Online Learning

Wiki Profiles Open University Innovations

How blockchain technology can be used to support student learning, assessment and badges. How exams can be generated spontaneously online, issued to the student immediately and results graded and transferred to the student evaluation division instantly. How to give students access to self-help academic information, course selection, program planning and degree auditing. These are just a few of the "breakthrough innovations" being tested at open universities around the world and described in a wiki developed by Contact Nord, a nonprofit funded by the government of Ontario.

The result,, profiles the work of 66 open universities dedicated to increasing access to courses for those who want higher education, no matter what their backgrounds.

An open university is an institution that allows people to attend courses without having formal academic qualifications, whether for personal enrichment, professional development or to prepare for a university career. The first such school was the UK's Open University, which opened in 1969. These days, open universities are online programs but they're not necessarily free. For example, Open University charges between £10,308 and £15,775 for a master's degree from its Engineering & Technology program.

While TeachOnline focuses on Ontario-specific "pockets of innovation" first, and Canada innovation second, it also maintains a list of international activities too. These are projects with three characteristics:

  • They represent a new approach;
  • They support students; and
  • The developers behind them are "prepared to share their innovations, the challenges they've encountered and what they've learned."

For example, the University of Denmark runs an admissions program for adults who want to qualify to apply for an engineering degree program. An institution in Sweden is working on developing hybrid MOOCs that serve "diverse learners." And in the United States, the University of Florida online Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Educational Technology offers a program that develops a community of practice that will live on in participants' lives even after they've completed the degree.

According to TeachOnline, the profiles seek "to capture what is happening in open universities so all of us engaged in online and distance education have direct and immediate access to breakthrough innovations we can adopt, adapt and apply in our own institution."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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