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The Limitations of Access Alone: moving towards open processes in education technology

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Abstract

“Openness” has emerged as one of the foremost themes in education, within which an open education movement has enthusiastically embraced digital technologies as the central means of participation and inclusion. Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have surfaced at the forefront of this development, claiming unprecedented educational reform. This paper provides a critical perspective on these prominent initiatives, highlighting a tendency to view access to online material as the principal concern of the open education movement. It will analyse the portrayal of technology in academic literature and media coverage of OERs and MOOCs, suggesting underlying assumptions of technology instrumentalism and essentialism. Alternative perspectives will be offered, drawing on critical technology studies and the philosophy of technology. The inclusion of “open processes” is proposed, involving the active engagement of learners in participation and dialogue, as well as further critical explorations of the relationships between technology and education.
Open Praxis, vol. 5 issue 1, January–March 2013, pp. 21–29
Special theme: Openness in higher education
Reception date: 14 September 2012 Acceptance date: 16 December 2012
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.5.1.36
The limitations of access alone: Moving towards open
processes in education technology
Jeremy Knox
University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom)
Abstract
“Openness” has emerged as one of the foremost themes in education, within which an open education move-
ment has enthusiastically embraced digital technologies as the central means of participation and inclusion.
Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have surfaced at the fore-
front of this development, claiming unprecedented educational reform. This paper provides a critical perspec-
tive on these prominent initiatives, highlighting a tendency to view access to online material as the principal
concern of the open education movement. It will analyse the portrayal of technology in academic literature
and media coverage of OERs and MOOCs, suggesting underlying assumptions of technology instrumental-
ism and essentialism. Alternative perspectives will be offered, drawing on critical technology studies and the
philosophy of technology. The inclusion of “open processes” is proposed, involving the active engagement
of learners in participation and dialogue, as well as further critical explorations of the relationships between
technology and education.
Keywords: access; critical education technology; MOOC; OER; online education; open; open processes
Introduction
A burgeoning open education movement is becoming established around an agenda of institutional
transformation, calling for unrestricted access to educational materials and the diminishing of geo-
graphic and economic barriers to participation. At the forefront of this movement have been Open
Educational Resources (OERs) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), educational projects
which claim signicant advances in utilising Internet technology. Emerging from MIT’s OpenCourse-
Ware project in 2001, OERs have received considerable endorsement from educational institutions
worldwide (Caswell, Henson, Jensen and Wiley, 2008; Wiley & Hilton III, 2009; Hylen, 2006), and
various government-supported or non-prot initiatives have surfaced in recent years (POERUP,
2012). OERs have also garnered recognition from international organisations, such as UNESCO
and the European Commission, the former developing policy guidelines for the implementation
and standardisation of OERs in higher education (UNESCO, 2011), and the latter seeking a public
consultation on “opening up education” (European Commission, 2011). The MOOC began as a
fringe experiment in networked learning (see Siemens and Downes 2008; Mackness, Sui Fai Mak
& Williams, 2010; McAuley, Stewart, Siemens & Cormier, 2010) before being reconstituted and
adopted by prominent universities. These institutionalised MOOCs, offered by Silicon Valley start-
ups “Coursera” and “Udacity” as well as the Harvard and MIT collaboration “edX”, have received
signicant media attention, which has often inferred a radical destabilisation of the higher education
sector (see Adams, 2012 and Marginson, 2012).
These high-prole initiatives are representative of an apparent commitment and enthusiasm
towards technology within the open education movement. However, despite the centrality of net-
works, systems and software, the technologies associated with open education appear to be rarely
subjected to in-depth consideration, beyond the analysis of user interpretations (for example Fini,
2009).
22 Jeremy Knox
Open Praxis, vol. 5 issue 1, January–March 2013, pp. 21–29
Methodology
This paper will provide a critical perspective on open education and its technologies. It will analyse
selected academic literature and media coverage of OERs and MOOCs with the intention of under-
standing how “openness” and technology are understood and disseminated within the eld of open
education. It will highlight ways that “openness” is typically framed, and these perspectives will be
related to assumptions about the role of technology in education.
Theoretical frameworks associated with the philosophy of technology (Dahlberg, 2004; Kanuka,
2008) and critical technology studies (Friesen & Hamilton, 2010) will underpin this analysis. While
open access to learning resources may be of signicant value in education, this paper will ques-
tion whether free admittance to information is enough to realise the goals of universal education
and economic prosperity often promised by the open education movement (see Atkins, Brown &
Hammond, 2007; Caswell et al., 2008; Daniel & Killion, 2012). “Open processes” are suggested as
one way in which open access can be developed, requiring further acknowledgement of the complex
relationships between technology and education.
Openness as access
The open education movement has tended to dene “openness” in terms of “access” to educational
material. This reects an afnity with distance education, developed to address the geographical
barriers to institutional contact (Downes, 2011). Much of the OER literature focuses on issues of
access, and this has centred research around strategies for implementation or the development
of supporting infrastructure (see Johnstone, 2005; Atkins, Brown & Hammond, 2007; Caswel et
al., 2008; Downes, 2011; Macintosh, McGreal & Taylor, 2011). OERs are founded on the idea of
an information repository, exemplied in the proliferation of resource archives on the web (see
OpenLearn, 2012; Connexions, 2012 and WikiEducator, 2012). Trust in particular OER repositories
has been highlighted as a major factor in their adoption by teachers (Clements & Pawlowski, 2012).
This tends to structure open education around a privileging of reliable sources of information as the
prime factor in the learning process. Within this arrangement the role of teaching is often overlooked,
and the chief concern becomes bringing learners into contact with trusted supplies of knowledge.
Potential problems with OERs are often framed simply as “getting access to a high-speed Internet
connection”, immediately followed by “once that problem is solved, the various types of resources
can be quite useful” (Johnstone, 2005).
The institutionalised MOOCs advance a similar view on the idea of “open”, frequently promoting
large-scale access. Coursera (2012a) proposes “to give everyone access to the world-class educa-
tion that has so far been available only to a select few”, utilising technology which “enables the best
professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students”. The promotional content on the edX
website similarly emphasises a desire to provide access to unprecedented numbers of students, with
the president, Anant Agarwal, declaring “our goal is to educate a billion people around the world”
(edX, 2012). Udacity underscores this trend, stating, “using the economics of the Internet, we’ve
connected some of the greatest teachers to hundreds of thousands of students all over the world”
(Udacity, 2012). These MOOCs operationalize the view that “open” constitutes an amplication in
the number of participants coming into contact with their educational offerings. While these initiatives
emphasise interactive features rather than static content, the dominant message is of the quantity
rather than the quality of access.
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Open Praxis, vol. 5 issue 1, January–March 2013, pp. 21–29
Assumptions about technology
The dominant interpretation of openness as “access” may be bolstered by underlying assumptions
about technology prevalent in educational research: those of instrumentalism and essentialism
(Friesen & Hamilton, 2010). These philosophical perspectives conceive of technology either as
entirely neutral, merely enabling the aims of educational endeavours but not inuencing them
(instrumentalism), or to possess intrinsic qualities (essentialism). The open education literature
often depicts technology in a role of facilitating or empowering the learning process, however this
stance tends to render the technology transparent in the resulting activity. Caswell et al. (2008)
state, “new distance education technologies . . . act as enablers to achieving the universal right to
education”. They go on to dene technology according to its ability to straightforwardly reproduce
and distribute educational content, yet the degree to which these systems might affect that content
is not discussed (Caswell et al., 2008).
This perception of technology neutrality is reinforced through the common educational designations
“resource” and “tool”. Framing technology in this way “establishes a one way direction of cause
and effect” (Feenberg, 2005, p. 48), in which the user of the tool is unaffected by the activity. The
archival tendencies within the OER movement emphasise this relationship in which technology is
positioned as a prosthetic to the learning process; an instrument considered only in its capacity for
enhancement. This tendency for instrumentalism limits technology research to studying either the
improvement or diminishing of learning (Friesen & Hamilton, 2010), and it is often the former that
manifests in open education literature. This masks the ways in which the networks, systems and
codes of open education might transform and affect the learning process. The open movement
might look to Actor-Network Theory (ANT) in education (Fenwick & Edwards, 2010; Nespor, 2010;
Edwards, Fenwick & Sawchuk, 2011) as a way of acknowledging the constituent role of networks
and software in educational activity. ANT involves a redenition of the notion of agency to include
non-human elements. It is therefore a theoretical framework which can be used to consider how
technologies inuence and affect the human beings and environments in which they are involved.
Within OER literature, technology is also frequently inferred to possess the qualities attributed to
its users.
Jay connects to the Internet via his laptop and mobile phone (he is mobile) in order to search Google for
information (digital resources are open for him to freely access) . . . he chats with friends on the phone
and by Instant Messaging (IM) to see if they can assist in his search (he is connected to other people)
(Wiley & Hilton III, 2009 emphasis original).
In this hypothetical scenario, technology appears to function seamlessly with the various activities
of the learner, possessing qualities that resemble the innate desires of the human being putting
it to use. Wiley and Hilton III (2009) go on to describe technology as embodying the organisa-
tional changes required if higher education institutions are to reect wider society. They suggest
“connectedness, personalization, participation, and openness” as four key areas for educational
transformation (Wiley & Hilton III, 2009, p. 8), yet each is suggested to transpire almost exclusively
through technological means and from systems which appear to unproblematically personify these
qualities.
The technologies of open education are too often implied to have an “independent and abstract
pedagogical value” (Friesen & Hamilton, 2010, p. 8). This is often predicated on idealised interpre-
tations of the Internet, sometimes assumed to be necessarily open through its capacity to increase
access (see Brown & Adler, 2008). OERs are thus promoted as “technology-empowered . . . to create
and share educational content on a global level” (Caswell et al., 2008). This discourse of facilitation
or empowerment forms a powerful rhetoric of educational change, yet it is too often embodied in
the technologies of open education, rather than considered ideal or potential practice.
24 Jeremy Knox
Open Praxis, vol. 5 issue 1, January–March 2013, pp. 21–29
The hidden production of technology
The dominant assumptions of instrumentalism and essentialism shift attention away from the often
complex ways that technology is designed and produced. Considerable work is needed within
the open education movement to unveil the processes involved in the production of technology,
acknowledging the broad pedagogical, philosophical and political presuppositions already encoded
in the systems used. The practices of standardisation and coding have been highlighted as rarely
acknowledged factors in the use of educational software, constituting a hidden curriculum (Edwards
& Carmichael, 2012). This approach does not suggest that there are intentionally unproductive or
malevolent forces being covertly imbedded into educational technologies, but rather that the effects
of standardisation and coding practices cannot be predicted in their entirety (Edwards & Carmichael,
2012). This means that technologies have the potential to constrain as well as enable subse-
quent learning activities, inuencing “the potential discourses, trajectories for inquiry, and student
subjectivities that might emerge from such a learning environment” (Edwards & Carmichael,
2012, p. 12). This work is highlighted here to suggest that alongside discussions of the ways that
technologies facilitate and support educational practices, an acknowledgement of the necessary
limitations brought about through the production process is required if educators are to work towards
a balanced understanding of technology use.
Therefore, while a particular digital technology might be deployed in accordance with acknowl-
edged pedagogical theory, the coding embedded within the system can limit what is ultimately
achieved. Coursera’s webpage on “Pedagogy” claims that:
A key factor in the design of the Coursera system is the extensive use of interactive exercises, which
we believe are critical for student engagement and learning. Even within our videos, there are multiple
opportunities for interactions: the video frequently stops, and students are asked to answer a simple
question to test whether they are tracking the material (2012b).
Aligning the Coursera system seamlessly with the educational rationale of interactivity deects
a consideration of the ways in which such technology might itself promote particular degrees of
inexibility. For example, the moment at which a pause comes about in these video lectures will
be predetermined, solidifying particular pedagogical assumptions about the correct time to activate
formative assessment. Furthermore, the production of video itself necessitates distinct framings
and arrangements of pedagogical activity, simultaneously hard-coding the communicative patterns
of traditional didactic lectures into the very systems which claim innovation and interactivity. This is
not to suggest that the production of technology should be granted more attention than the often
valuable ways in which it is employed for educational purposes, but merely to call for its inclusion
as a constituent factor.
Participation and open source culture
The ability to modify and repurpose OERs has been a central strand of their promotion. The notion
of “remixability” is often posited as a way to ensure exibility and relevance to differing cultural
contexts and pedagogical practices (Brown & Adler, 2008; Downes, 2007; Hilton III, Wiley, Stein
& Johnson, 2010; Johnstone, 2005; Wiley & Hilton III, 2009). However, true to form, technology
is too often neutralised in the activities of repurposing. “Editing, adapting, or otherwise changing
educational materials to be more appropriate for a specic use is technically straightforward thanks
to the variety of technologies currently available” (Wiley & Hilton III, 2009, p. 9). Here the princi-
ples of remixing are proposed to transcend the technologies which make them possible. However,
this orientation masks the ways in which the very activities of editing and adapting evolve from
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technology infrastructure and design, as much as they do from human inclinations. The repurpos-
ing and adapting of digital content does not begin and end with the desires of the person doing
the remixing, but emerges from interactions with what is made possible through the predetermined
code present in the software.
Open source software, the movement from which the open education agenda has largely derived
(Caswell et al., 2008), offers one way for these hidden coding practices to be further exposed. The
edX platform, as well as the new “CourseBuilder” venture from Google (Course-builder, 2012),
are promoted as open source, signalling a possible move towards more open and participatory
practices. However, as Edwards and Carmichael (2012) caution, open source culture, rather than
promoting detailed examinations or analyses of code, often encourages the practice of assembling
software from pre-written component parts. Such ‘openness’ may well serve the purposes of soft-
ware production where the objective is to create a functioning program rather than to understand
how it works. However, ‘openness’ in education could seek more than this. If technologies do indeed
limit, but also enable, particular forms of learning, understanding how software functions could be
integral to the fostering of critical thinking skills, promoting a culture of openness in which how
we learn is given as much consideration as what we learn. Rather than promoting the idea that
openness simplies technology, continued research in open education may benet from perspec-
tives which acknowledge the growing intricacies and amalgamations which inuence its production.
Beneath increasingly mild and effortless user-interfaces or expanding compatibility across platforms
and devices lies deepening complexity. For the open education movement to render such efforts
transparent, constitutes a kind of “benevolent concealment” (Edwards & Carmichael, 2012, p. 6).
The fetishization of knowledge
A dominant discourse of open access has contributed to an over-emphasis on content at the
expense of context. This orientation has signicant implications for the ways that educational activi-
ties can be perceived, and open education initiatives frequently appear to fetishize knowledge as
a consumable object.
all the basic knowledge, all the rened physics, all the deep mathematics, everything of beauty in music,
in the visual arts, all of literature, all of the video arts of the twentieth century can be given to everybody
everywhere (Caswell et al., 2008, p. 9–10).
Knowledge is portrayed here as a desirable object, immune to the inuences of digitisation, inter-
pretation or cultural understanding. The vast majority of OER initiatives are based in the UK and the
US, far outweighing the scarce offerings from African, Asian or Latin American countries (POERUP,
2012), perhaps indicative of who is ‘giving’ such knowledge to the world. OERs are often popu-
larised in the mainstream media as a solution to third world poverty (see Daniel & Killion, 2012).
However, couching this technology in a discourse of economic benet and emancipation merely
serves to situate education in a role subservient to a functioning capitalist economy, and supposes
the purpose of learning to be the increase of human capital (Atkins et al., 2007). Daniel and Killion
(2012) extend their notion of openness to include the interests of employers in determining the
content of OERs in a move to boost employability. However, in foregrounding open access as the
ultimate exercise of educational freedom, Daniel and Killion (2012) appear to mask the simultane-
ous surrender of content to the concerns of business. While openness is promoted as unrestricted
access to information, the forces which determine what that information should be remain closed.
This excessive attention to access reduces the desires of non-western peoples to an interest in
retrieving content. Rather than simply making information available for consumption, Richter and
26 Jeremy Knox
Open Praxis, vol. 5 issue 1, January–March 2013, pp. 21–29
McPherson (2012) have called for improved educational justice through the ability to nitely adapt
OERs to individual contexts and cultures. However, while this presents one way in which the OER
movement could become more culturally sensitive, it surfaces underlying questions about the extent
to which resources can be repurposed without diluting the goal of universal education.
While adaptability has been central to the OER movement, the recent upsurge of institutionalised
MOOCs may be reversing this trend. In this context, “open” means free access to the educational
content of a prestigious university, illustrated succinctly by the tagline on Coursera’s website: “Take
the World’s Best Courses, Online, For Free” (2012c). Here students “take” educational content,
rather than edit, remix, or contextualise it. The institutionalised MOOCs reinstate rigid and often idol-
ised content, where hundreds of thousands of students are expected to consume identical curricula,
predominantly through video lectures. While the technology provides elements of interactivity not
always present in resource repositories, “openness” is framed almost exclusively in terms of access
to predetermined content. The subject matter of these MOOC courses is necessarily non-negotiable;
their reputation rests on the lofty prestige of the elite institutions that supply the content.
Conclusions: Open as “process”
To overemphasise the role of technology, as sections of this paper have done, may also provide an
impoverished understanding of the complexities of open education. Therefore, rather than dismiss-
ing open access, the intention of this paper is to emphasise how these important developments
might be enhanced when “openness” is perceived as a process.
Conole has suggested a movement away from stockpiling OER repositories (Conole, 2012).
Work in this area has promoted online communities for the creation and sharing of OERs amongst
teachers (Tosato & Bodi, 2011) and studied open practices amongst learners (Mwanza-Simwami,
McAndre & Madiba, 2008). Such approaches have acknowledged the need to foster collaborative
communities rather than focus on content. Okada, Mikroyannidis, Meister & Little (2012) propose
strategies for involving social networks in the production and repurposing of OER, encouraging
individual interpretations of content and the sharing of feedback. At the core of this strategy are
processes of co-authorship and exchange (Okada & Leslie, 2012), rather than the consumption
of authoritative information. Described as a “process of sensemaking, understanding and creat-
ing knowledge together” (Okada et al., 2012, p. 17), this approach explicitly involves learners
in the activities knowledge production. However, alongside these proposals for open educational
practices, there are concerns about the lack of uptake and repurposing of OER (McAndrew
et al., 2009; Conole, 2012). While this may be related to the prevailing discourse of “access” high-
lighted previously, to perceive that open practices will provide a simple solution might be equally
reductive. A focus on practice—the ways in which technologies are used—tends to overemphasise
human agency. In calling for the technical processes of producing and repurposing OERs to be
made more accessible, Okada et al. (2012) seem to maintain the dominant instrumentalist view.
To foreground accessibility exaggerates the autonomy and intentionality of user(s), qualities which
become abstracted from the affordances and limitations of the technology itself. It is therefore sug-
gested that the open education movement may benet from a more rigorous engagement with the
philosophy of technology.
Dahlberg (2004) suggests that the eld of Internet research has tended to assume one of three
deterministic orientations regarding the inuence of technology: “uses”, which privilege the ways
that technology is used; “technological”, which foregrounds the qualities of the technology itself; and
“social”, in which societal systems are emphasised. In relation to education, Kanuka has described
these orientations as one-dimensional, suggesting that “little, if any, attention is given to the effects
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Open Praxis, vol. 5 issue 1, January–March 2013, pp. 21–29
of educational, social, and historical forces that have shaped both educational systems and educa-
tional technologies” (Kanuka, 2008, p. 101). Dahlberg (2004) calls for a non-reductionist approach,
that “is sensitive to the complex interplay between multiple elements” acknowledging “that each
so-called determining factor is itself embedded within and constituted by a system of inter-linked
constitutive processes”. This offers one way in which the open education movement might further its
agenda of “openness” by placing its own practices with, and perceptions of, technology under criti-
cal scrutiny. Rather than promoting “openness” as a transcendent societal ideal, or as an essential
quality embedded within Internet technologies, research could begin to engage with the ways that
individual agencies, social systems and technological production are deeply involved in each other.
While OERs and MOOCs offer valuable and meaningful contributions to current practices in educa-
tion, this work could be complemented with research which exposes the intertwined and contingent
relationships between “openness”, technology and society. Thus, open processes might involve the
exposition of social, economic, political and educational factors that have inuenced the production
of technology infrastructures, as well as the forms of open education that are subsequently made
possible. It would also need to contend with the ways in which the networks, systems and soft-
ware associated with OERs and MOOCs enable and constrain the activities of learning, ultimately
shaping the educational and societal domains which have produced them.
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... Fuzzy logic can be seen as an extension of traditional set theory, as statements can be partial truths, falling between absolute truth and absolute falsehood (Inamorato dos Santos, 2016). The fuzzy logic system (FLS) consists of four stages: fuzzifier, rule base, inference engine and defuzzifier (Knox, 2013). In addition, FL are commonly used to examine and assess learning and knowledge outcomes (Koseoglu, 2018). ...
... They can process information and produce much more complex results than other information processing paradigms, making them a very influential way to model human behavior. Bayesian networks are widely used methods for modeling learners in intelligent learning systems (Knox, 2013). A Bayesian network (BN) is a direct acyclic graph (DAG), that is, a graph that shows and explains the distribution of probability in such a way as to allow efficient diffusion of probability as well as accurate representation. ...
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Chapter
This chapter addresses the issue of learning resources in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) at the University College Absalon and explores how faculty teaches within this new format and design. MOOCs date back to 2008. Over time, fundamentally two kinds of MOOCs evolved: cMOOCs and xMOOCs. The latter was influenced by more traditional e-learning courses in distance learning and highlights the concept of massiveness (MOOCs for many) while the first was born from theories of connectivism and emphasizes the importance of collaboration, production, and bringing learners together. This chapter briefly introduces the evolution of MOOCs and then turns to the faculty’s views on using learning resources in MOOCs. The chapter concludes by listing relevant issues for further research
Chapter
For the past several years, a new form of online learning has emerged, which has captured the popular imagination, and with it, plenty of support from private universities, angel investors, and foundations. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a scaled-up version of online learning, albeit on open socio-technical platforms, which enable digital content organization, learner interactivity, computer-based assessments, and peer assessments, as well as back-end “big data” data mining of learner behaviors. MOOCs are being discussed as for-credit university courses, supplementary professional development trainings, and informal and nonformal learning opportunities. They are considered not only for adult learners but also for high schoolers and even potentially for younger age groups. For all the hopefulness that many masses around the world will have access to high-level and well designed college courses, the emergence of MOOCs has sparked a range of forecasts. Some predict that MOOCs will socialize learners around the world to a common academic culture and unleash human potential. Some predict that MOOCs are a threat to the existing higher education status quo. Others suggest that MOOCs have been overly hyped and are an unworkable passing fad. To gain a sense of the attitudes towards MOOCs and their feasibility, a modified electronic Delphi (e-Delphi) study was conducted using the Qualtrics™ survey platform (aka K-State Survey). This chapter describes the processes of setting up the modified e-Delphi study. It describes the extensive literature review undertaken for the development of the survey instrument. The writing describes the major findings from this qualitative and mixed-methods research based on both manual and NVivo-based data analysis. There is a focus on issues that may need to be addressed individually and collectively in order to rollout successful MOOCs.
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In 2008, a new term emerged in the already crowded e-learning landscape: MOOC, or massive open online course. Lifelong learners can now use various tools to build and manage their own learning networks, and MOOCs may provide opportunities to test such networks. This paper focuses on the technological aspects of one MOOC, the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (CCK08) course, in order to investigate lifelong learners’ attitudes towards learning network technologies. The research framework is represented by three perspectives: (a) lifelong learning in relation to open education, with a focus on the effective use of learning tools; (b) the more recent personal knowledge management (PKM) skills approach; and (c) the usability of web-based learning tools. Findings from a survey of CCK08 participants show that the course attracted mainly adult, informal learners, who were unconcerned about course completion and who cited a lack of time as the main reason for incompletion. Time constraints, language barriers, and ICT skills affected the participants’ choice of tools; for example, learners favoured the passive, filtered mailing list over interactive but time-consuming discussion forums and blogs. Some recommendations for future MOOCs include highlighting the pedagogical purpose of the tools offered (e.g., learning network skill-building) and stating clearly that the learners can choose which tools they prefer to use. Further research on sustainability and instructor workload issues should be conducted to determine the cost and effectiveness of MOOCs. Investigation is also necessary to understand whether such terms as course, drop-out, and attrition are appropriate in relation to MOOCs.
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Critical theory of technology combines insights from philosophy of tech-nology and constructivist technology studies. A framework is proposed for analyzing technologies and technological systems at several levels, a primary level at which natural objects and people are decontextualized to identify affordances, complemented by a secondary level of recontextualization in nat-ural, technical and social environments. Technologies have distinctive features as such while also exhibiting biases derived from their place in society. The technical code is the rule under which technologies are realized in a social context with biases reflecting the unequal distribution of social power. Subordinate groups may challenge the technical code with impacts on design as technologies evolve. Examples are discussed from biotechnology and com-puting.
Chapter
The aim of this chapter is to examine key factors for facilitating the development of reusable learning content (RLC) from the perspective of open educators and collaborative learners (colearners). Reusability is an essential feature of online resources for users having the facility and flexibility for adopting and/or adapting them. Authors then investigate the benefits and challenges that educators and learners may face when producing RLC collaboratively through an open and flexible framework called “the Flow,” using the knowledge mapping software Compendium. Results indicate there is good evidence that the OER Flow becomes a clear and flexible approach for users being aware of key steps to reuse and recreate new OER having reusability in their mind. With an easy-to-use visual technology, such as Compendium, which can be applied in several steps to adapt OER in order to represent different styles of learning paths, reusability might be more widely promoted in different and more diverse communities and institutions.
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The role of distance education is shifting. Traditionally distance education was limited in the number of people served because of production, reproduction, and distribution costs. Today, while it still costs the university time and money to produce a course, technology has made it such that reproduction costs are almost non-existent. This shift has significant implications, and allows distance educators to play an important role in the fulfillment of the promise of the right to universal education. At little or no cost, universities can make their content available to millions. This content has the potential to substantially improve the quality of life of learners around the world. New distance education technologies, such as OpenCourseWares, act as enablers to achieving the universal right to education. These technologies, and the associated changes in the cost of providing access to education, change distance education's role from one of classroom alternative to one of social transformer.
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There is a long tradition in education of examination of the hidden curriculum, those elements which are implicit or tacit to the formal goals of education. This article draws upon that tradition to open up for investigation the hidden curriculum and assumptions about students and knowledge that are embedded in the coding undertaken to facilitate learning through information technologies, and emerging ‘semantic technologies’ in particular. Drawing upon an empirical study of case-based pedagogy in higher education, we examine the ways in which code becomes an actor in both enabling and constraining knowledge, reasoning, representation and students. The article argues that how this occurs, and to what effect, is largely left unexamined and becomes part of the hidden curriculum of electronically mediated learning that can be more explicitly examined by positioning technologies in general, and code in particular, as actors rather than tools. This points to a significant research agenda in technology enhanced learning.