Innovation and open education

This is my essay for TMA01 Part 1 of course H818; not sure if it fully answers the required question, rather than explains more than necessary about the project I am undertaking for the course – oh well, we’ll see what the tutor thinks!

I’m quite happy to share this openly and to provide some detailed insight into what I hope to achieve from the course. In addition, I hope it will encourage more employees to engage with the learning process, or at least consider it, to suit their needs and potential recruits to  think about Groundsmanship as a career.

Part 1

Innovation as a lens through which to understand open education


The topic I have chosen interconnects all of the three themes of inclusion, innovation and implementation. It makes learning more accessible through the use of a web platform to enhance the learner experience by facilitating a shared and collaborative approach and reduces barriers to adoption due to the connections the web platform makes with social media, which is relatively widespread within the industry context of the topic.

The theme and focus of the project is, however, on innovation and through the use of web 2.0 tools and the aim is to encourage learners to determine their own learning pathway by using the project’s web-platform as a central point of reference for making connections with content and outcomes.

Web 2.0 tools, such as blogs, wikis, social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter), file storage and sharing sites (e.g. Dropbox) “empower the end-user to access, create, disseminate and share information easily in a user-friendly, open environment” (Bates, 2011a). Learners can share content, through links and comments, fromwithin their own Web 2.0 environment to that of the project, thus creating a collaborative learning environment.

The specific subject matter for the topic is the new Level 2 Apprenticeship Standard for the Groundsmanship industry (SFA, 2015), which, whilst aimed at young people, will actually determine a measurable level of craftsmanship, irrespective of age. This topic is particularly important because there is a significant skills gap within the entire grounds-care industry and if a sustainable workforce is to be achieved there is a need to encourage more young people,and other groups,to consider Groundsmanship as a career option (Anon, 2008).

This project will develop a web platform on which people can discoverand engage with the expectations of what is involved in the industry from the perspective of the skills, knowledge and behaviours at craft operative level, as defined by the Standard.

This resource will provide support to a learner, through the process of sharing and collaboration, throughout their learning journey in achieving the requirements of the Standard and is to act as a catalyst to further engage young people who are typically active in social media (Matthews, 2014).

Innovation and open education

The speed of technological developments in the 21st Century has been considerable and there is a challenge for the education sector to keep pace with these developments, ensuring students have the skills and knowledge to succeed in the modern workplace.

Open education can be seen as a disruptive force which is connecting technology with changing behaviours, giving ownership to learners through a rise in informal learning by sharing and collaboration and reinforces the need to reflect on the best way to teach and learn in the modern era: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow” (Rice, 2013).

If innovation is defined as, “A change made in the nature or fashion of anything; something newly introduced; a novel practice, method, etc.” [OED], then open education emphasises the importance of the application of innovations through online digital technologieswhich facilitate the networking effect of engaging learners in the sharing and collaborative of freely created content (Weller, 2011a).

An online web platform which utilises Web 2.0 technologies can be seen to embrace the concept of openness in education, and this is an approach which I am taking for my H818 project.

There is, however, a constraint on the potential success of openness in education in that people need to give and contribute and not just take, which Weller terms ‘shifted reciprocity’ (Weller, 2011b).

What this means is that people will generally share and contribute in response to a request or comment made by another, especially from a regular contributor, however, if users are not prepared to contribute to a discussion or thread then fewerresponses will be given to their requests and openness will fail to prosper; there needs to be some degree of reciprocation of efforts(Sneddon, 2015).

Privacy issues can also be a concern within open education and the open nature of the digital web-based medium also exposes it to unacceptable behaviour, not so much from those within a group of learners but those from without (Alexander & Sapra, 2013), in contrast where users have a closed network, the issue of privacy may not be a particular concern (Toetenel, 2014). The amount of self-disclosure an individual will make is strongly dependent upon the trust they have of the context of the online platform and material and also their own personality (Tait, S.E. & Jeske, D. , 2015).

There will be tension between a totally open online platform and one which facilitates the learning process in a moderated manner. Having a moderator can ensure appropriate behaviour (although that definition alone can be problematical) is practiced and may help to better engage learners who may otherwise be reluctant to partake in sharing and collaborative activities. Moderation on a web platform may provide an element of trust in which learners become more open, in contrast to a web platform that is ‘anarchically open’.

Choosing appropriate Web 2.0 tools to deliver a fit-for-purpose platform is essential because the tools “themselves do not teach or result in effective or meaningful learning – there must be a particular purpose or rationale for their use, and teacher support and guidance in most cases are still likely to be essential” (Bates, 2011b).

Significant benefits of Web 2.0 tools have been shown to provide an effective means to engage in social learning through sharing and collaboration (Vorvoreanu et al, 2015;Ioannou et al 2015), although many challenges are still evident, especially regards the learning processand the linking of how useful some tools are and the evaluation of web content in relation to outcomes (Rahimi et al, 2015).

Making sense of the range of Web 2.0 tools and appropriately interconnecting them on a web platform is an important aspect of a digital and open project. One important purpose will typically be to enhance, rather than hinder, learning and for the developer it is to have clear aims and objectives to avoid the project becoming unusable and thus not open to anyone as it is not being used.

Whilst research has focussed on higher education and the role web 2.0 tools and social media can play to actively aid and encourage learners in determining their learning journey “the opportunity to better prepare students for the workplace and for becoming lifelong learners” is an outcome which can be fostered more widely, especially within adult education (Blascke,2012).

The pace of technological change can be quite staggering. Whilst early adopters of innovations can lead the way in demonstrating the use of digital technologies in open education, it is the usefulness of the innovation that will influence how successful, or not, it will be.

Meeting the current needs of learners and employers through the development of better quality apprenticeships is one area that innovative and open learning can help. The means to deliver this innovation is through a collaborative platform such as that being created for the project requirements of course H818. The motivation to engage with the platform, whether in an informal way, or as an extension of a formal pedagogical learning programme, is provided by empowering the learner to become “directly responsible for their learning as an active rather than a passive learner” (Hase & Kenyon, 2015). Facilitating this is a key purpose of the project.

Providing learners with a new, or different, approach to engaging with the learning process may prove useful enough in acting as a catalyst to ultimately meet the needs of the turf care industry in providing a sustainable input and throughput of new workers.


Innovation, especially of digital technology in the form of Web 2.0 tools, can be seen to offer a means to significantly increase the opportunities for open education to thrive and prosper in modern society.

Industries need to adopt new, or additional, learning potentials if they are to attract new workers and develop existing workers into and within their industry.

Developing a web platform which can demonstrate the benefits, and limitations, of a sharing, collaborative open learning environment offers an opportunity to better engage people into the grounds care industry, in particular within the context of Groundsmanship. If the project can enthuse individuals into an open, self-determined, approach to learning then I will consider this to have been a success.

[Word count: 1388]



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Anon, (2008) ‘Grounds Management: The Hidden Profession ‘, TrioPlus Ltd, retrieved 31 October 2015 from

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