OpenClass Leverages Open Content & Social Learning

A year ago, Pearson moved, “Beyond the LMS,” and launched OpenClass, a learning environment that is open, easy, and free.  At ISTE, Pearson highlighted the OpenClass Exchange, “Where educators can trade in open digital experiences from courses to components,” as Matt Leavy explained. Leavy is CEO of Pearson eCollege and Higher Education Learning Technologies.

With the shift to digital, many schools are using a component model–drawing digital learning experiences from many sources–and “OpenClass addresses the difficulty of assembling courses and Exchange is critical to that vision,” said Leavy.

“We added enhanced social capabilities to OpenClass,” said Leavy, “and created an environment where educators create and share digital assets and talk about it in a social environment.” 

While uptake has been strong in higher ed, including systems like the West Virginia technical colleges, it has been even stronger in K-12.

OpenClass GM Scot Chadwick pointed to several district-wide success stories including Leyden, a high school district outside Chicago (which we featured last year at the Chromebook launch.)  OpenClass features a bunch of Google tools and you’ll find it in the Chromebook app pack.

Students in Sturgis Public Schools, a small south Michigan district, use the OpenClass iPad app.

Next, “The Exchange team will be building out social capabilities to improve communication and collaboration around content–adding more rating and reviews and connections with other educators,” said Chadwick.  And, yes, there is a business model here.  “We’ll also be adding some engaging and adaptive commercial content this year.”

OpenClass has core learning management functionality including a gradebook, performance dashboard, and instructor alerts.  They are working on a PowerSchool integration.  See a recent OpenClass press release below for more.

More OER from OLI at CMU.  Speaking of OER platforms, Carnegie Mellon University announced that it formed a subsidiary (an interesting new venture strategy) called Acrobatiq, that it will offer “customizable courseware, learning analytics capabilities, and consulting services to educational institutions looking to improve learning outcomes for students, beginning in August.”  While it’s a spinoff from CMU’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI), but it’s not clear how much OER will be on the new platform.  CEO Eric Frank came from Flat World knowledge, so he knows the landscape.


OpenClass celebrates first year success with accelerated adoption rates, debuting new social and mobile features, plus dedicated iPad app and updated user interface. 

Last year Pearson introduced OpenClass, a dynamic, scalable, fully cloud-based learning environment that stimulates social learning and enables the distribution of content at massive scale. OpenClass is available to faculty, students, and institutions at no cost, meaning zero hardware costs, licensing costs, or hosting costs. Driven by wide support for this free-of-charge model, OpenClass has seen adoption by more than ten thousand educators and tens of thousands of students at thousands of institutions. 

“We chose OpenClass because it represents a rethink of the LMS. This was an opportunity for us to move to a new platform with much more room for growth. OpenClass breaks through the constraints of technology, allowing us to move forward,” said Kevin Roberts, CIO of Abilene Christian University. “Education and technology in the 21st century are inextricably entwined with each other. OpenClass makes it so much easier to incorporate new technologies and gives us the opportunity to rethink how we want to deliver content to students.”

Pearson has been working with leading education partners to develop improved social and mobile features, a new user interface (UI), and a dedicated app for iPad. And this year will mark the debut of the OpenClass Exchange, a destination for educators at any institution to access top educational content. The OpenClass Exchange will feature best-in-class Open Educational Resources (OER) including videos from The Khan Academy, TED-Ed, and YouTube EDU. Soon the OpenClass Exchange will feature an even wider range of content, including free, paid, third-party, faculty-generated, and Pearson content. In addition, slated for a Spring 2013 beta launch, Pearson’s Project Blue Sky will make it easy for faculty to create new content or combine OER materials with educator-authored and pre-cleared Pearson content.

“Our goal for OpenClass has always been to create a learning environment that allows institutions and educators to take full advantage of a powerful, transformative movement, one that increases access and affordability and supports achievement,” said Adrian Sannier, Senior Vice President of Learning Technologies at Pearson. “We saw a need in the marketplace for a platform like OpenClass and stepped up to the plate. At Pearson, we are driving monumental changes in education technology that powerfully impact the learning experience here in the U.S. and around the globe.”

Pearson has been investing heavily in technology and partnering with institutions around the US to usher in a new era of collaboratively-created course content. The result is a revolutionary set of courses that are “born-digital,” meaning they are created from scratch and optimized through data and analytics to deliver an immersive learning experience and a higher level of student engagement.

By delivering content across institutions on a single platform, OpenClass is uniquely positioned to harness the power of Big Data. By using fully-supported open APIs, OpenClass makes it easy for publishers to connect content to OpenClass and gain insights through data and analytics based on a critical mass of students learning from content on a single platform. Through this continual, collaborative improvement, course efficacy goes up, and it becomes possible to make strides in personalized and adaptive learning.

Updated Features of OpenClass

LMS Features

  • Assignments – Students can submit and retrieve assignments and graded activities from one central location inside OpenClass.

  • Gradebook – Assigning and checking grades is now easier. The gradebook features a large workspace to assign points and letter grades, leave comments or feedback.

  • Assessments – OpenClass assessments make it easy to evaluate student performance and are configurable to individual instructor needs.

  • Dashboard – A central view into OpenClass. At a single glance, see a list of all your classes and see an aggregated view of activity from students and instructors.

Mobile and Social Features

  • iPad App – OpenClass now has a beautiful, new dedicated iPad app.

  • Mobile – Students can now, from their mobile device, view their gradebook and activity stream, participate and post in discussions and see current and upcoming course content.

  • Social Features – Students can create a network of peers, post to internal or external (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook) networks, respond to comments and be notified of course activity and comments.

OpenClass: Year Two and Beyond

  • The OpenClass Exchange – The OpenClass Exchange will be a destination for effective and compelling content and courses in education. The Exchange will deliver all kinds of amazing content: free, Open Educational Resources (OER), third-party, faculty-generated, and Pearson content.

  • Born-Digital Content – Pearson has partnered with institutions around the country to create high-quality, interactive courses. These courses are created from scratch and are more engaging, intelligent, and effective than anything currently available to educators and students.

  • Open APIs – Through full-supported APIs, Pearson will make it easy for anyone to build content for OpenClass.

For more information on OpenClass, including a full list of features, visit

Pearson is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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