Open learning is like …

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A river starts somewhere and flows. As it flows through different landscapes other rivers and streams join. Some fork and separate out, and rejoin after some time. And the river always flows into and joins a sea or an ocean. We can see that in the natural course of things, life and learning is also a similar experience – we start in pursuit of one thing, come across new ideas and initiatives and by the time we realize that we are done with it, we are in a totally new and different place from where we started. Open Learning is a journey in which we consciously plan, implement, review and reflect to identify and understand where we start, how we flow, what are all the various things that came together on the way and where we have reached. A journey that does not happen in a straight line, rather is like the many streams and estuaries that make a rich and alive river system.

Rivers sometimes flow in turbulent rapids, frothing, roaring, changing color, and foaming. Sometimes rivers are calm and placid. They appear almost as still and standing water until you put your feet in and realize that underneath the calm exterior we have a steady current moving huge amounts of water, without much ado. Life and learning are similar. There are times when we live and learn with a lot of fanfare, but at most times, it happens quietly, without making too much of a song and dance of, something we will notice only after it has happened. Open Learning especially happens in these seemingly quiet ways – as if the learner is just living and doing things. Only when we care to step into the learner’s world do we realize, ah! That’s what is going on here!!

Rivers flow. Some meander every now and then, some stay the course for a long period of time. Some flow quickly, in turbulent rapid, and some flow placidly. Open learners, like rivers, come in different shapes, sizes, and colors; some might pick one topic and pursue it till they are an expert at it; some might move from one topic to another, honing multiple apparently disparate skills; some might be brisk and snappy in completing the tasks they have taken up, some might be calm and easy while they go about it. Just as we identify a river as a body of water that flows, anyone engaged in living and learning is an open learner. Open Learners are not all the same, they do not all behave the same way all the time. Though they all start somewhere and are seeking to go somewhere, some might be doing so in the physical world, some in the intellectual, some in the cultural…

To be an open learner is basically an exercising of our independence – to live and learn as we deem right. In practice, this implies that the learner identifies what they want to do, plans out how they shall go about it, seeks out the necessary resources and draws the line to determine when they are done, and reflects and assess how well they did. Interwoven with this freedom is the responsibility that the learner takes for their learning, for their living. So open learning at its core is truly independence in action.

For almost a century now, a year or so before the Olympic Games starts, the Olympic torch starts traveling from Athens to the host city of the upcoming Olympic games. Ask any Olympian and they will tell you that the fire to be an Olympian started burning inside a long time before. This fire within is commonly identified as a must-have quality by coaches and athletes alike.

Open Learning is a way of life that recognizes the power, focus, and joy that this fire within brings into one’s life. Observe an infant or a toddler for a few days and you’ll start noticing how they learn things they are passionate about. We have Olympians in each of us until we let the world get to us and teach us how to learn, play, live. Self Directed Learning as practiced in the Aarohi Community of Open Learners has evolved from co-creation with many individuals over almost two decades to nurture, feed and cherish fire within. The objective is that each of us lives or lives to the fullest – like an Olympian.

74 years ago, this land of a thousand countries was at the threshold of starting something many of its people had been demanding for many decades by then – independence. The next big achievement of this generation was the drafting of the constitution – putting down in words what this independence meant to them. Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are the words that encapsulate the essence and driving force of independent India’s constitution and are neatly articulated in its preamble.

Open Learning is a way of living in which (a) the pursuit of learning is open to everyone and the objective is to live a fair and just life; (b) we consider that each one among us has their own interests and passions and that we are free to learn what we want to, how we want to learn, from whom, and at what pace; (c) we recognize that each individual, whether an adult or a child, a well educated professional or an illiterate person on the streets, is respected and treated equally and (d) we don’t just think of ourselves and our benefits, but that to others and the whole community, being there for others in the community as we go about our own independent journeys of life. In other words, Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.

Yes, it is not a coincidence that Open Learning is so much like the preamble to the Indian constitution. And it is because in all their wisdom, the founding fathers and mothers of the country drawing from the varied and rich traditions that each of them came from, recognized that these are the core principles that can build a community and propel the country forward.

Open Learning: The Amazing Games BEFORE the Medal Ceremony

Open Learning is a process we engage in on an ongoing basis – every day. Inherently, it is non-competitive. Open learning happens even when, no especially when, the learner identifies what they want to learn, plans the activities, implements the plans and once they are done, assesses how they did. As one engages in this process, again and again, we realize that we are after all trying to do better, reach higher, be stronger, become faster. Then the me before I started this task. This is the spirit that drives the Olympics too. While the medal ceremony in each Olympic game happens only once in 4 years or so, in Open Learning the games are always on, and so are the medal ceremonies.

Open Learning: Welcoming Any whether in any weather!

The weather doesn’t pause for thunderstorms, day-long drizzles, or Sunny monsoon days. And open learning doesn’t either! Sleep in or beat the alarm? Whether to do this or that? Solve math problems or mix these paints? Take a break or take it up a notch?

Each day, each minute, each moment, presents multiple learning opportunities … Some even long after the moment is past. Open learning is about weaving the cloth of life, and livelihood, with the threads of learning from many such moments, with the colours and the patterns as each open learner wishes and achieves.

For an Open Learner, anything and everything around is a resource from which to learn and reflect. They might decide to jump around in a puddle, try and swim in a pond, challenge the currents in a river, or ride the waves in the sea! Each one identifies what they are comfortable doing and pushes the envelope that much further. Some might want to play in the puddle a little longer, some might want to return to the pond after some time in the sea. Life provides many such opportunities in the same way that the rain makes all these water bodies possible.

Learning opportunities in life are like monsoon showers – sometimes it rains a lot, sometimes not as much. Though, when it does, it rains for everyone. Open Learning is like the seeds sown – one can sow just one seed or many; of one kind, or of many different kinds. Whatever seeds we sow, it’ll take some effort from us, and some contributions from those around us to be able to get a harvest after some time.

The seeds that grow into plants bear fruit within a few weeks or months. Life is that much more beautiful and complex – the fruits of learning might be just a few minutes away or maybe a few years away. Open Learning helps us build simple, yet powerful, ways to shape our future and make our journey that much more fun, connected, and memorable.

Open learners create their future … not prepare for one!

Our decisions today shape our tomorrow. Open learners busy themselves day in and day out deciding what they would like to do next. Most of these decisions are about their present. And in taking charge of their today, Open Learners create their future, they don’t just prepare for one shaped and dictated by others.

Open learning is often referred to as learning by living. An open learner is a self-directed learner – s/he identifies what they want to learn, the pace, the method, and the resources with which they feel they would achieve their objective. After a few explorations, we notice that the open learner is not just using any and every resource they can find or search out, they are becoming more creative and inventive in their methods and in the resources they use. In effect, open learning nurtures inherent creativity and makes the learner blossom into a personification of resourcefulness.

The lessons from childhood we remember the most are the ones that we go back to later in life. So when exercising our choice to select what we include in our learning process, it is natural that one would go for the ones that would come in handy later in life. So among Open Learners, one would very likely find physics and dance being used to understand how our body works when playing football!

Children are born leaders. What that means is that like to take initiative, responsibility, do decision making, etc., in their life. What that results in is that they end up developing gumption, perception, self-belief, etc in themselves.

Open Learning emphasis a child’s Interests and Talent. Some of these would eventually become then the real purpose of learning, doing, and creating a career for the child. These would become the purpose of life.