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FACETS OF OPENNESS IN MOOCS – A REVIEW

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Abstract

Openness is an eponymous and hence essential feature of MOOCs, but the defining criteria with regard to what does and does not constitute openness are still subject of debate. Different definitions emphasize various aspects that extend beyond obvious characteristics such as open access to content and magnify issues like the licensing of resources, availability of digital technologies or devices as well as skills and competencies necessary for usage. The focus can be extended even further to include social and cultural factors as well. While MOOCs theoretically offer a higher level of openness when compared to traditional means of education, practice has shown that some groups are notoriously overrepresented. It has even been suggested that the growing body of OER may actually widen instead of bridge the gaps between different socioeconomic groups, because user statistics indicate that the typical well-educated MOOC participant already has good access to higher education, whereas those who lack formal education are also underrepresented in the use of OER. This paper will review the insights on influences that compromise openness in MOOCs, and we will also present a case study from the Austrian MOOC platform iMooX (www.imoox.at) to illustrate the problem as well as discuss some strategies that might prove useful in alleviating the effects of social exclusion. We argue that there are several mitigating factors that warrant consideration in order to strengthen MOOC participation among educationally alienated groups and to encourage a more extensive understanding of openness.
Published in: DisCO 2016 Towards open education an information society. 11th conference reader. Beseda, J. (ed.). Centre for Higher
Education Studies. Prague: http://www.csvs.cz/konference/disco2016/Disco2016-sbornik.pdf (06-12-2016)
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FACETS OF OPENNESS IN MOOCS
A REVIEW
CLAUDIA ZIMMERMANN
Department of Sociology
Karl Franzens University Graz, Austria
ELKE LACKNER
Academy of New Media and Knowledge Transfer
Karl Franzens University Graz, Austria
MARTIN EBNER
Department of Educational Technology
Graz University of Technology, Austria
e-mail of corresponding author: claudia.zimmermann@uni-graz.at
Key words: Review, Openness, Experience, MOOCs, OER, Dr. Internet
Abstract: Openness is an eponymous and hence essential feature of MOOCs, but the defining criteria with regard to what
does and does not constitute openness are still subject of debate. Different definitions emphasize various aspects that extend
beyond obvious characteristics such as open access to content and magnify issues like the licensing of resources, availability
of digital technologies or devices as well as skills and competencies necessary for usage. The focus can be extended even
further to include social and cultural factors as well. While MOOCs theoretically offer a higher level of openness when
compared to traditional means of education, practice has shown that some groups are notoriously overrepresented. It has even
been suggested that the growing body of OER may actually widen instead of bridge the gaps between different
socioeconomic groups, because user statistics indicate that the typical well-educated MOOC participant already has good
access to higher education, whereas those who lack formal education are also underrepresented in the use of OER.
This paper will review the insights on influences that compromise openness in MOOCs, and we will also present a case study
from the Austrian MOOC platform iMooX (www.imoox.at) to illustrate the problem as well as discuss some strategies that
might prove useful in alleviating the effects of social exclusion. We argue that there are several mitigating factors that warrant
consideration in order to strengthen MOOC participation among educationally alienated groups and to encourage a more
extensive understanding of openness.
ISSN: 1804-0527 (online) 1804-0519 (print)
Introduction
Openness or more specific Open Education are frequently used terms that are generally used to refer to
licensed open educational content, sometimes also including open software. So-called Open Educational
Resources (OER) are defined more precisely as learning and teaching content that is freely accessible and
allows unlimited usage by others (COL and UNESCO 2011). OER not only guarantee free access, but they
can also be republished without any additional costs (Geser 2007). One of the most prominent forms of
openness in education nowadays are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which have been heralded
as “remedies to educational disparities related to social class.” (Hansen and Reich 2015, 1245). Among
other favorable attributes, OER in general and MOOCs in particular carry the label of democratizing
education, providing open access to educational opportunities for everyone. However, evidence from
various OER providers strongly suggests that they fall behind on these expectations (Falconer et al. 2013;
Dillahunt, Wang and Teasley 2014).
In this paper, we would like to explore the “openness” in MOOCs and encourage a broader application
of the term to address issues that prevent some groups from participating in the educational experiences
available. We begin with an overview of various definitions of openness and how the concept is linked to
Published in: DisCO 2016 Towards open education an information society. 11th conference reader. Beseda, J. (ed.). Centre for Higher
Education Studies. Prague: http://www.csvs.cz/konference/disco2016/Disco2016-sbornik.pdf (06-12-2016)
2
the phenomenon of the so-called digital divide. In the next section, the relationship between MOOCs and
openness is explored further. We then present our case study, the “Dr. Internet” MOOC, and a few select
statistical results that are relevant to some parameters of openness, especially the educational level of the
participants. Finally, we explain the measures that were taken (and failed) to attract a more heterogeneous
group of learners, and we conclude with a few remarks on the next steps to improve the openness in
MOOCs.
1. On the Concept of Openness and the Digital Divide
Openness is a central component to various modern learning environments, and while the concept is
widely used, there are several definitions of the term that each emphasize the importance of various
aspects. These different definitions do not only influence the direction of debate, but also produce tensions
when compared to the practicalities of fields like online learning, open universities and MOOCs, to name
just a few. Lane (2009) provides an appealing definition of openness in the context of OER that focuses on
four freedoms granted by openness: 1) the freedom from paying money to access and use the content, 2)
the freedom to copy, 3) the freedom to re-use without asking permission and 4) the freedom to create
derivative work (which does not include the freedom to make profits). This notion has some similarities
compared to Wiley’s (2009) “4Rs” that define the central characteristics of openness: Reuse, Revise,
Remix and Redistribute. It is interesting to note that Wiley has already left behind the most intuitive
marker of openness, which is educational content without monetary cost, and focuses heavily on openness
ideals that are often subject to licensing issues. Schaffert and Geser (2008) have created a fairly
comprehensive concept of openness in relation to OER that easily lends itself to practical use, due to its
hands-on approach: open access (content is free of charge), open licenses (licensed for re-use, modification
and repurpose), open format (designed for easy re-use) and open (source) software.
Depending on the definition of openness used, many MOOC providers are compromising one or more
aspects of openness, to a varying extent. However, it would seem like these infringements might not be the
most pressing issue when it comes to openness in MOOCs. In theory, it would be logical to assume that
constantly improving digital technology combined with more or less open access to educational content
would remove more and more barriers to education for an increasingly larger group of people, yet there is
also a widespread debate on how these developments are actually contributing to a widening educational
gap in the general population. Just because something is freely available does not necessarily mean that
everybody is equally likely to make use of it, because some groups might still be affected by barriers that
lie beyond the categories in the various definitions of openness.
One of the first barriers to participation in openness that has been considered is the matter of a digital
divide in terms of availability and usability of suitable digital devices that are necessary to partake in open
Published in: DisCO 2016 Towards open education an information society. 11th conference reader. Beseda, J. (ed.). Centre for Higher
Education Studies. Prague: http://www.csvs.cz/konference/disco2016/Disco2016-sbornik.pdf (06-12-2016)
3
education. This concept of a digital divide has also seen various attempts of definition; the two most
prominent aspects that are usually addressed are those of an economic divide that is mostly due to
purchasing power and restricts ownership of digital devices for some groups, and the usability divide (or
usage gap) that refers to a divide in technology skills and competencies that are required to operate said
digital devices (Lane 2009). However, skills alone are not everything, and it stands to reason that some
groups do not necessarily lack the competence but rather the confidence in the sufficiency of their own
abilities: “they do not feel included even when people are trying to reach out to them because they lack
confidence in their competence to succeed they feel disempowered.” (Lane 2009, 4).
In fact, it can be argued that the main issues with open education are not about access to digital devices
or the ability to use them, but really about far more complex social and cultural barriers to participation in
any form of education (Cannell, Macintyre and Hewitt 2015). “In other words, it is the social and cultural
factors that may be more important than the economic ones.” (Lane 2009, 9). It is important to remember
that the current OER strategies were developed and implemented in a world with unequally distributed
educational resources, combined with unprecedented advances in the field of ICT. When looking at the
historical term of openness in education, there are several factors beyond those economic and
technological aspects which are mostly shaping the OER debate today (Peter and Deimann 2013). An
extensive list of all known aspects that influence the participation in education would go beyond the scope
of this paper, but there are several authors that provide a somewhat comprehensive overview (Lane 2009;
McGivney 2000). We would like to single out a few items that are particularly relevant when it comes to
openness in education:
Prior educational achievement. Qualifications in education function as access requirements for certain
other educational resources, for example consecutive degrees at universities.
Physical circumstances. This comprises of several aspects that all influence the ability to participate in
education; like geographical location (educational opportunities in remote areas are usually scarce) and
physical location (a place where educational activities can take place in a manner that does not impede the
process of learning).
Social, cultural and individual norms. We are all surrounded by a complex web of norms, attitudes and
values that shape our decisions and actions. Each person is influenced by different factors depending on
their social surroundings. With regard to education, some groups for example are affected by social norms
that do not hold educational attainments in high regard, and thus decrease the likelihood of engagement in
such activities. Cultural norms might have an influence on the attitudes regarding who is eligible for what
kind of education and at what age. Individual norms generally stem from personal experiences and are
Published in: DisCO 2016 Towards open education an information society. 11th conference reader. Beseda, J. (ed.). Centre for Higher
Education Studies. Prague: http://www.csvs.cz/konference/disco2016/Disco2016-sbornik.pdf (06-12-2016)
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related to beliefs about what educational goals are appropriate, achievable and useful for the person in
question. This also includes attitudes about one’s own capability, aspirations and the overall interest in
education.
When looking at openness and particularly at openness in MOOCs, it can be seen that some of the
above factors are definitely improved by educational methods that do not require proof of educational
achievement in order to receive access to further education, or that do not place restrictions on the physical
location of where the learning takes place. It is however equally visible that for the most part, social and
cultural norms remain stubbornly untouched by technological developments and OER.
2. MOOCs and Openness
Compared to other means of distributing OER, MOOCs have received a tremendous amount of
attention, from institutions of higher education as well as the general press. “[R]arely has higher education
as a system responded as rapidly to a trend as it has responded to open online courses.” (Siemens 2012, 5).
There is an indisputable link between MOOCs and higher education, manifesting in an academic interest in
MOOCs as an innovative instrument of learning and the implementation of MOOC platforms by many
universities. Interestingly, the last few years have shown over and over again that the typical participants in
MOOCs are disproportionately well-educated: “MOOCs have tended to attract individuals who have
already benefited from access to higher education.” (Cannell, Macintyre and Hewitt 2015, 65). It would
seem that MOOCs in particular are not quite the helpful instruments of creating a world with more
educational opportunities for everyone. In fact, there have been arguments that MOOCs are not actually
widening access to education, but raising issues in terms of social exclusion: “the technological divide may
be narrower but it is deeper those not connected or not using these new technologies are being left behind
at an alarming rate.” (Conole 2012, 131). The ideal behind the OER movement was not just to offer free
educational resources just for the sake of their existence, but for an increased uptake by learners and
teachers, who,thanks to digital technologies, are able to procure an educational advantage far beyond
anything traditional OER had to offer. And while the gap is closing (or getting “narrower”) in terms of
access to digital devices, the forces of social exclusion from education that have existed long before the
internet came into existence are still well and just as effective.
So when looking at the educational status of MOOC users, what possible explanations are available?
What factors are responsible for the dramatic overrepresentation of already well-educated participants?
Several ideas come to mind. First, on the level of the individual, it would seem plausible to assume that not
everyone shares an equally strong desire for the pursuit of knowledge and education; thus, people on a
high educational level might have attained it by being more inclined to devote time and effort into
educational endeavors, which is also something that makes them more likely to participate in rather
Published in: DisCO 2016 Towards open education an information society. 11th conference reader. Beseda, J. (ed.). Centre for Higher
Education Studies. Prague: http://www.csvs.cz/konference/disco2016/Disco2016-sbornik.pdf (06-12-2016)
5
informal learning settings, like MOOCs. Second, on the level of the MOOC, there are several things to
consider: is the instructional design and the preparation of the content attractive to users from all
educational backgrounds? Through which channels has the MOOC and its platform been promoted and in
what ways? If the platform is associated with a university: could this association be a potential drawback
for some people who would not place themselves in the educational sphere of such an institution? The last
aspect is already overlapping with third, the social level: as has been mentioned before, there are
considerable social and cultural barriers to traditional education that can be assumed to play a similar role
in MOOCs and other open technology-based forms.
If somewhat equal participation in open education across the spectrum of sociodemographic
characteristics is a desirable goal, then these aspects need to be considered and addressed, with more
research and with active strategies to counter them. This focus on widening access to OER beyond the
scope of the economic and the usability divide has found its way into the concept of OEP (Open
Educational Practices), which bears witness to the fact that open education is more than just the provision
of OER, with the intention of “changing from a narrow view of educational practice which centres on the
production of content, to a broader definition that encompasses all activities that open up access to
educational opportunity” (Falconer et al. 2013, 7). This does not only call for an integration of ideological,
practical and social aspects of OER, but also for a more interdisciplinary approach to limitations of
openness in education (Cannell, Macintyre and Hewitt 2015).
3. Case Study: The “Dr. Internet” MOOC
This MOOC was selected as a case study because it has several interesting characteristics with regard to
issues of openness. The conception and design of the “Dr. Internet” MOOC was part of an interdisciplinary
research project that included three Austrian universities (the Karl Franzens University, University of
Technology, and the Medical University, all based in Graz). Since the MOOC was created not just for
educational purposes, but also to contribute to the research agenda (Zimmermann, Kopp and Ebner 2016),
there was a mandatory questionnaire which participants had to fill in when first entering the MOOC.
Additionally, the project and particularly the MOOC received quite a bit of attention from the (local) press,
with several articles in popular print newspapers as well as online.
Description of the project. The “Dr. Internet” research cooperation was based on the mutual interest in
online search behavior for health-related information. In addition to the MOOC, there is a sociological arm
of study, which mainly focuses on interviews with general practitioners and a survey using questionnaires
for patients, and a philosophical one that is concerned with ethical developments in this regard. The main
objective of the project is to investigate how the increasingly common use of the internet to find medical
information affects the doctor-patient relationship, and what risks and potential are involved with this
Published in: DisCO 2016 Towards open education an information society. 11th conference reader. Beseda, J. (ed.). Centre for Higher
Education Studies. Prague: http://www.csvs.cz/konference/disco2016/Disco2016-sbornik.pdf (06-12-2016)
6
practice. Recent experiences of general practitioners show that more and more patients visit their doctor’s
office with previously acquired medical knowledge, obtained from online sources like popular websites,
patients’ forums etc. The acquired information can be extensive, but has often been found to be
inconsistent and difficult to evaluate (Benigeri and Pluye 2003). Similar to the many-faceted problem of
openness in education, data from the US has already indicated that access to health information on the
internet is also characterized by a considerable digital divide that has serious implications for public health
outcomes and for the potential benefits of improved online health communications (Brodie et al. 2000).
Description of the MOOC. As the core component of the research project, the “Dr. Internet” MOOC
was designed to raise awareness for a critical yet productive approach to online health information. The
participants were invited to assess and diagnose six medical case studies over the course of six weeks, all
of which were presented in short videos where a patient exhibits or complains about various symptoms.
After watching the videos, it was advised to use the internet in order to find information on potential
diagnoses. We used a special quiz format to collect the users’ opinions on possible diagnoses, where they
had a chance to rate the likelihood of eight suggested solutions on a four-part scale ranging from
“unlikely” to “very likely”. While there are no right or wrong answers to this kind of quiz, the participants
are able to compare their own choices with those of their fellow course users and with the results from a
previously conducted survey among trained physicians. The conception of the MOOC thus encourages
participants to question their search behavior on the Internet and to critically evaluate their skills in the
context of diagnosing diseases.
The MOOC is hosted on the first and only Austrian MOOC platform called iMooX (www.imoox.at),
founded by the Karl Franzens University and the Graz University of Technology (Neuböck, Kopp and
Ebner 2015). All course materials on “iMooX” easily qualify as OER, meaning that all the MOOC videos
are licensed under a Creative Commons License, so they may be accessed and used by anybody (as long as
this is not done for commercial purposes). The MOOC has a set duration of six weeks (first run: 27th
October 6th December 2015, second run: 2nd May 12th June 2016) during which the forum is open and
moderated, all materials stay available after the initial MOOC and the research project have finished, so
that future participants may still benefit from the course experience. The intention was to purposefully
create a truly open MOOC that would attract a heterogeneous audience from all educational levels and
engage them in an interesting learning experience.
4. Results
During the first run of the “Dr. Internet” MOOC, we had 370 registered participants, and 206 of those
(56%) actually entered the course and filled in the compulsory questionnaire. The statistical results show
that 62% of our participants were female; the average age was 39 years (minimum 15, maximum 75 years).
Published in: DisCO 2016 Towards open education an information society. 11th conference reader. Beseda, J. (ed.). Centre for Higher
Education Studies. Prague: http://www.csvs.cz/konference/disco2016/Disco2016-sbornik.pdf (06-12-2016)
7
About 58% of MOOC users were single, 32% married, 8% divorced, 2% widowed. The educational level
of the participants was askew in the all too familiar way: 56% had completed university education, 33% a
high school leaving examination, 4% middle school, 5% had completed vocational education
(“Lehrabschluss”), and 2% had undergone compulsory schooling. The data collected throughout the
duration of the course also follow some of the patterns commonly seen in MOOCs (Colman 2013). Out of
those 206 participants that completed the questionnaire in the beginning, only 28 people (14%) received a
certificate for completing the course. When calculating the completion rate based on the 370 registrations,
the result is 8%, which constitutes a quite satisfying result for MOOC standards (Khalil and Ebner 2014).
When comparing the initial group (n=206) with the small group of participants who officially
completed the course (n=28), we can see that most sociodemographic characteristics barely change over
the course of the MOOC. The gender ratio essentially stays the same with 63% women, the same holds
true for age where the mean was 40 years. There is a smaller fraction of single (42%) and a larger one of
married users (50%), which now makes it the dominating civil status. The percentage of divorced users
does not change much (8%), but there are no more widowed participants. Regarding education, we get
some small changes as well (see chart 1). The percentage of university-educated participants goes down to
46%, while those who completed high school increased their proportion to 46%, creating two equally
strong groups. There were no more users with middle school education; the group with vocational
education remained the same (4%), and those with compulsory schooling increased their percentage to 4%.
à CHART 1
The insights gained from these numbers are limited by the very small sample size of the remaining
MOOC users who completed the course, but we would like to point out a few tentative conclusions.
Regarding educational levels, the big picture stays the same: when the two highest categories (university
and high school) are combined, they make up 90% of MOOC users, both at the beginning and at the end of
the “Dr. Internet” course. There is only a small fraction of participants with lower educational levels, but
they drop out at about the same rate as those with higher education.
5. Measures Taken and Lessons Learned
The design and the implementation of the “Dr. Internet” MOOC was set to accommodate several
aspects that were perceived as potential issues for the openness of the course. First, the chosen topic of
diagnosing diseases with the help of the internet did not require any prior education on the subject, so that
people from all educational levels have the same starting ground from which to approach the content.
Second, the tasks of diagnosing patients were focused on media literacy rather than knowledge gain, so the
quizzes were designed in a way that they had no right or wrong answers and felt less like a test. Third, the
Published in: DisCO 2016 Towards open education an information society. 11th conference reader. Beseda, J. (ed.). Centre for Higher
Education Studies. Prague: http://www.csvs.cz/konference/disco2016/Disco2016-sbornik.pdf (06-12-2016)
8
topic itself appears to be fairly attractive in general and affects pretty much everybody who has ever
wondered about the medical causes of physical symptoms, no matter what their educational level or social
status. Preliminary results from the sociological arm of the (still ongoing) “Dr. Internet” research project
indicate that over 80% of the patients surveyed in general practitioners’ offices have used the internet for
medical research at least once, so we are dealing with quite a widespread behavior. Fourth, the course and
all materials were created in German language. While this obviously limits international course
participation, it should help to increase participation among educationally alienated groups that do not
possess sufficient English language skills. Fifth, since the topic generated enough interest from the press,
the MOOC was promoted by several articles in print and online newspapers, among them a double-sided
feature in the second most-read newspaper in Styria, Austria (called “Kleine Zeitung”, 7th November
2015). Sixth, together with the course we developed an innovative concept for the moderation of the
forum, which was monitored for 20 hours each day. This concept did not only include specific guidelines
on how to handle potentially precarious questions on health and treatment, but also stimuli for debates so
as to keep them open for everyone, and to generate an atmosphere that would allow the participants to ask
any questions and discuss any problems they might have, without fear of being classified as undereducated
or ill-informed.
Yet as we have seen from the participant statistics of the “Dr. Internet” MOOC, it would appear that all
these measures did not really make a difference in truly “opening” the MOOC up to traditionally
underrepresented groups. Instead of attracting a large and diverse crowd of users, we recruited a rather
small and quite homogeneous group, which is very similar in its characteristics to those we have observed
with other MOOCs on the iMooX platform (Neuböck, Kopp and Ebner 2015; Khalil, Kastl and Ebner
2016). The (academically) low-threshold but relevant topic, the accordance in language, and the publicity
for the course failed to attract some of the targeted groups. The data does however suggest that there was at
least no further unproportional loss of less-educated participants once they had entered the course; in fact,
it could be argued that the relatively high dropout among university-educated users attests to the fact that
the course was constructed in a way that was not too challenging on an intellectual level (Colman 2013).
Combined with a somewhat acceptable completion rate of 14% (or 8% depending on the mode of
calculation), it could be stated that the design and content of the course was well-received.
Conclusion
Even though a few proactive steps to encourage participation across the whole educational spectrum
were integrated in the design, development and implementation of the “Dr. Internet” MOOC, it was by no
means enough to counteract the dynamics of social exclusion that MOOCs seem to be particularly prone
to. Our findings confirm the results of other studies (Dillahunt, Wang and Teasley 2014; Hansen and Reich
Published in: DisCO 2016 Towards open education an information society. 11th conference reader. Beseda, J. (ed.). Centre for Higher
Education Studies. Prague: http://www.csvs.cz/konference/disco2016/Disco2016-sbornik.pdf (06-12-2016)
9
2015): even though MOOCs have been credited with the potential to democratize education, they are not
an effective instrument against educational disparities. To the contrary, they seem to deepen rather than
bridge the gap, because those groups who already have a higher socioeconomic status, good access to
higher education and employment are also able to gain additional educational benefits from MOOCs and
Open Education.
Why is this happening? While we tried to summarize the most important hindrances of openness, from
the digital divide to social and cultural barriers, there are bound to be other aspects not yet brought to light.
Interdisciplinary research into more traditional barriers to educational opportunities is a good starting point
to look for answers. It seems likely that any strategies to counterbalance these dividing tendencies will
need to address complex matters far beyond mere design and licensing issues. Quite a few ideas have
already been proposed: Dillahunt, Wang and Teasley (2014) recommend more research into the
motivation that drives learners to participate in MOOCs, and to use these insights to create more incentives
for those of underrepresented groups. Falconer et al. (2013) provide a long list of suggestions, among them
the appeal to view OER as more than content, to promote digital literacy, and to conduct research into the
OER practices of learners. Cannell, Macintyre and Hewitt (2015) would like to see a shift of focus to OEP
that build on partnerships and social networks in order to promote educational opportunities. Bull (2012)
reports on the beneficial outcomes of targeted OER initiatives that are characterized by specifically
adapted content presentation and instructional settings in order to appeal to groups who have a hard time
accessing higher education.
All of these suggestions involve a tremendous amount of work and cooperation and are not guaranteed
to provide solutions. However, if we want MOOCs to realize their educational potential and to be truly
“open”, the effort is not only necessary but worthwhile.
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PLEASE PUT CHARTS AND TABLES ON THE END OF YOUR PAPER AND MAKE NOTICE IN THE TEXT BETWEEN WHAT
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... In fact, open education promotes the idea that knowledge is a public good and that technology can provide extraordinary opportunities for everyone to reuse, revise, remix and share educational resources (Smith & Casserly, 2006;Wiley, 2010a). Open education is designed to promote participation and to remove the barriers to access and ownership of learning resources (Blessinger & Bliss, 2016 (Conole, 2013a;Peltonen & Väänänen, 2016;Stallman, 2002;Weller, 2009;Weller et al., 2015;Zimmermann, Höfler, & Ebner, 2016). MOOCs largely came about as results of open movement and OER in education and the possibilities of technological innovations in online learning (Yuan & Powell, 2015). ...
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p>In the context of education, “open(ness)” has become the watermark for a fast growing number of learning materials and associated platforms and practices from a variety of institutions and individuals. Open Educational Resources (OER), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), and more recently, initiatives such as Coursera are just some of the forms this movement has embraced under the “open” banner. Yet, ongoing calls to discuss and elucidate the “meaning” and particularities of openness in education point to a lack of clarity around the concept. “Open” in education is currently mostly debated in the context of the technological developments that allowed it to emerge in its current forms. More in-depth explorations of the philosophical underpinnings are moved to the backstage. Therefore, this paper proposes a historical approach to bring clarity to the concept and unmask the tensions that have played out in the past. It will then show how this knowledge can inform current debates around different open initiatives.</p
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Full-text available
Open Educational Resources (OER) – that is, teaching, learning and research materials that their owners make free to others to use, revise and share – offer a powerful means of expanding the reach and effectiveness of worldwide education. Those resources can be full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, software, and other materials and techniques used to promote and support universal access to knowledge. This book, initiated by the UNESCO/COL Chair in OER, is one in a series of publications by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) examining OER. It describes the movement in detail, providing readers with insight into OER’s significant benefits, its theory and practice, and its achievements and challenges. The 16 chapters, written by some of the leading international experts on the subject, are organised into four parts by theme: OER in Academia – describes how OER are widening the international community of scholars, following MIT’s lead in sharing its resources and looking to the model set by the OpenCourseWare Consortium OER in Practice – presents case studies and descriptions of OER initiatives underway on three continents Diffusion of OER – discusses various approaches to releasing and “opening” content, from building communities of users that support lifelong learning to harnessing new mobile technologies that enhance OER access on the Internet Producing, Sharing and Using OER – examines the pedagogical, organisational, personal and technical issues that producing organisations and institutions need to address in designing, sharing and using OER Instructional designers, curriculum developers, educational technologists, teachers, researchers, students, others involved in creating, studying or using OER: all will find this timely resource informative and inspiring.
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