Open education
Open education

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Free course

Open education

1.3 The open course environment

During this course we will look at open courses in some detail, as well as the technology used to support open learning. For now, we will set out the technologies used in this course which, since the course needs to be open to all, are open technologies. You can familiarise yourself with these and do any setup required before the course starts.


The Open University’s OpenLearn website is a version of the VLE software Moodle, so may be familiar to many. Created as part of the OpenLearn [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] project, it houses open educational content, which users are free to use and to form communities around.


Many of the activities will require you to post your answer or reflections on your own blog. If you do not have one already, then you need to set up a blog, using a free service such as,, tumblr, and so on. There are often options to buy extensions or upgrades to these services, but for the purposes of this course, the free options are fine. If you have an existing blog, you are free to carry on using that (although you may wish to set up a distinct blog to keep the course material separate).

If you prefer to keep this blog private, then, for the purposes of this course, set up a separate one using one of the free services mentioned above.

OU Live

You will be using the OU Live system for this open course. OU Live is powered by Blackboard Collaborate and allows live chat and sharing of materials. Although you can’t access the session until one hour before the official start time, you can test your setup and adjust your audio by following the guidance in the Getting Started documentation.

Recordings will be made of all OU Live events so that if you miss a session you can still view it later. The recordings will be uploaded to the OU Live recordings section 48 hours after an event.


As well as blogs and the forums in the OpenLearn environment, there will be discussion on Twitter for the course. This is not compulsory, but you will find it a useful way to find and connect with other learners. If you post anything on Twitter that is relevant to the course, end it with the hashtag #h817open, so others can find it and we can gather together the conversation around the course. For example, a tweet about the course may go something like: ‘Just enrolled for the open course at the OU, looking forward to discussing with others. #h817open’.

Activity 1: Getting to know the open environment

Timing: 4 hours

Familiarise yourself with the open environment we are using for this open course by doing the following:

  1. Look at the content of other units in the OpenLearn environment to get a feel for the navigation and the overall environment. You can explore any topic from the OpenLearn home page.
  2. If you have not already done so, set up a blog, as mentioned above.
  3. Post an introductory post to your blog, in which you explain why you’re studying this course and what your background is. Remember to tag it with #h817open (an explanation about tags can be found on Wikipedia).

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