Open learning is a term that refers to a range of educational practices which are united by the aim of widening access to education. This may occur through open-access or non-accredited learning, self-guided or flexible learning pathways or innovative modes of delivery, including the use of digital resources or cascade models of education. Open learning has become a key element of the theological education resources provided by TEIs across the country. It has developed in response to different needs and desires, such as the desire to widen access to the rigorous theological education and training offered by the TEIs, the need for quality online open-access educational materials and the need to provide flexible and open-ended learning for people in a range of different contexts. Open learning in theology, ministry and mission meets with particular pedagogical challenges related to problems of distance and isolation, quality assurance and effectiveness. These problems are not unique to this field, but they do present distinctive challenges where the development of interpersonal relationships, practical skills and personal competencies are considered core aspects of theological development. As open learning resources are being developed across the TEIs, this project seeks to clarify the aims, objectives, challenges and methods for open learning which will best meet the needs of the church and respond to these challenges.
This project will assess the uses of open learning for education and training in theology, ministry and mission in the UK today.
• It will begin with an exploration of the current nature of open learning across the TEIs and related institutions. The project will look at the intended outcomes of present models of open learning. It will aim to identify the contexts and people that it serves.
• It will seek to identify effective modes of delivery. This area will focus on the pedagogical peculiarities of open learning, their advantages and disadvantages, and the most effective means of delivering open learning for ministry and mission.
• The project will look at how we assess the effectiveness of open learning. How might we measure the extent to which it has met the intended outcomes in the life, ministry and mission of the church? It will then identify areas for future growth and development on the basis of a greater understanding of pedagogies of open learning in these contexts.
The research will be conducted through an analysis of case studies of open learning which are currently in operation, through the use of a questionnaire and structured discussions. Out of this project the core research team will produce a report which will contribute to the development of open learning resources through the Common Awards.