning for exams and/or grades) and properly benefit from intrinsically motivated learning. Acceptance of failure can constitute an integral part of this process. As switching to open learning means engaging with one’s own needs and actions, it often causes difficulties. Coaches are therefore particularly important in open learning environments as they can provide learners with guidance, help them discover their passions, strengthen their tenacity, and bring structure to the learning process.