…and who are OpenLearners? It’s a question that’s been in my head for quite a while now.

Each week I run the stats which show how many people have visited the site overall, and how many have visited LabSpace and LearningSpace in particular. We report how many people have registered on OpenLearn, and how many people who have visited the site have registered on an OU course in the same session. We keep track on the top ten units, dwell time, page views, and referring sites.

But all of this suggests that OpenLearners are OpenLearners iff (that’s one for you philosophy bods out there) they visit the OpenLearn site. But what about all the times that an OpenLearn unit is printed off, photocopied and handed around to friends or colleagues who are also interested in the topic? And, of particular interest to me, what about all of those people who are part of the OpenLearn networks that are remote to the main site?

The two OpenLearn Scribd documents have now received over 1,100 visits between them since they went up in April (now’s a great time to visit Scribd by the way, the front page document is a collection of Audrey Hepburn Portraits! ;) ). Our YouTube videos have received over 600 views and we have 19 subscribers. Are all of these people OpenLearners?

My answer is `yes, of course’. If OpenLearn makes educational material freely available under a Creative Commons licence , then OpenLearners are surely those people who, due to the freedoms allowed by the CC, have learned something (however little or much) from those materials, no matter where in the real or virtual worlds they are.

But of course this definition also causes problems, `those people who….have learned something’. The stats I mentioned at the top of the post measure simply those people who visited the site – even if they shot away immediately after landing. To what extent can we call these people OpenLearners (this is also therefore an issue for the Scribd docs)? Perhaps I should change my definition to `those people who….have been exposed to OpenLearn material’? I don’t like that though.

Anyway what I am trying to get at is that I believe OpenLearn is (and OpenLearners are, and should be) more than just a collection of people who have visited the site. They are a network of networks (many pre-existing) that may have only OpenLearn material in common. This of course makes it difficult to track our success in terms of number of people reached, or how many subsequently become interested in studying a full OU course. It also, IMHO, makes us much more relevant and successful and should be pushed as much as possible. But then I would say that wouldn’t I?!

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