Many users of online open education resources (OERs) are learners seeking insights into problems encountered as they pursue their everyday interests and activities. As well as benefitting from intrinsic motivation, such authentic learning activity provides context that helps the learner absorb and integrate the meaning of the knowledge. The purpose of this study was to explore barriers that prevent some online learners from using OERs in this way. Participants had experienced difficulties using music theory OERs to pursue personal music-making goals. Provided with online tutoring through an action research methodology, they appeared to benefit particularly from five aspects of active guidance: additional motivation, connections between generalized knowledge and personal experience, relevant learning activities, focus of attention, and goal-oriented feedback. In an environment rich in open content, providing these supports, in activities oriented towards learners’ goals, may be a particularly valuable use of teaching time.
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