"Professor of Learning Technology and Academic Director of Learning & Teaching"

The Open University

Learning to Teach with Open Educational Resources

Posted by on Jun 22, 2015 in Higher Education, Professional Learning | 0 comments

Guidelines  on how educators learn open educational practices

Allison Littlejohn & Nina Hood

This text is from Report O1/A2 from the Erasmus+ ExplOERer Project http://www.exploerer.gu.se/

1 Executive Summary

2 Introduction

3 Method and Analysis

4 Detailed guidelines with illustrative scenarios

6 Six knowledge types

7 References

 1.        Executive Summary

Six guidelines for structuring learning and teaching opportunities relevant to educators’ open educational resource (OER) engagement are proposed in this document. The guidelines are designed to provide information and guidance to facilitate the design and construction of professional learning opportunities to support educators in building new learning practices around OER. In determining how best to support educators’ learning with and from OER, it is necessary to consider not only the nature and structure of learning opportunities they require but also the knowledge and content these opportunities should encompass. Six areas of knowledge that need to be targeted are proposed by these guidelines.


The guidelines are:


Learning should include a range of theoretical knowledge of OER.

Theoretical knowledge relevant to OER engagement would incorporate: licensing and legal frameworks; technical and hosting; quality assessment; locating OER; adaption and repurposing of OER; pedagogies of OER employment. As educators with different levels of expertise and experience with OER require different theoretical knowledge, learning opportunities should be differentiated.


Learning should include discipline specific theoretical knowledge of OER.

Expertise development is enhanced and knowledge is more readily assimilated and internalised when it is easily translatable to the contexts in which it will be utilised. For educators to achieve the highest levels of OER engagement, where their actions and learning are embedded within their practice, it is necessary for them to have developed knowledge and expertise that is specific to and situated within the personal settings and contexts of their work.


Educators need the opportunity to develop the experiential and practical knowledge and skills that will enable them to actually engage with OER in their practice.

Educators are more likely to learn about and use OER when they are connected to and embedded within their day-to-day work tasks. Practical knowledge is necessary for translating theoretical conceptual knowledge and learning around OER engagement into the acts and contexts of practice.


Educators need support to develop the self-regulative and socio-regulative knowledge that will enable them to understand the value of OER both for their own practice and professional learning and for their students’ learning and development.

Self-regulative knowledge consists of the meta-cognitive and reflective skills that learners use to monitor and evaluate their own actions and to make sense of and apply the knowledge and expertise they are creating within the varied contexts of their professional practice. Self-regulative knowledge acts as a mediator for combining theoretical knowledge and practical expertise and experience.


Continued learning and development is enhanced when educators have the opportunity to interact with others around their OER use and learning.  

Socio-cultural knowledge is developed through both online and offline interactions and is important in encouraging sustained engagement with OER by educators at all stages of their learning journey.


Each workplace has its own culture guiding professional practice, and therefore learning about OER ideally should be linked with work activities.

Educators’ engagement with OER is reliant not only on the learning opportunities available to them as individual, independent learners but also the construction of workplaces that support their learning journeys and engagement with OER. Supporting the construction of workplaces that facilitate educators’ ongoing learning with OER will help to promote higher levels of OER use and learning.








2.        Introduction

The ExplOERer project fosters sustainability of open educational resources (OER) in higher education contexts through supporting their reuse and repurposing in new learning contexts and by expanding the role of OER in learning ecosystems. The project focuses on supporting adult educators to more consistently and effectively reuse and repurpose OER in and for their professional practice (https://exploerer.wordpress.com/).


Adult educators frequently transfer content resources, knowledge and practices between the various contexts that comprise their practice, reusing material from one setting in new places and situations. OER can help to ease this process of transfer by lowering the barriers that exist between different contexts. However, there remain tensions between ‘open’ and ‘educational’ arising from the rules, cultures and codes of learning settings that are not permeable to change or to the adoption of openness. The challenge is to build on new learning practices around OER, known as open education practices (OEP), involving attitude change and a different way of approaching ‘content’ implicating teachers’ digital literacies and abilities to self-regulate. The contextualisation of OER within a broader understanding of OEP aligns with ideas presented in The Capetown Open Education Declaration:

Open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues. It may also grow to include new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning (Capetown Open Education Declaration, 2008).


The project conceptualises the adult educator as embodying the dual roles of learner and practitioner. It explores how engagement with OER can trigger meaningful learning opportunities for educators, facilitating the creation of expertise and knowledge across contexts and importantly investigates learning practices and learning processes that most powerfully support educators in their various learning contexts and roles.


This document sets forward guidelines for the design and development of professional learning opportunities to support educators involved in higher education in the use and reuse of OER. The guidelines are informed by the findings of a specially commissioned study that examined the ways in which adult educators create meaningful learning opportunities when engaging with OER together with two widely-accepted and well-utilised theoretical frameworks of OER engagement and professional learning, respectively.


The guidelines are designed to operate on multiple levels. They are intended to be useable by adult educators in their dual roles of educational professionals and practitioners, and as learners who are engaged in more informal learning, which is situated in the acts and contexts of their professional practice. They are also designed to support people involved in developing formal training courses and professional development opportunities.



3.        Methods and Analysis

The study investigating the ways in which adult educators create meaningful learning opportunities when engaging with OER was conducted in two phases. Phase one consisted of an online survey, administered to adult educators across Europe in English (n=521), Swedish (n=16) and Polish (n=35).


  Number Percentage of total responses
Total 572
English version 521 91.1
Polish version 35 6.1
Swedish version 16 2.8
Female 332 58.0
Male 240 42.0
School educator 49 8.6
University level educator 484 84.6
Vocational educator 7 1.2
Company or professional trainer 17 3.0
Lifelong learning facilitator 7 1.2
Community educator 4 0.7
Voluntary or third sector trainer 4 .7

Table One: Descriptive statistics from three surveys of adult educators’ OER engagement and learning.


The survey comprised of five scales. The first scale asked participants about their current engagement with OER. The second scale measured the influence of educators’ workplace learning context and the final three scales measured educators’ abilities to self-regulate their ongoing professional learning.


Following the survey, thirty-five participants were invited to participate in semi-structured interviews (Polish n=5, English n=30). The interviews built upon the educators’ survey responses in order to gain a more in depth and detailed understanding of the relationship between their learning behaviour and disposition and their OER use.


Experimental factor analysis of the instrument revealed strong factor reliability and structure. It yielded three factors for OER Activity – resource employment, resource evaluation, resource knowledge development. Six factors for self-regulated learning were identified – experimenting in practice, planning and goal setting, self-efficacy, self reflection, interaction with others, learning value. Factor analysis yielded two factors for workplace learning context – workplace autonomy, scope for learning.


  • F1: ‘experimenting in practice’ (13 items; Cronbach Alpha .917; total variance explained 36.41%). This factor relates to the practices educators employ when performing the day-to-day tasks of their practice that support their learning. All but one item comprising this factor are in Zimmerman’s performance phase of SRL.
  • F2: ‘planning and goal setting’ (9 items; Cronbach Alpha .866; total variance explained 6.62%). This factor relates to the actions and behaviours of educators around planning their learning activities and setting goals for both their practice and their learning. 7 items included in this factor are associated with Zimmerman’s forethought phase of SRL, with the remaining 2 related to Zimmerman’s performance phase.
  • F3: ‘self efficacy’ (6 items; Cronbach Alpha .874 total variance explained 5.52%). This factor is associated with the extent to which an individual feels confident to be able to accomplish all the tasks of their job. All items are associated with Zimmerman’s forethought phase.
  • F4: ‘self reflection’ (8 items; Cronbach Alpha .872; total variance explained 5.13%). This factor relates to an educator’s ability both to evaluate their learning experiences and the learning that has occurred as well as the intrinsic value of their learning beyond its immediate value. 6 items correspond to Zimmerman’s self-reflection phases, with two associated with the performance phase.
  • F5: ‘Interaction with others’ (3 items; Cronbach Alpha .935; total variance explained 1.46 %). This factor encompasses the role educator’s interaction with other people plays in supporting their learning. All three items are associated with Zimmerman’s performance phase.
  • F6: ‘learning value (5 items: Cronbach Alpha .833; total variance explained 1.38%). This factor encompasses the value educators ascribe to learning in their professional role and their enjoyment and self-fulfilment they receive from engaging in learning tasks. Three items are connected to Zimmerman’s forethought phase and two items are connected to the performance phase.


The survey instrument was also tested for convergent validity, to test the relationship between individual factors. The results of the correlation analysis indicate that an educator’s total self regulated learning score is strongly positively correlated with both their OER use and their workplace learning context. Each of the factors identified in the principal component analysis also individually reflect this strong positive correlation. Previous studies suggest that individuals who are better able to self regulate their learning are more adept at identifying and undertaking learning opportunities in their workplace compared with their peers who are less able to self-regulate their learning. The findings of this study support this contention.


Linear regression was also conducted in order to determine the relationship between the factors identified during the exploratory factor analysis. Results indicate that learning context is a predictor of OER activity as well as all six individual self-regulated learning factors.


The relationship between an individual’s capacity to self-regulate their learning and their OER activity also was explored. The multiple linear regression analysis included the six identified self-regulated learning factors together with learning context, with OER activity as the dependent variable. The analysis indicated that only a subset of self regulated learning factors predict learning activities undertaken for a given workplace learning context. Workplace learning context was a significant predictor together with factors self-reflection, interaction with others, and learning value.


The interviews, which were semi-structured in nature, ranged in length from thirty minutes to one hour. They were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The factors identified during the experimental factor analysis stage of analysis provided the initial coding structure for the interview data. The data was then further refined and analysed in order to develop sub categories for each factor and to identify links and connections between them.


The analysis of both the survey data and the interview data have been used to inform the creation of the guidelines.


4.        Guidelines Overview

The guidelines have been developed principally from the findings of the survey and interview data. They are designed to provide information and guidance to facilitate the design and construction of professional learning opportunities to support educators in building new learning practices around OER. The findings of the study align with current theories of professional learning, which identify the need for professional development that incorporates both formal and non-formal learning opportunities. Professional learning opportunities further need the flexibility to target the specific needs of individuals in a range of contexts and with varied levels of expertise and competence and to incorporate ongoing and sustained learning opportunities, which are embedded within the practical experiences and workplace contexts of learners.


The guidelines take Wild’s (2012) OER Engagement Ladder as a starting point for understanding the learning progression educators’ follow when building new practices around OER.


Figure One: Adapted from Wild’s (2012) OER Engagement Ladder


Wild’s model identifies the four major levels of engagement educators proceed through together with the ‘realisation steps’ or learning processes that facilitate movement between the levels. Wild’s framework highlights the need for differentiated learning opportunities for educators at different stages of their OER learning journey. The need for a variety of learning opportunities, which incorporate both breadth and depth of learning and knowledge is reinforced by the findings of this study.


Breadth refers to the need for educators to become familiar with a wide range of topics surrounding OER use while depth references the expertise or types of knowledge educators require in order to reach high levels of engagement and learning with OER.


In order to provide professional learning opportunities that incorporate both breadth and depth, as well as providing contextually relevant learning that meets educators at their current level and targets their specific knowledge needs, a range of learning activities is required. While a formal-style course may provide educators with some of the knowledge and expertise they require, in order to facilitate high levels of OER engagement among educators it is necessary also to develop non-formal learning opportunities, which provide educators with more contextualised knowledge and skill development. Learning opportunities and knowledge construction needs to be aligned to practitioners needs and directly applicable to their workplace practices.


The data indicate that a key element in the learning process involves educators applying their knowledge and expertise in practice and extending their competence with OER through experimenting in and reflecting on their practice. The development of context-specific learning opportunities enables educators to connect their learning and to develop their knowledge in relation to both their academic discipline and the unique characteristics of their workplace environments.


Alongside the provision of formal and non-formal learning opportunities it is also necessary to ensure that learning activities are differentiated in order to cater to the needs of educators at different stages of OER engagement. As Wild’s model demonstrates, educators at different levels of OER engagement not only engage with OER in different ways but also require different types and forms of learning – understanding, recognising need, reflection –to support their progression. Providing a flexible, learner-directed approach to learning is important for enabling educators to undertake activities that are aligned with their current needs.


To fully support educators’ engagement with OER it is necessary to develop a range of learning activities that operate as standalone offerings while simultaneously forming part of a larger, integrated learning programme that facilitates educators’ advancement through the stages of OER proficiency and competency. This would provide the structure and guidance that some educators require to support their learning with and from OER while providing the flexibility and autonomy for other educators to determine their own learning needs and to engage in activities that best serve their current learning level.


In determining how best to support educators’ learning with and from OER, it is necessary to consider not only the nature and structure of learning opportunities they require but also the knowledge and content these opportunities should encompass. Six areas of knowledge that need to be targeted are proposed by these guidelines:

  • Conceptual/theoretical knowledge (general)
  • Conceptual/theoretical knowledge (contextually situated)
  • Practical/experiential knowledge
  • Self-regulative and socio-regulative knowledge
  • Socio-cultural knowledge (community based)
  • Socio-cultural knowledge (workplace based)


These six areas of knowledge are broadly developed from the Integrative Pedagogy Framework (Tynja?la et al., 2006; Tynja?la 2008 & 2009; Tynja?la & Kallio, 2009; Heikkinen, Tynja?la & Kiviniemi, 2011). With its focus on expertise development, the integrative pedagogy model offers a fresh perspective on professional practice, which is well suited to the construction of new learning practices around OER. The types of knowledge construction identified in the Integrative Pedagogy Framework require a combination of both formal and non-formal learning activities.


Formal professional development tends to focus predominantly on conceptual/theoretical knowledge with some attention to practical/experiential knowledge development. While these types of knowledge play a role in developing educators’ engagement with OER, they do not provide the full range of knowledge or expertise required to advance learning to the highest level. The Integrative Pedagogy Framework identifies additional knowledge areas that must be supported in order to provide comprehensive learning opportunities, including socio-cultural knowledge and self-regulative expertise. These forms of knowledge are more routinely developed through the informal learning that occurs in and through the acts and tasks of practice and are embedded within the workplace contexts of educators. Developing educators’ capacity to learn new OER practices requires a combination of both formal and informal learning opportunities, providing both general and context-specific knowledge as well as the opportunity to embed expertise and learning within the socio-cultural contexts of their professional practice.


5.        Guidelines for Learning and Teaching Relevant to OER: Six Knowledge Types


Knowledge Type One: Conceptual/theoretical knowledge (general)

Conceptual/theoretical knowledge includes a wide range of concepts surrounding OER engagement, including knowledge of: licensing and legal frameworks; technical and hosting; quality assessment; locating OER; adaption and repurposing of OER; pedagogies of OER employment. This knowledge is largely explicit and systematic in nature, making it easily communicable and able to be constructed through formal learning activities. The nature of the theoretical knowledge educators require is dependent largely on their current level of expertise and experience in using OER. Therefore, learning opportunities need to be differentiated, enabling educators to access knowledge that is relevant to their current level of expertise and experience.


Licensing and legal frameworks

Educators require knowledge of the legal frameworks surround OER use, including the provisions for re-use offered by OER and Creative Commons (CC) and IPR licensing and the benefits these provide. Knowledge of how to attribute OER is required. As educators gain experience using OER they also require knowledge of how to share resources they have created as well as those that they have repurposed and reused under open licenses. The benefits and potential issues surrounding the reuse and repurposing of resources on a larger scale should also be addressed.


Locating resources

Knowing how to find OER, including awareness of mainstream search strategies and any relevant repositories is pivotal to educators in the early stages of their OER use. Ensuring educators have the necessary digital literacy skills to support their ability to identify reliable and applicable OER is also necessary. Strategies and templates that can help guide educators’ in their search for resources and to evaluate the quality of resources could support learners.


Adaptation and Repurposing of OER

Educators at all stages of their OER learning journeys require knowledge to support them in their adaptation and re-purposing of OER. While educators in the early stages of OER adoption tend to engage in minimal adaptation and repurposing, developing more sophisticated knowledge and acquiring greater skill and expertise in this area is an important developmental stage. Educators with more experience in OER engagement benefit from the development of technical knowledge and skills that enable them to employ a wider range of technologies and techniques when repurposing resources.


Process and pedagogy.

Educators at all stages of their OER learning journey require knowledge of the processes and pedagogical practices that support the effective employment of OER in practice.


Educators with limited prior OER experience need to understand why reuse is both a valuable and a valid educational practice. This encompasses knowledge of the benefits of using OER and the various ways that they could incorporate OER into their practice, including examples of OER use by others. As their conceptual understanding of OER and what they can provide develops, educators need to be supported in how they can make small-scale adaptation to resources. Educators at this stage tend to use resources to reinforce existing pedagogy and processes, rather than to reorient their practice.


Educators who are already using OER in their practice or those educators who have completed an introductory course on OER require more advanced and detailed information and knowledge of OER use and reuse. The advancement in their conceptualisation of OER from resources that supplement their practice to understanding how they can be more fully integrated into their teaching and learning practice should be emphasised. Developing an understanding of how students can engage with OER and the role educators can play in supporting and encouraging OER use among students is required.


Once OER use has become embedded within educators’ professional practice, they then require more detailed knowledge about OER reuse and the development of more technical skills and familiarity with a range of technology and software that they can employ in order to repurpose and adapt resources.


Conceptual/Theoretical Knowledge Scenarios from Interviews:

“You need to start already in the design and you need to discuss a lot about those theories because you don’t need to reinvent the wheel all the time yourself. To get people to realise that they can save time and money and they can also get the best professors from all over the world if they are working with open educational resources.

I start the talk about creative commons and copyright. … First of all people are not that used to creative commons, they don’t really understand what it is always and sometimes they don’t really understand the alignment with open educational resources and with creative commons. Some think that everything that is on the Internet is like open educational resources. Then I show a lot about good examples and what you can do and what you can’t, how you can use it and how you also can…I mean I can see for myself examples when I share what I’m doing.”


“I am more conscious of ensuring that I use it correctly and give credit to the original provider. Not that I didn’t do that originally, but I have more awareness of how to find the original provider and I won’t just do a Google search to find the image, I’ll go off to find out where it originally was and evaluate briefly what the site is because if it’s somebody’s blog then I’m much less likely to use it than if it comes from a journal paper or a website from a university because I don’t want to pass information on or I don’t want to use information that could be questionable.”



Knowledge Type Two:           Conceptual/Theoretical knowledge (contextually situated)

Alongside the provision of generalised theoretical knowledge educators also require the development of context specific theoretical knowledge that is directly relevant to their discipline area and workplace context.


Expertise development is enhanced and knowledge is more readily assimilated and internalised when it is easily translatable to the contexts in which it will be utilised. In order for educators to develop the necessary levels of digital literacy, where their actions and learning around OER are embedded within their practice, it is necessary for them to have developed knowledge and expertise that is specific to and situated within the personal settings and contexts of their work.


Learners are more motivated to engage in learning opportunities when they can easily see the relevance to their own work and they find it easier to apply theories and concepts when the connections to their own contexts are made explicit. Engaging with context-specific theoretical/conceptual knowledge limits the degree to which educators have to transpose knowledge from its original context into their own context of use. This reduces the cognitive load on educators, therefore facilitating the learning process.


Theoretical knowledge can be made both discipline and workplace setting specific.


Discipline specific

Discipline specific theoretical knowledge is directly related to particular discipline areas. Educators not only want to engage with OER from their discipline areas during the learning process but they also benefit from knowledge of pedagogical practices that are specific to their discipline area. Creating an element of bespoke, discipline-specific learning that supports educators in the location OER that are relevant to their own needs and in the ways to engage with and utilise resources tailored to their discipline would support the learning process.


Resource type specific

Certain educators will also need to develop knowledge of how to engage with and utilise specific types of resources, knowledge which may be applicable across disciplines. For example, for some educators understanding the ways in which they may repurpose data sets or reuse images or video may be particularly applicable to their context. Supporting educators to develop knowledge that is more directly applicable and tailored to their specific, alongside the development of more fundamental knowledge of OER, needs would support their learning trajectory.


Workplace setting specific

Each workplace has its own culture and set of principles guiding the practice of educators. Educators’ learning is supported when they engage with resources that are aligned with their workplace culture. This is particularly relevant for the instructional context in which OER are to be employed. Different types of resources and varied pedagogical strategies are required depending on whether a resource is to be employed in a purely online teaching context, an offline, in-person context or in a blended learning environment. Educators require knowledge that is specific to the nature of their course setting and structure.


Conceptual/Theoretical Knowledge (Contextual) Scenarios from the Interviews:

“You can introduce content. Not only detailed content but literally content for context, you might almost say. You can broaden the context of what you are doing and make – it’s hard to put into words isn’t it, I certainly pick up content that I wouldn’t readily pick up like various other systems that are available. I might have been able to pick up this content slowly in the past but now I can pick it up quite quickly and I can use that in my own development and use it in my teaching. It is a question of using it for both content and for development of techniques.”


“So even saying, well you’ve got someone who’s got a subject interest. I know this has happened in pockets and I think this is the problem with it, there’s pockets of really good practice around the country but I don’t think there’s enough connectivity with curriculum specialism and OERs across the piece.”



Knowledge Type Three:         Practical/Experiential Knowledge

Knowledge building and learning is intertwined and embedded not only within the workplace context but also the tasks undertaken in practice. It is critical that alongside the development of theoretical/conceptual knowledge educators also develop their practical/experiential knowledge. Practical/experiential knowledge encompasses the skills and expertise required to implement learning in practice. The data show that educators are more likely to learn about and use OER when they are connected to and embedded within their day-to-day work tasks. Alongside understanding the theory behind OER and the applicability and usefulness of OER use to their practice and professional learning, educators also require the skills and tacit knowledge to enable them to actually engage with OER in their practice.


When theoretical knowledge is internalised by learners it intertwines with their existing knowledge and skills to become personal, practical knowledge, which is then used to inform and structure their actions and behaviours. This knowledge is necessary for translating theoretical conceptual knowledge and learning around OER engagement into the acts and contexts of practice. This knowledge is personal and specific to individual educators and their contexts of action.


Practical experiential knowledge can be developed through both formal and informal learning activities. Formal learning can support the development of educators’ practical knowledge through the incorporation of practical, hands-on opportunities that enable educators to try out and put into practice the knowledge they are learning. The opportunity to try out new knowledge and skills in a safe, structured environment, which also provides opportunities for feedback, supports the accrual of practical experiential knowledge.


Because practical experiential knowledge is case and location specific, it is developed also through learning by doing in practice. Educators need to be encouraged and supported to experiment with OER within their practice and to reflect on and to evaluate the effectiveness of various strategies they employ.


The knowledge educators develop through participation and experimentation in practice requires strong self-regulatory knowledge. Educators need to be able to reflect on and evaluate their actions and learning and to iteratively adjust their behaviour in order to achieve maximum learning and practice potential.


Practical/Experiential Knowledge Scenarios from the Interviews:

“Well, now you are back to the old story about the painter Whistler – you’ve probably heard the one about only giving his students 45 minutes to paint his portrait and he said how long did it take you to paint your portrait and he said 45 minutes and a lifetime of experience! That kind of thing, that really is what I’m trying to convey to students when they start using OER as well and I was training in school and it’s not enough to have identified the resource you have also then got to decide what you are going to do with it? Where does that come from?”


“I’m a great one for ‘how to’ guides. I love a step-by-step guide. That’s the librarian in me probably. But I do like step by step, you know this is how you do it, you know actually showing you, a bit of a show and tell, hands on opportunity, something I could follow, examples of how it’s been done.”


“Practice I think and just knowing what to look for, how to look for it and also having used them judging the effectiveness of them. So knowing when they’re going to be useful and when they’re not and having tried out some of the techniques used within those resources whether they work or not for my students and for my discipline.”

So your own experience using a variety of different online resources then informs your future use of them?

“Yes absolutely because you can very quickly see that one’s not going to be any good for me, I don’t want that source I’ve seen that one before, oh yeah I like this guy let’s have a look at what else there is in this particular website or from this particular university or school and so you kind of just get to know, it’s like getting to know the library really, which bits you want to go to and which bits you don’t and which authors you might want to use and which you don’t. It’s just getting to know them really.”



Knowledge Type Four:           Self-regulative and socio-regulative knowledge

Self-regulative and socio-regulative knowledge supports educators’ understanding of the value of OER both for their own practice and for their students’ learning and development. It consists of the meta-cognitive and reflective skills that learners use to monitor and evaluate their own actions and to make sense of and apply the knowledge and expertise they are creating within the varied contexts of their professional practice. Self-regulative knowledge acts as a mediator for combining theoretical knowledge and practical expertise and experience. The findings confirm the relationship between educators’ ability to regulate their learning and their ability to learn from and innovate with OER in their practice. The findings also suggest the importance of the workplace learning environment for structuring both learners engagement with OER as well as their capacity to employ self-regulatory learning traits.


The stages of self-regulatory knowledge align with Wild’s ‘realisation steps’, understanding, need and reflection. In order for educators to translate the content knowledge and expertise they are gaining from learning from and with OER, both in formal and informal settings, requires them first to understand the benefits that OER can bring to them in their role as educators (which encompasses both practitioner and learner) as well as the benefits they offer to their students. Once educators have achieved this basic level of understanding to advance their engagement with and learning from OER they need to recognise the more specific ways that OER can support their practice and contribute to specific areas of need they may have. Wild’s final realisation step, reflection, occurs when educators are able effectively and consistently to reflect on and evaluate their engagement with OER and to fuse their theoretical and experiential knowledge within the specific contexts of their professional practice.


Developing high levels of self-regulatory knowledge in educators is important for OER adoption and learning. The more convinced an educator is of the positive influences reusing and repurposing OER has on their practice, the more likely they are to continue to engage in these practices. This requires a sound understanding (encompassing both breadth and depth) of the various roles OER can play and the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively employ them. The construction of self-regulatory knowledge also enables educators to use OER as a means to reflect on and to adjust and improve their teaching practice. It is through the development of self-regulatory knowledge that educators are able to shift their engagement with OER from a supplementary component of their practice to an integral, embedded element of practice.


Self-Regulative and Socio-Regulative Knowledge Scenarios from the Interviews:

“Well as I would do with any resource before I used it I would check it met my learning objectives, check the quality, where it’s come from, was it indeed available anyway as an open educational resource, could I use it? In this instance it was very clearly marked up as creative commons with a creative commons licence which for me gives me that badge of authority that it’s able to be shared and attributed. So meeting my learning aims and objectives, quality, able to use with attribution, the fact that it was easily accessible to my learners given their backgrounds. Well really anything I would apply to any resource I was ever going to use, the same list if you like of what I need to do. Is it going to meet my needs? Is it going to meet my learner needs more importantly? And is it easily accessible and so forth?”


“Well I think really I ask myself, you know I might find something fascinating, but then I’ve been studying for donkey’s years and it isn’t my first year at university or using online learning materials. So I try to put myself in the students’ position . . . but I do try and see things from the students point of view and I do, I guess I limit my focus, I concentrate my focus on content specific topics more so than I did in the past. I would go more sideways in the past than I do now. I think would this be really, really useful to someone studying this particular concept at this point in the course? So I do self question and reflect on this a lot more. It sounds quite painful doesn’t it! . . . I think a lot of it is subconscious and unconscious. But as I’m looking at something, you know is this really the nitty gritty though? Is this good information? Does it add something? Will it enhance a 1st year students understanding, would they welcome this material, would they be glad to get it or do they think ‘Oh god, no, not more stuff’. So I do ask those questions, but it’s done unconsciously I think to a large extent.”


Knowledge type five: Socio-cultural knowledge (community based)

Socio-cultural knowledge may be developed through the creation of OER-related sharing communities for educators. Socio-cultural knowledge is primarily developed through informal learning opportunities that enable educators to interact with other educators around their OER engagement.


The data indicate that engagement with and learning from OER by educators at all levels of experience and expertise is heavily influenced by interaction with other educators in both online and offline contexts. For educators with low levels of engagement with OER, identifying people or sources that they can trust is important to their continued engagement with and learning from OER. For educators with higher levels of engagement with OER the development of socio cultural knowledge through participation in communities can be important in not only supporting their continued reuse of materials but also supporting the re-sharing of resources they create or repurpose in their own practice.


The most beneficial sharing communities are discipline-specific. Educators associate OER use with increasing the efficiency with which they can fulfil their workplace tasks and practice. Therefore, when seeking advice or support from others about OER, they want quick and specific support that is directly related to their immediate needs and contexts of practice. Engaging with people and resources related to their discipline presents learning opportunities that tend to be more closely aligned to their specific needs. Educators are further more likely to engage in knowledge sharing and interaction when they are part of a known, trusted group. The construction of discipline or workplace specific communities can help to support the creation of educator’s socio-cultural knowledge.


Socio-cultural knowledge (community-based) Scenarios from the Interviews:

“If I hadn’t had the social media and the contacts which I have, I couldn’t have been updated in that way which I am and haven’t had those contacts because now I can more or less write to anyone in the world and ask them for things…. his peer review system which is with open educational resources, it’s maybe more valuable than others. For example I trust you and you share something with me and then I would like to share it again, but if I don’t trust you I will not share what you’re sharing. So I mean there is some kind of a self-evaluation built in, in this kind of system which is not present in for example a peer reviewed journals.”


“There were sort of technologists and learning developers and people who would meet very regularly. So there was always the opportunity to meet up with people in that sense and I think we also tried to disseminate our findings in journals and at conferences as well and I had the opportunity to discuss aspects of those things there, which was always incredibly useful at looking at what people were actually doing and how they were going about these things in slightly different ways.”


“Yeah we have a lot of teachers who are involved in using different sorts of resources, so I think we tend to either meeting up and just talking about things and say ‘Oh have you seen this?’ or ‘Have you used that?’. We have occasional seminars which may also serve as forums where we’ll come together and share things that we’ve come across in the last year that we’ve started using or thought about using. We have a couple of teachers who specifically do kind of…I don’t know what the term is in English, who are on the lookout for useful sites and so on and that collect them or send links to them to other teachers.”


Knowledge type six:   Socio cultural knowledge (workplace based)

Workplace learning context is a powerful mediator of educators’ ongoing learning. The development of workplace learning contexts that facilitate educators’ learning is critical. New knowledge and learning is generated in part through an individual’s participation within their context of practice as well as through interaction and engagement with the resources (material and human) available in that context. The learning process and resultant knowledge is shaped by the context(s) in which knowledge is acquired and used. Therefore, educators’ engagement with OER is reliant not only on the learning opportunities available to them as individual, independent learners but also the construction of workplaces that support their learning journeys and engagement with OER. The body of knowledge educators develop around their OER use is contextually situated and contextually interpreted. Therefore, as educators move into new workplace contexts, both spatial and temporal, they must adjust their knowledge in order to make it relevant for their new setting.


Educators who consider their workplace to foster a learning context that provides them with greater freedom and flexibility to pursue activities and learning opportunities that will be most beneficial to their specific needs were more likely to engage with OER to support the development of their practice and learning. Similarly, educators who were in workplaces where OER use was encouraged and OER were being used routinely by their colleagues were more likely to engage more OER and to undertake activities that would support their ongoing learning.


Providing guidance on how to develop and structure workplace learning contexts that are supportive of and facilitate educators’ ongoing learning with OER would help to promote higher levels of OER use and learning.


Socio-cultural Knowledge (Workplace-based) Scenarios from the Interviews:

“So it’s fairly informal and unstructured at the moment, something that I’m kind of thinking about because we’re looking at a bit of free organisation in our university at the moment and one of the things we’re trying to think about is how could we systematise that kind of thing a bit more and collect what we find to be the most useful resources and make them the most available to our colleagues and so on.”


“So in each of our subjects there will be a conference that’s just for lecturers and indeed for the course teams and that’s a conference where we can share best practice resources and information and moan and whinge a bit, but we can also share best practice. So if people are at a bit of a loss saying ‘I’ve got this vast subject of art in Africa, how the hell am I going to start looking? Where do I start?’ pop into the lecturers only conference and you’ll be able to post a question and get an answer pretty quickly from someone who’s gone through exactly the same problem … It was quite hard going without anyone, there were no best practice forums then, there was no nice bank of online resources for us to work with. Those things now exist, so if I was a brand new tutor coming in now I would feel pretty well supported if I wanted to be with people out there, material out there, sign posts about where I should look, so that I wasn’t wasting hours on the vast internet chasing my tail.”


“It would be most relevant if it was colleagues at this university because it would be other people in similar situations to me. There wouldn’t be an awful lot of point in having a bank of resources that was from people who were in a brick university because when I was at the conference last month the kinds of things that were issues for people in brick universities were totally different to our issues. So whilst some of the resources could theoretically be applied or useful, there’s no point in some because it’s a differ situation.”










6.        References


Cape Town Open Education Declaration: Unlocking the promise of open educational resources (2008). Available from: http://www.capetowndeclaration.org/read-the-declaration.


Heikkinen, H., Tynja?la?, P. & Kiviniemi, U. (2011). Integrative pedagogy in practicum. In M. Mattson, T. V. Ellertsen, & D. Rorrison (Eds.), A practicum turn in teacher education (pp. 91-112). Rotterdam: Sense.


Tynja?la?, P., (2008). Perspectives into learning at the workplace. Educatioanl Research Review. 3, 130-154.


Tynja?la?, P., (2009). Connectivity and Transformation in Work-Related Learning – Theoretical Foundations. In M. Stenström & P. Tynja?la (Eds.) Connectivity and Transformation in Work-Related Learning – Theoretical Foundations (pp. 11-37) Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands


Tynja?la?, P. & Kallio, E. (2009). Integrative pedagogy for developing vocational and professional expertise. Paper presented at the 13th Biennial Conference for Learning and Instruction, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


Tynja?la?, P., Slotte, V., Nieminen, J., Lonka, K., & Olkinuora, E. (2006). From university to working life: Graduates’ workplace skills in practice. In P. Tynja?la, J. Valimaa, & G. Boulton-Lewis (Eds.), Higher education and working life: Collaborations, confrontations and challenges (pp. 73–88). Amsterdam: Elsevier.


Wild, J. (2012). OER Engagement Study: Promoting OER reuse among academics. SCORE Fellowship Final Report. Milton Keynes: Open University.









Read More

Qualified, self-regulated learners follow parts of a MOOC that helps them solve a problem

Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 in Higher Education, Professional Learning, Sustainable Learning | 0 comments

Understanding learning in Massive Open Online Courses is difficult, partly because methods and instruments for data collection are under-developed. Published work tends to be from data samples that are too small or skewed. Dropout rates in MOOCs mean that the learners who participate in studies show persistence, therefore samples are not representative. Even if this problem can be reduced, the environment is distributed and varied, so there are multiple variables making data difficult to analyse.

Published research shows that the research methods used tend to analyse registration, participation, retention & progression, completion or assessment data, but none of these conventional course metrics measure learning in a MOOC. The reason is rooted in learners’ motivations for participating in a MOOC. Some learners want to complete the course and gain the certificate, others want to learn specific knowledge or gain skills. Learners in a MOOC don’t have direct instruction from a tutor. The courses have a self-guided format that requires learners to regulate their own learning. Therefore we should expect learner behaviour to vary.

This is particularly true for learners who are working in an area related to the MOOC. Professionals already have (at least baseline) qualifications and tend to have learned how to self-regulated and are motivated. Employers are interested in MOOCs for professional training and learning, yet little is known about how people learn in these open, online environments.

Colin Milligan and I were funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation MOOC Research Initiative to examine how professionals learn in MOOCs. Data was gathered and analysed with help from Lou McGill, Paige Mustain and Nina Hood. We used self-regulated learning theory as a framework to examine cognitive, affective and behavioural factors influencing learners. These factors range from motivation, interest, confidence and goals to interest-enhancement, learning strategies, critical thinking, help-seeking, self-reflection and self-evaluation. http://www.gcu.ac.uk/academy/pl-mooc/

We wanted to test the hypothesis that learners with high self-regulation have different cognitive, affective and behavioural responses to learning in a MOOC than those displaying low self-regulation. Self-regulated learning is not a ‘learning style’. Rather, it’s a response to a learning situation. Many of the cognitive, affective and behavioural factors can be transformed towards good self-regulation ability. Some factors are relatively easy to influence (for example help-seeking or learning strategies) while others (for example confidence) are more difficult. Nevertheless there is opportunity here to gain insight from both learning and teaching perspectives.

We studied in detail how people learned in two MOOCs: Introduction to Datascience (Coursera and the University of Washington) and Fundamentals of Clinical Trials (edX and Harvard University).

Introduction to Datascience was run by the University of Washington from September to December 2014 using the Coursera platform. There were 40,000 registered learners, though only around one-tenth of these users were active within the MOOC. The research design involved quantitative data gathering using a psychometric survey instrument, designed to measure learners’ perceived self regulation on the course. The MOOC participants were contacted via a course announcement in week 2 (of 8). 280 individuals completed the survey. Participants were asked whether they would agree to a follow-up interview. The quantitative data was combined with qualitative data gathered through semi-structured interviews with 35 participants.

Introduction to Datascience was run by the University of Washington from September to December 2014 using the Coursera platform. There were 40,000 registered learners, though only around one-tenth of these users were active within the MOOC. The research design involved quantitative data gathering using a psychometric survey instrument, designed to measure learners’ perceived self regulation on the course. The MOOC participants were contacted via a course announcement in week 2 (of 8). 280 individuals completed the survey. Participants were asked whether they would agree to a follow-up interview. The quantitative data was combined with qualitative data gathered through semi-structured interviews with 35 participants.

Learners who perceived themselves as exhibiting low self-regulation tended to be focused on completing the course and gaining the certificate. By contrast, highly self-regulated learners wanted tended to link their participation in the MOOC to work performance or personal interest:

“The most important factor… is not even how much I learn, but how big the impact of my work can be to the outside world” (HSRL, 119)

This motivation impacted learners’ goal-setting, self-evaluation and self-satisfaction. Highly self-regulated learners tended to link learning goals with work and were more strategic about where they focus effort:

“The way to approach it [learning] is to follow what interests me and not worry too much about trying to keep a complete overview of the area… I plan to complete all of the assignments[but] I won’t be too worried if I don’t.”(HSRL, 428)

We found evidence that highly self-regulated learners self-evaluate against their own benchmarks and identify progress in relation to intended aims. Learner satisfaction may be high because the learners are self-evaluating their progress against their own goals and ambitions:

“I’m… very satisfied with what I did during the course and what I’ve got out it at the end.” (HSRL, 247)

“Well now I’m feeling more powerful, I can do some things, I am confident in finding solutions for problems that are too big for me right now” (HSRL, 670).

By contrast low self-regulators are focussed on following the instructional pathway and completing the course. Self-evaluation is more difficult for these learners because they are trying to evaluate against externally enforced benchmarks set by instructional designers. This situation impacts on self-satisfaction. When asked about self-evaluation, low self regulators responded:

“It’s hard for me to gauge how much I’ve understood something… sometimes we have a blindness about it ourselves” (LSRL, 236)

“Yeah that’s a difficult question because I don’t perceive my own learning” (LSRL, 396).

These factors impact on learners’ task-strategies (the ways learners approach learning and performance by reducing a task to its essential components and reorganizing these parts meaningfully). Learners who perceive their learning as low-self-regulated try to carry out all (or most) of the MOOC activities, in contrast to high self-regulators who are more strategic about where they focus effort. When asked about whether and how he followed the course pathway, one high self-regulated learner responded:

“Carefully curated parts. So not as a whole, I’m going to be picking through what nuggets are of use to me in particular contexts” (HSRL 505).

Fundamentals of Clinical Trials was one of the first Harvard University MOOCs. It was developed by the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Catalyst and ran on the edX platform from November 2013 until April 2014. The MOOC had

24,000 registered learners. The research design used the same method and instruments as used in the Introduction to Datascience study. Learners were invited to participate in the research via a course announcement in week 5 (of 14). 350 learners responded and completed the psychometric Questionnaire. 30 participated in semi-structured interviews. These learners were located in various countries around the world, with 5 in the US and 6 in India (see Figure 1):

In this course we observed a shift in the motivations of those who viewed themselves as highly self-regulated, with both the high and low self-regulated groups being motivated to gain a Harvard certificate. Although both high and low self-regulated groups had the same overall motivation, their approach to goal-setting and learning strategies was different.

Similar to the Introduction to Datascience Course, low self-regulators tended to follow the course ‘pathway’ set out by the instructional designers:

“I do download the study material which is provided by the course website, but while I watch the video I do not have a habit of making notes and I am a person who is organised in a mess. So even if I make a note I don’t recollect and read those notes.” (LSRL, 295)

“I’ve tried to go through the questions first and then go back and review the text to see…and that forces me to kind of focus on the topics a little bit more as opposed to if I go to the lecture and then try to do the questions I find myself zoning out during it.” (LSRL, 360)

However the high self-regulators tended to be more strategic about where they focused their effort:

“I don’t put too much effort into what I’m learning, but this course – looking at the videos I get to take my time to understand. Sometimes I watch the video twice, which has really helped me to have a better understanding when I’m learning.” (HSRL, 284)

In summary we have evidence that in both courses learners who are already qualified and self-regulated tend to follow parts of a MOOC that helps them solve problems. Conventional course metrics, such as progression & retention or completion rates, are poor measures of potential learning gains for professional learners in MOOCs. We need a rethink of certification, completion and measures of success in MOOCs.


For further discussion see the panel discussion led by Yishay Mor and Laia Canals at the #OER15 Conference tinyurl.com/q7ormnl and also littlebylittlejohn/mooc-measures



Read More

#MOOC certification, completion, and measures of success

Posted by on Mar 30, 2015 in Professional Learning | 0 comments

In April 2015 am participating in a panel session at #OER15 led by @YishayMor and Laia Canals.  MOOCs enable new forms of organisation mediated by digital technology. However, governments, universities, educators and even learners still apply conventional metrics around learning, assessment, completion which limits the potential of #MOOCs.

MOOC providers seem to be concerned with completion rates – but are learners content to drop in (and out) to learn the knowledge they need? (eg see our paper on Patterns of Engagement in Connectivist MOOCs http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no2/milligan_0613.htm)

During our panel session we will debate important questions such as

In the spirit of openness, we invite you to participate in this event by contributing to the online discussion. During the conference, we will conduct a live panel with some of the contributors which will be joining us in person or virtually. Panelists will refer to the contributions online, and we will use social media to facilitate live interaction with the audience outside the room. So you dont need to be at the conference to join in.

We invite you to participate in the debate by leaving your comments or video responses on the following 4 discussion spaces:

  • Certification, completion, and measures of success: while some MOOCs participants and employers see certification as important, others are happy with their own sense of achievement, getting what they want and moving on. MOOC providers seem to be concerned with completion – but are learners happy dipping in and getting the bits they need? Some learners find certification attractive, even if they don’t need the formal proof – perhaps as an indicator of the MOOC’s quality.

  • What makes an effective MOOC learner? Is effectiveness in the eyes of the provider identical to effectiveness in the eyes of the learner? What do employers see as effective learning? Are some learners more “qualification effective” and others more “growth effective”? Is lurking sometimes an effective strategy? Do analytics capture effectiveness?

The event’s online space is: http://openeducationeuropa.eu/en/node/167498 and we will use tags  #OER15 and #webmoocs.

Read More

Professional Learning in Massive Open Online Courses

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Higher Education, Professional Learning | 0 comments


  • A study by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University and Harvard University published April 2014 found that massive open online courses (MOOCs) encourage passive learning among professionals.
  • MOOCs miss the opportunity to exploit the knowledge and expertise diverse groups of healthcare professionals bring to the course.
  • The research recommends that MOOC designers focus on capitalising on the diversity of MOOC participants and professionals are encouraged to link MOOC learning with their everyday work practice.
  • The study, funded by the Gates Foundation, was the first to examine learning behaviours of professionals in MOOCs.
  • Findings are available from: http://www.gcu.ac.uk/academy/pl-mooc/findings


As healthcare knowledge grows exponentially, health professionals around the world need to continually engage in high quality learning. Health professionals seeking ways to upskill their knowledge are participating Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs); free, online courses with unlimited participation offered by some of the world’s leading universities. MOOCs enable access to thousands or hundreds of thousands of co-learners, opening up opportunities for new forms of learning.

A recent study found employers generally viewed MOOCs positively for recruiting, hiring and training employees. However, a study by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University, funded by the Gates Foundation, was the first to examine the learning behaviours of professionals in MOOCs.  The findings show MOOCs may encourage passive learning, missing opportunities to exploit the knowledge and expertise diverse groups of professionals bring to the course.

“MOOCs have quickly grown in popularity, but we know very little about whether MOOCs improve learning,” said Professor Allison Littlejohn, (PhD), principal investigator and Director of the Caledonian Academy, a research centre at Glasgow Caledonian University. “Our knowledge of learning in MOOCs is based mainly on anecdotal accounts. The lack of scientific evidence around how people learn in MOOCs is risky, considering the investment of public resources being channeled into MOOCs by universities and governments. We wanted to know if MOOCs allow health professionals to improve their learning and whether there is any impact on their professional practice.”

The researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University worked with educationalists from the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, and Harvard Catalyst, the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center. Between November 2013 and February 2014 they surveyed almost 400 participants of ‘Fundamentals of clinical trials’, a MOOC for health professionals offered via the edX platform. The team measured participants’ capability to self-regulate their learning, then interviewed 35 health professionals in 23 countries to investigate their learning behaviours. Lou McGill, a Caledonian Academy researcher, explained, “While MOOC designs take a variety of shapes and forms, the Fundamentals of Clinical Trials MOOC represents a course design typical of the key MOOC providers, therefore we could build some generalizable conclusions.”

“We had an indication of each individual’s capacity to self-regulate their learning and were interested in exploring whether high ability would make a difference in terms of their qualitative learning behaviours within the MOOC,” said Dr Colin Milligan (PhD), co-investigator on the project and researcher within the Caledonian Academy. “We’ve observed that the highly structured MOOC design focuses on content provision, which the participants are very positive about. However the structure does not encourage learners to actively self-regulate their learning. If anything, participants, even those with high self-regulated learning ability, tend to limit their activity to reading and interacting with course content, overlooking opportunities to use the theory they’ve learned to improve their practice.”

Participants had a range of reasons for signing up for the MOOC, ranging from filling gaps in their current knowledge to preparing for future career opportunities. The researchers found that highly self-regulated learners articulated more precise learning goals and expectations compared with low SRL participants, even where their motivations for joining the MOOC were the same. However, when they participated in the course, there were few differences in the behaviours of high and low self-regulated learners. All learners exhibited fairly passive behaviours in the highly structured MOOC environment.

Learners focused on activities such as watching videos and taking tests, with little evidence of learners relating new knowledge into practice, or of connecting to their peers though the discussion board. To be effective, professional learning should provide opportunities to integrate theoretical and practical knowledge. But even those learners who said they wanted to improve their professional practice did not integrate the scientific knowledge they learned through the MOOC with practical, on-the-job learning.

We need a cultural shift around conceptions of learning and teaching and of learner and teacher roles to capitalise on the experience and expertise that professionals bring to their learning.

The data provides a basis for recommendations for the design of MOOCs to support professional learning. The first three focus on improving the link between theory and practice while the second three capitalise on the diversity of the people participating in the MOOC environment, encouraging the development of regulatory expertise.

These recommendations are available from:  http://tinyurl.com/PL-MOOC-recommendations

Read More

Digital resources for open, online learning: its in the use

Posted by on Jan 7, 2014 in Higher Education | 0 comments

In examining the usefulness of open, online resources for learning, we have to look not only at the resource but also relationships between resources, users, and the ways resources were used  (Engestron, 2007: Littlejohn, Falconer & McGill, 2008; ).

Use is critical because online resources do not encapsulate the scientific and instrumental  knowledge needed to support learning and development (Francis, 2013; Falconer & Littlejohn, 2007). Scientific knowledge is (generally) explicit and codified while instrumental knowledge  involves solving specialist, practical problems (Boshuizen & van de Wiel, 2013). Learning scientific and instrumental knowledge requires open interactions with other people (teachers, experts, peers) (Engeström, 1999). Paavola & Hakkarainen’s (2005) work illustrates learning interactions around online resources to gain scientific and instrumental expertise through collaborative knowledge construction. In these examples open, online resources serve as a focal point for the co-ordination of learning (either by a teacher or expert, or by learners themselves), rather than as ‘learning materials’ in the conventional sense.

As learners gain expertise there is a qualitative change in the way they use resources to realise activities, moving from rule-based actions to fluid, self-directed activities (Dreyfus and Dreyfus, 2000). Therefore expertise is illustrated by the ways an individual uses the resources and how they relate to other people in their environment (Holland et al, 1998, p121; Edwards, 2010a, p25).

While working on a new book exploring the reuse of open, online resources for learning (Littlejohn & Pegler, 2014) I’ve been reflecting upon the different types of digital resources available for learning in networks, revisiting the idea of use.

Resources serve different purposes depending on how they are used, therefore resources could be characterised by use. Use can be viewed broadly at three levels: knowledge, experiential and analytic resources:

The education domain has pioneered the open release of knowledge resources often created by teachers or experts for learners.  With these resources, users are largely are unknown to the resource creators, since users can be anyone, anywhere, using the resource in any context; students registered for a course, professionals learning for work or lifelong learners. Knowledge resources are typified by (though not limited to) Open Educational Resources (OER), Open CourseWare (OCW) or Open Courses, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Thee resources are available in a range of media, from textual materials (articles, e-textbooks, blogs, micro-blogs) to images, videos, audio and aggregations of these, generally sourced via search engines. Resources were created and released by universities, notably MIT (USA) and the Open University (UK), though many other universities, companies, charities and professional bodies are now producing and releasing resources, often under Creative Commons licences (McGill et al, 2013; Falconer et al, 2013). Materials are purposefully created to support learning, however open learning resources can also include dynamic resources that form and morph in a less predictable way than traditional educational resources. Knowledge resources can be created or co-created and adapted by learners themselves.  Beyond this are other types of open, online information resources that are routinely created and shared with others (or contributed to the collective) in ways that enable their reuse. For example the creation and development of a base of common or shared knowledge for professional learning or learning for work (Johnson et al, 1999). Professionals create codified resources as an output of work activity. Some resources have restricted access (emails, classified reports, and so on) but other resources are open, including reports, blogs, microblogs (for example hosted on Twitter or Yammer), images (for example Flickr, Slideshare), videos (for example YouTube), audio files and bookmarks (for example Delicious).

Experiential resources are widely used for professional and lifelong learning. These resources support the development of expertise that underpins practice. Experiential resources range from simulations in serious games or virtual worlds to digitally mediated interactions with people with relevant expertise. Interactions around these sorts of resources are sometimes qualitatively different than with knowledge resources. For  example the linux community – a community of people distributed around the world who share programming expertise by working collaboratively on the linux kernel computer code – use code as an experiential resource (Moon & Sproull, 2002). The openness of the kernel and fragments of code serve provide resources supported by community forums and others as learning resources for people who want to extend their programming expertise.

Analytic resources support learners in planning and instantiate their learning. As learners interact online, learning choices and behaviours can be captured, analysed and released as analytics data to allow individuals to plan and manage their learning. Systems and tools based on analytics provide an organising focus for learning (Littlejohn, Milligan and Margaryan, 2011). Each learner can manage his/her interaction with the people and resources that are important for learning, developing a personal view of learning which, in turn, relates to the learning of others. The significance of this sort of open system is that it brings together the individual with the collective in ways that are impossible with conventional closed (restricted access) learning resources. These data resources include user identity data generated through direct entry by the user, cross-referencing of identity information from different sites or from user behaviour. These resources can be used to support learners in expanding their relational expertise – or their capacity to understand who or what to connect to accelerate their learning – capitalizing on the collective expertise of people and knowledge resources within the network (Littlejohn, Milligan and Margaryan, 2012). Though relational expertise extends beyond the rational decision-making afforded through systems based on Artificial Intelligence and involves human interactions with the environment medicated by expertise (Edwards, 2010, p21).

Learners use and reuse open resources in and across these diverse contexts –  education, work and lifelong learning- which provide the framework for exploration of reusing open learning resources in the ‘Reusing Open Resources’ published in May 2014 (Littlejohn & Pegler, 2014).


Dreyfus, H., & Dreyfus, S. E. (2000). Mind over machine. Simon and Schuster.

Edwards, A. (2010b). Being an expert professional practitioner: The relational turn in expertise. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Engeström, Y. (2007). Enriching the theory of expansive learning: Lessons from journeys toward coconfiguration. Mind, Culture, and Activity14(1-2), 23-39.

Falconer, I., and Littlejohn, A. (2007). Designing for blended learning, sharing and reuse. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 31(1), 41–52

Falconer, I., McGill, L., Littlejohn, A., & Boursinou, E. (2013). Overview and Analysis of Practices with Open Educational Resources in Adult Education in Europe Review, JRC Scientific and Policy Reports, C. Redecker., J. Castaño Muñoz., & Y. Punie (Eds.). European Commission http://tinyurl.com/pk6nuvt

Johnson, B., Lorenz, E., & Lundvall, B. Å. (2002). Why all this fuss about codified and tacit knowledge?. Industrial and corporate change11(2), 245-262.

Holland, D., & Lachiocotte, W. D., & Cain, C.(1998). Identity and agency in cultural worlds.

Littlejohn, A.,  I. Falconer & L. McGill (2008) Characterising effective eLearning resources, Computers and Education 50 (3), 757–771 http://tinyurl.com/63okour

Littlejohn, A.  Milligan, C. & Margaryan, A. (2011). Collective learning in the workplace: Knowledge sharing behaviours. International Journal of Advanced Corporate Learning (iJAC) Available from: http://online-journals.org/i-jac/article/viewArticle/1801

Littlejohn, A., Milligan, C., & Margaryan, A. (2012). Charting collective knowledge: Supporting self-regulated learning in the workplace. Journal of Workplace Learning, 24(3), 226–238.

Littlejohn & Pegler (in press) Reusing open resources, Routledge, New York.

McGill, L., Falconer, I., Dempster, J.A., Littlejohn, A. & Beetham, H. (2013). Journeys to Open Educational Practice:  UKOER/SCORE Review Final Report. Retrieved from https://oersynth.pbworks.com/w/page/60338879/HEFCE-OER-Review-Final-Report

Moon, J. Y., & Sproull, L. (2002). Essence of distributed work: The case of the Linux kernel. Distributed work, 381-404.


Read More

Conflicting perspectives on MOOCs

Posted by on Dec 6, 2013 in Higher Education, Professional Learning, Sustainable Learning | 0 comments


Katie Vale and I  recently wrote a chapter on Massive Open Online Courses: a traditional or transformative approach to learning which will be published in 2014 in Reusing Open Resources (Routledge) http://www.taylorandfrancis.com/catalogs/educational_technology_e-learning/2/2/. In the chapter we explore the conflicting opinions and perspectives around MOOCs. These perspectives are rooted in the diverse origins of the concept of open education and open learning. Ideas around open courses emerged from three different arenas: universities, open learning researchers and the Open Access social movement.

The Open Access movement is a global network of people who support the transformation of work and learning practices towards free sharing and peer collaboration in society through open sourcing, open resources and the (re)use of open knowledge (Kaiwen & Fang, 2005). A central aim is to change societal expectations of how, when and where people learn. One strategy has been to eliminate barriers of entry into university-level education through opening access to the ‘fundamental building blocks’ of learning (Seely-Brown, 2008). These building blocks are viewed as Open Educational Resources (OER) – digital materials that can be used, re-used and repurposed for teaching, learning or research, made available online through open licenses, such as Creative Commons (McGill et al, 2013). OER and open courses are a lever sometimes used by universities to attract learners to move from informal to formal learning programmes, encouraging them to pay for subsequent, follow-on courses (Gillet et al, 2010). Thus, motivations to develop and openly release OER are complex and can be placed on a spectrum ranging from ‘academic commons’ to the marketization of courses (Falconer et al, 2012).

A second arena promoting the open courses were learning researchers and advocates of a pedagogical approach termed ‘connectivism’. Connectivist principles emphasise that learning occurs through network connections, as learners connect with experts, peers and with knowledge resources (Siemens, 2005). MOOCs can be viewed as an instantiation of the pedagogic approach of ‘connectivism’ (Siemens, 2005; Downes, 2009), opening up opportunities for learning as part of a learning community or group of learners (Downes, 2008). Despite these key principles, discussions around informal open learning, emphasising the learner, are sometimes conflated with formal open education, highlighting the design of activities, environments, networks, tools and resources. Some MOOC designs can mimic university courses, rather than focusing on building learner autonomy (Milligan, Littlejohn & Margaryan, 2013; Nurmohamed et al, 2013).

A third origin  is the educational activity in the academy. Universities, often operating as consortia, have provided most open courses and open educational resources. An early example is the Open CourseWare Consortium (established in 2003), a consortium of universities committed to the open release of educational resources, often from contemporary, campus-based courses (OCW, 2013) This initiative has had significant impact in terms of opening access to a broad spectrum of resources, ranging from syllabi, lecture notes and supplemental materials to video materials (Forward, 2012). For example the founding partner, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has released resources from 1,800 courses that have been viewed by over 100 million people (MIT, 2013). Funding organisations such as UNESCO, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation collectively have donated millions of dollars to the development and release of Open Educational Resources. There are numerous examples of consortia and collections of educational resource materials around the world, including OER Africa , OER Asia , Open Education Europa , Latin America Learning , DEHub Australia , Nordic OER , MERLOT and JORUM UK Some MOOC design teams attempt to capitalise upon these resource collections by packaging OERs around specific learning objectives and activities, then sequencing these activities in orchestrated, synchronous courses with regular, automated assessments. Course design may be based on equivalent campus based courses. The design teams often recognise that exposure to the course’s resource materials is not a sufficient condition for learning. However, an assumption is that learners can self-regulate their own learning, utilising learning resources with limited instructor interaction. Interest in the potential of open courses to open access to universities led to a fourth origin of MOOCs: MOOC platform providers.

A number of MOOC platforms were established during the period 2011-13, mainly in the US and UK. Some are ‘for profit’ organisations such as Udacity (https://www.udacity.com) and Coursera (https://www.coursera.org). Others are organisations operated within non-profit universities, notably edX (https://www.edx.org/). and Futurelearn (https://www.futurelearn.com/). Thus, some of the perspectives around MOOCs can be expressed as follows. Universities –particularly elite institutions – recognise the competitive advantages of MOOCs on branding, marketization and extending reach. Their response is often to open up established courses to learners globally, seeking to imitate the ‘campus experience’.

Practitioners acknowledge the potential of MOOCs, viewing them as a sustaining rather than a disruptive innovation. They habitually align MOOC development and implementation within the confines of existing higher education models. Recognise that the student experience is changed and that their own workflow models are not sustainable in MOOCs, practitioners are concerned with problems of student engagement, feedback, quality and assessment, focusing efforts on improving the quality and engagement potential of educational content. Open Access activists are concerned that the view of MOOCs as a marketisation tool for traditional university education blocks alternative, viable futures for learning and learners. As MOOCs mature as a platform for learning, there is a growing acceptance that conventional metrics (completion rates, contributions to forums) are not useful to measure the effectiveness of open learning. Metrics and models have to be reconceptualised drawing on learning analytics (McNeill et al, 2014, this volume).

Learners (largely) have enthusiastically embraced MOOCs, signing up in their thousands to participate. Many act as passive observers or ‘lurkers’ (Milligan, Littlejohn and Margaryan, 2013), raising concerns amongst practitioners and universities around completion rates. However, motivations across diverse groups of learners are broadly defined and extend beyond gaining credit (OBHE, 2013). A more pressing concern are the baseline capabilities – literacies, skills and dispositions – of learners as they learn in a new environment (Mackness, Mak, & Williams, 2010; Kop and Fourier, 2011; Milligan, Littlejohn & Margaryan, 2013). Educational and learning researchers are sceptical of this learner enthusiasm, recognising that social expectations of ‘university schooling’ constrain transformative opportunities around learning (Fiedler, this volume). In their view recognition of what constitutes learning needs to be broadened (McGill et al, 2013). Governments hold pole position in cultural definitions of learning, but few seem willing to radically redefine learning and redraw business and workflow models. All the same, governments’ view that MOOCs merit serious attention because of their potential for significant disruption and, at the same time, widening access to higher education (OBHE, p53).


#mri13 #mooc

Read More

OER and the Vision for Adult Learning

Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Higher Education, Professional Learning, Sustainable Learning | 0 comments

On April 28th 2013 the outcomes of OER4Adults provided policy makers within the European Commission with evidence on how to incorporate the use of OER into a Vision for Adult and Lifelong Learning to 2030. This Vision was drafted with the help of a group of over 20 experts from more than 10 countries who met at IPTS in Seville to discuss, debate and advise on the Vision. Our goal was to provide the EC with evidence of existing initiatives and practices to enable them to optimise the socio economic impact of OER.


In the OER4Adults survey, we identified over 170 OER Initiatives across Europe and other countries (mainly the US). Many of these initiatives – those who provide OER for adult and lifelong learning – are from the higher education, vocational and school sectors. These initiatives assume that the primary users of OER are teachers and registered students, but the might not necessarily think about ‘nonformal’ learners.


Many examples of open learning are within open fora (eg discussion groups around health or hobby areas). These groups are seldom recognised as having an explicit remit for learning. Also they are not associated with the sorts of formal institutions that MOOCs tend to be associated with (eg think about EdX, Coursera, Futurelearn and so on).


From the OER4Adults survey we know that little is known about what lifelong learners are doing with OER resources. Even the leaders of the major OER initiatives know little about the use of the OERs outside their immediate communities. Yet this knowledge is critical to planning future directions in open education, open learning, OER and MOOC.


We carried out a SWOT analysis (analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, see http://oer4adults.org/highlights-of-the-oer4adults-swot-survey/) of OER and identified a number of tensions in the following areas:

OER Resources – We recognised a tension between open versus free resources. Use of the term ‘Open’ in MOOC is blurring the distinction between what is ‘free’ and what is ‘open’. While many MOOCs are free of charge, the resources within these courses are not always ‘open’. Will mass participation push forward on this area? In other words, will the large numbers of people involved in MOOCs make it irrelevant that the resources in a MOOC are not open?

Learning – The OER4Adults SWOT survey identified a tension between conventional pedagogy (largely teacher led) versus appreciation that learners should be able to take control of their own learning. Do resources have learner intentionality? Most don’t. OER tends to be viewed as a resource with a specific learning outcome. There are examples of ‘dynamic’ resources that evolve as learners use them. However, these resources don’t readily ‘fit’ with educational technical infrastructure (eg quality policy etc). In many aspects of society organisational infrastructures are becoming rapidly outdated, thus inhibiting progress –  and this is one example. The tension between pedagogy versus appreciation is exemplified in the papers for the EC Vision for Adult and Lifelong Learning in 2030 where none of the visions view teachers as having a traditional role in the future (the papers are at http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/openeducation2030/files/2013/04/OE2030_LLL_Booklet.pdf).

Motivations for releasing OER The SWOT survey surfaced a tension between two key motivations to release OER: altruism versus marketization, where ‘altruism’ is the desire to openly share resources and ‘marketisation’ is where institutions and individuals want to build a ‘brand’. Marketisation examples include EdX, Futurelearn, Khan Academy. Its possible that organisations pitch ‘marketisation’ to governments to gain funding, but, at the same time, institutions sometimes state altruistic motivations (such as sharing knowledge freely).

A previous study by Falconer, Littlejohn, McGill  and Beetham (2012) https://oersynth.pbworks.com/w/page/63710786/Motives%20and%20tensions%20in%20the%20release%20of%20Open%20Educational%20Resources  identified that the  stated motivations to release OER may be different from the real, underlying motivations. Real and stated motivations are complex and blurred. During the workshop discussions we found examples of complex/mixed motivations.

Workshop participants agreed that the focus of the vision for lifelong learning to 2030 should be on the socio cultural impact rather than on motivations to release OER. Yet they recognised that motivations ultimately determine peoples’ actions. Much of the focus of OER release has been on ‘introductory level learning’, rather than more specialist areas, and there has been lots of duplication. How do we create resources that are ‘done’ and translated – particularly in the introductory areas (for example look at alison.com which has been translated by volunteers).

Capacity building – There is an inherent tension between ‘community’ versus ‘openness’. During the workshop we had extensive discussion about ‘communities’ and how capacity it built. ALISON provides an excellent and relatively unique model where volunteers contribute their time to translate resources for adult and lifelong learning. Community building requires engendered trust – for example within the ALISON community there is a level of trust that spending time translating resources will not be exploited.

The workshop participants noted that ‘nothing is for free’. Voluntary action is funded, though the funding is from individuals, rather than governments and organisations.

Openness – A previous study (UKOER) we identified a tension between communities (which are important for capacity building) and openness (See http://www.slideshare.net/loumcgill/openedweek2013). This tension also emerged during the OER4Adults SWOT analysis. An effective way to develop resources is within a trusted and bounded community. The effort required to translate the resources for use within another community cannot be underestimated, however we found examples (from Athabasca University) where people overestimated the amount of time required to readapt a resource for reuse (eg teachers thought they had to change every detail within a resource, rather than using resources as they exist).

Numbers of learners – Organisational controls and norms break down in circumstances of mass participation. There is a tension between mass participation versus quality. Where large numbers of people learn, it is more difficult to retain ‘control’ around quality. Recommender systems don’t always help – a ‘massive stamp of approval’ doesn’t always signal quality. Lifelong learners don’t always understand how to assess or evaluate the quality of resources and tend to rely on ‘trusting’ the source. Learners were more inclined to use resources from another “trusted organisation” than “from a university”.  This finding raises questions around current quality systems. Should we change the current validation systems or should we try to ensure that learners have better developed digital literacies so they can evaluate quality? These questions are complicated by the fact that quality shifts as we move across disciplinary and cultural boundaries.

Sustainability – Another tension was around add-on versus embedded funding models. Most of the OER initiatives we identified were funded through governments or institutions. The adult and lifelong learning community are less concerned (than Higher Education groups) that government or institutional funding may diminish. These groups are more focussed on sustainable models, including ‘freemium’ models.


Key findings and questions:

1 Many examples of open learning are not recognised as learning.

Idea 1: change public perception of what they recognise as learning.


2 To move forward with lifelong learning,  we need a fundamental shift in the way society perceives peoples’ roles (eg learners, teachers, others, etc) and organisations’ roles (eg HES, companies, publishers, etc).

Idea 2: change public perception of the roles of learners and teachers – and of organisations more broadly.


3 Within the OER arena, there is little focus on the bigger societal issues. For example the tension between the public and private sectors which have different values and norms. We don’t have a clear idea of the outcome when these values and norms come into conflict.

Idea 3: consider the longterm impact of vested interests of various stakeholders in different sectors.


4 Little is known about what lifelong learners actually do with OER. OER initiatives have little concern about this and don’t view it as significant.

Idea 4: investigate how learners use OER to learn.


5 The focus of attention could shift from open resources (OER) or open courses (MOOC) to the ability of people/learners to learn in open environments.

Idea 5: change the focus of attention from  OER or MOOC to learners

Acknowledgements: These ideas were collated as part of the validation of the OER4Adults project (on April 29 and 30, 2013) and may not reflect the views of IPTS



Read More