Open Learning – some thoughts


Collaboration & Camaraderie in Open Learning

In conventional education, 20 to 100 children are all taught the same set of subjects at the same time in the same way. Some schools even design their activities to encourage collaboration. So a common concern among families considering Self Directed Learning is, ‘how will my child learn how to collaborate when each one around her/him is doing their own thing?’ The Aarohi Community of Open Learners provides a nurturing environment for learners of any age to pursue whatever they would like to do. In order to do this within a community setting, the community space and the many shared resources, whether it’s on-campus or online, are built and maintained by learners. This is an important, and critical, way in which learners collaborate with each other and foster a growing camaraderie. It’s not just with those of their own age, but of all ages and abilities… just as we all do once we step out of schools and colleges and into the real world. The process of learning follows the simple steps of planning, doing, and reflecting. Each learner shares their plans of when where and what they are doing. If any of the others are interested in that activity, they discuss and do it together co-creating the activities and outcomes. After the doing, reflection happens in many different ways, and it is a community process that all learners participate in. All these steps present opportunities for collaboration and the way children and adults grab and run with it is a sheer joy to experience and witness!

Open Learning: Creating Value of, by & for Self
When living by the concepts of Self Directed Learning, it is quite natural that the primary effort to identify the value of something, to add value to something, to build one’s self-confidence, and recognize their own value, rests on the shoulders of the individual. Open Learning as practiced in the Aarohi Community of Open Learners is centered around the concept of self-directed learning (SDL). Even though the pace and direction of learning is driven by the individual, it is situated within a community process where the values of actions and objects and people and emotions are recognized, practiced, shared and reflected upon as a community. So instead of a board of education, a school board, a teacher, or even a parent identifying what is valuable and setting a syllabus or curriculum or lesson plan, in SDL, the learner lives within a peer group where each individual is planning, doing and then reflecting upon their actions. The process of learning, after all, is one of being able to identify the value of a particular action or object and being able to act upon that. In practicing SDL, the individual gets to practice this every day, every moment. The learner has the freedom to set the pace at which they create, add and derive value from their interactions, and naturally along with the freedom comes the responsibility for the same. And we see this again and again, whether it is a child or an adult, when given this freedom their inner personality emerges and the community is offered an opportunity to support and nurture this sapling and help it grow into a plant and further into a tree.

Open Learning: Finding & Developing Passions
We all recognize that we remember and understand things better when we are passionate about it. And typically, even if the process may not feel like fun, as we start achieving the objective, we feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. These experiences and memories stay with us for a long time and we very likely build on them or use them in the future. Open Learning as practiced in the Aarohi Open Learning Community is centered around the concept of self-directed learning. The learner identifies their interests and the resources to help them achieve their objective. They find and make use of the resource and as they start doing what interests them, they start reflecting and sharing about their experience and interests, assessing themselves on how they are doing and how far they have come helps them identify their way forward. This process happens within a community, each learner pursues their particular topic or concept and at the same time sees different concepts and ways of doing things. The net result of the exposure and the energy to do results in a churning. Out of this emerges the much sought-after thing called passion. But it is not just in finding a passion that the open learning community excels. The process of open learning within a community also succeeds in provoking the individual to work on their passion, strengthen their commitment, and to build it into expertise. Note that this is not a linear journey and many a time might involve multiple starts and jumps. Nor is it a fixed timeline process – for some it might take a few days while for others it might take years. Going through this within a community helps keep the fire burning and the pursuit fun and joyous experience for everyone in the community.

Jobs & Careers for Open Learners
The Aarohi Community of Open Learners provides a nurturing environment for a learner of any age to pursue whatever they would like to do. It might be to better understand or master some principles of philosophy, physics, football, or food carving. Parents and families considering Aarohi often say, ‘oh that sounds great! But… What job will s/he get? What will become of their career?’ Each Open Learner becomes what they want to make of themselves. An open learner who wants to be a pilot will have to study the necessary subjects and get the necessary training, certificates, and qualifications they need to become one; similarly for an accountant, engineer, doctor, art curator, chef, architect, polo player or any profession that s/he might want to pursue. Their parents, grandparents, teachers, or someone else does not decide for them. They decide for themselves. The freedom to shape their today is one face of the coin and the responsibility of shaping their life, and therefore their career is the other. In conventional education systems, an individual is trained for a particular profession. Many of us changed tracks somewhere down the line and many others are unable to upgrade their skills and feel stuck in their jobs. Almost everyone agrees that in today’s world we need to be on our toes updating our skills and knowledge or else be ready to become dated. A Self Directed Learner in the Aarohi Community is supported and encouraged to not just get the necessary skills for one profession, they are better equipped to deal with, survive and thrive in a changing world.

Discipline & Discovery in Open Learning
Discipline in conventional societal conditions is more often than not, seen as a restriction imposed on an individual or group of individuals. But each of us has experienced or seen someone around us motivated sufficiently that they identify or formulate rules and follow them for extended periods of time to achieve their target. Self-directed learning is a process in which we encourage learners to explore and put some tools in front of them to help them identify the things that motivate them, that help them develop a discipline naturally without needing another person to crack a whip on them. The process of identifying the topics that excite open learner, that fuels their passions, that motivate them to go beyond their comfort zone is also a process of exploration and discovery. It is worth noting that while discipline and discovery are fairly significant parts of self-directed learning, they do not, by themselves, completely define it – there’s a lot more that makes Open Learning the fun that it is!

Open Learning: Plan, Experience, Reflect,
Self Directed Learning has many flavors and takes many different shapes. The curriculum, structure, timeline, resources are all decided on by the learner. A community such as the Aarohi Community of Open Learners only facilitates the process. This process of open learning can be captured in 4 simple words: Plan, Experience, Reflect and Repeat. Each of these is critical aspect. As we plan our activities we channelize our enthusiasm and energies. Experiencing helps us develop more than just one intelligence. Reflecting on the experience helps us analyze and draw inferences and lessons beyond the obvious. Repeating the process helps us move to the next step charting our own learning path, building our own curriculum.

Open Learning and SELF
Nurturing I, me, Myself We & Us Knowing the ‘self’ plays an important role in each of us living a life that is happy and joyous. And we have come about to recognize that it is also a critical ingredient in building meaningful relationships and conscious participation in communities. So it is not a coincidence that a good part of the effort among open learning communities, such as Aarohi, is focused on learning and developing different ways to recognize and understand oneself. Through this process, one finds many an opportunity for joy & laughter and for building more meaningful relationships and therefore, communities.

Approvals & Rejections when Open Learning
We live in a society and interact with many individuals. Typically these interactions are casual and we may not think or feel too much about them. We can also observe that we receive more comments, suggestions, and questions when we do something that the other person does not expect to see us do – when a person who usually wears dull-colored clothes one day wears a bright color will vouch for that ! Open learning is practiced in some form or the other by many individuals, but as it is not part of a conscious effort, they do not recognize or relate their own life and learning to open learning. So an individual taking up Open learning typically stands out of the crowd and invariably receives a lot of unsolicited comments, questions and advice. How do open learners deal with such situations? Do they let such approvals or rejections influence the way they live and think? What are the ways in which we can deal with such situations as open learners?

Open Learning: Living in the Present, Shaping the Future
Almost all the families opting to follow open learning do not subscribe to this ‘one size fits all’ approach of most conventional education systems. They challenge the notion that for a better future, we need to sacrifice the student’s present. At its very core, Open Learning is a way of living our present so that the future is shaped the way each individual seeks it to be.
So we in the Aarohi Open Learning community believe that each one of us, whether a child or an adult, has all it takes to be successful, happy, and satisfied. And that by working as a community we can strengthen ourselves and contribute to strengthening those around us. Members of the community, child and adult alike, identify opportunities to do things, try and do it, fail or succeed at it, observe and reflect, work through their failures and successes, find their feet again, rebuild, replan, and go for it. Going through this process, we see confident, aware and secure individuals emerge, ready to build and shape their future.