PhD thesis: Openness and praxis

obligatory thesis photo

Yesterday I formally submitted my thesis to NUI Galway. It is done! There are so many gateways and milestones in the doctoral process: each year’s progression (via Graduate Research Committee review), thesis submission for examination, the viva, completion of final corrections, printing and binding the final version, formal submission, and uploading the open access version. It is important to celebrate each step (and I have 🙂 ) but it’s wonderful to be here, at last. Here are a few details and links, as promised:

TITLEOpenness and praxis: A situated study of academic staff meaning-making and decision-making with respect to openness and use of open educational practices in higher education


ABSTRACTOpen education seeks to improve educational access, effectiveness, and equality. The term ‘open educational practices’ (OEP) describes practices that include the creation, use and reuse of open educational resources (OER) as well as open pedagogies and open sharing of teaching practices. While open education at a macro level is regarded by many as a positive goal, complexity resides in determining and negotiating the value of open practice at an individual level, and structural and cultural barriers to openness persist within higher education. The goal of this research study was to understand whether, why, how, and to what extent individual educators used OEP, specifically with respect to teaching, and also to identify any shared characteristics among those who used OEP (i.e. ‘open educators’). The study was conducted at a medium-sized, research-focused university in Ireland, without explicit policies on OER or OEP. The empirical study used a qualitative, interpretive, and critical approach in order to focus on participants’ meaning-making and decision-making with respect to openness. Data was gathered from academic staff across a broad range of disciplines and all employment categories (i.e. permanent, non-permanent, full-time and part-time). Using constructivist grounded theory, a model of the concept ‘Using OEP for teaching’ was constructed to describe open educators’ digital identities and digital practices, and the values and motives associated with decisions about whether to use OEP. The results of the study indicated little intentional use of OER and relatively low use of OEP. The four dimensions shared by open educators were: (i) balancing privacy and openness, (ii) developing digital literacies, (iii) valuing social learning, and (iv) challenging traditional teaching role expectations. The use of OEP by academic staff was found to be complex, personal, contextual, and continually negotiated. The study adds to a growing body of work on open educational practices and also provides evidence for policy makers and practitioners arguing for critical and context-specific approaches to open education.

Link to previous post containing my thanks and acknowledgements.

Although a week’s rest would be welcome (ha!) an immensely exciting two weeks is about to begin — including the #OER18 and #OEGlobal conferences and annual #GO_GN seminar. I feel very fortunate not only to be sharing my own research but collaborating with some amazing colleagues for workshops as well. Here’s a list of  activities over the next two weeks:

16/17 April – Visit to Disruptive Media Learning Lab (Coventry)

  • Various sessions with Maha Bali, Alan Levine, Mia Zamora, and many more, re: connected learning, intercultural learning, and openness, e.g. Brown Bag Lunch.

18/19 April – #OER18 Conference (Bristol)

21/22 April – #GO_GN Seminar (Delft)

  • This 2+ day workshop for PhD researchers will be facilitated by the amazing OER Hub team. As GO-GN-ers and recent PhD graduates, Chrissi Nerantzi and I will facilitate one of the workshops, Let it PhD.

24/25/26 April – #OEGlobal Conference (Delft)

See you in Coventry, Bristol, Delft, or on Twitter… 🙂


Considering openness [updated]

Today and tomorrow I’ll be working with a group of academic staff here at NUI Galway as part of the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education here in CELT. Of course it’s very dangerous to ask someone who’s *just* completed their PhD in open education to talk about… open education 😉  So, I’ve decided simply to start with a few questions, curate a small collection of resources to share, and see what resonates with the individuals I’ll be working with. This post is just to share resources on my list so far — if you have any suggestions for additional resources that you have found helpful in working with staff, I’d love to know what works for you. I’ll post again after the two sessions are finished, to share what I’ve learned.

[UPDATE 12-April-2018] What a wonderful two sessions with academic staff discussing open educational practices, in the broadest sense. Below are the resources that were referred to or discussed in detail.


Biswas-Diener, R., & Jhangiani, R. (2017). Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science. London: Ubiquity Press. 

Cronin, C. (2017). Open education, open questions. EDUCAUSE Review, 23 October. 

Havemann, L. (2016). Open Educational Resources. In M. A. Peters (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. Singapore: Springer Singapore.

Jianghani, R., & DeRosa, R. (2017). Open pedagogy. In E. Mays (Ed.), A Guide to Making Open Textbooks for Students

McKiernan, E.C. (2017). Imagining the “open” university: Sharing scholarship to improve research and education. PLoS Biology, 15(10).   

Phipps, L., & Lanclos, D. Leading with digital in an age of supercomplexity. Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, 3(1). 

Tufekci, Z. (2018, April 4). Why Zuckerberg’s 14-year apology tour hasn’t fixed Facebook. Wired.  (also the author of Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest)


Building Blocks for Domain of One’s Own (University of Mary Washington) – short modules that can be used by lecturers to explore key topics with students, e.g. digital identity, copyright & open licensing, etc.  

My Open Textbook: Pedagogy and Practice – building an open anthology of literature with students

A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students 

Considering Openness: a vignette (video by Catherine Cronin)

NUI Galway

All Aboard – building digital knowledge, skills, confidence

Digital Champions – staff/student partnership, developing digital knowledge and skills

Exploring Domain of One’s Own – 2017 workshop at NUI Galway with Jim Groom 

Institutional policies on openness

NUI Galway – Open Access policy 

University of Cape Town – Intellectual property policy and Open access policy

University of Edinburgh – Open educational resources policy


Annual CELT Symposium – June 15, 2018

Design for Learning: Teaching and Learning Spaces in Higher Education

Speakers: Donna Lanclos, Alastair Blyth, Lorna Campbell

CELT seminar and workshops – May 1, 2018

Open Learning, Infectious Creativity, & the Future of Connected Collaboration

Speakers: Alan Levine & Mia Zamora

Link to slides:


After the PhD defense (part 1): Thanks

Post-viva smiles (Flickr, CC BY-SA catherinecronin)

I successfully completed my PhD defense (or viva) last week — and am feeling the joy!

No success is an individual accomplishment, of course. We move forward, in whatever ways we can, thanks to a multitude of sacrifices, kindnesses, and the good work of many others, seen and unseen, known and unknown. I initially shared my thanks on Twitter and then via numerous emails and other messages. I will be catching up with these for some time.

I could not thank all in my thesis by name, but I have thanked as many as possible. In this post I share my thesis Acknowledgements and Dedication. My next post (part 2) will be reflections on the viva itself.

Firstly, I thank each of the interview participants in this study for their time and their generous and thoughtful contributions. Thanks also to all academic staff and students who completed the surveys. This work would not have been possible without each of them.

I thank my supervisor, Iain MacLaren, for listening, guiding, encouraging and advising, with wisdom and good humour always. Thanks also to my Graduate Research Committee – Kelly Coate, Kathryn Cormican, Mary Fleming, and Simon Warren – for valuable and timely feedback at key stages in the research process.

Thanks to my wonderful colleagues and friends in CELT and NUI Galway for daily sustenance in so many ways. A special note of thanks to Conor Galvin, Pam Moran, Ira Socol, and my #icollab and #edchatie collaborators for nurturing early seeds of this work, and to Rachel Hilliard for offering and organising writing support at crucial times.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all who reviewed early drafts of this writing and provided feedback and encouragement: Caroline Kuhn, Frances Bell, Mary Loftus, Sharon Flynn, Leigh Graves Wolf, Pamela O’Brien, Su-Ming Khoo, Leo Havemann, Louise Drumm, Maha Bali, Fiona Concannon, Laura Pasquini, Patrice Prusko, and Barbara McKeon. Immense thanks also to my GO-GN colleagues, particularly all who participated in the 2017 Cape Town workshop. This global network of open education PhD scholars, sparked by the vision of the Open Education Research Hub, has been instrumental in developing my work.

I would not be working in open education, nor doing this research, were it not for my PLN, the network of educators, scholars and friends who encourage, inspire and teach me every day. Impossible to thank each of you here, but please know that your scholarship, your kindness and your encouragement lie right at the heart of my work in open education and motivate me to do this vital work. Thank you all.

Two wonderful friends and scholars engaged with the ideas for this research in its earliest forms, but sadly are not here today. I want to thank and honour the memories of Mary Mulvihill and Bianca Ní Ghrógáin, two incredible Irish women who inspired and taught so many with their joy of learning, teaching, and life.

Finally, I am grateful beyond words to my dearest family and friends, who kept the home fires burning, happily accommodated mad schedules and dashed plans, and encouraged and inspired me, not just along this PhD journey but always. Thank you, Hamish, Sarah, James, Mary and Bonnie, Dan and Katherine, Jean, Isobel and John, Meg and Andrew, Rose, Rowan, Ursula, Pat, Bernadette, Robin, Jane, Ali, Fi, and all.

This thesis is dedicated with love and the deepest gratitude

To my parents, Catherine (Devine) Cronin and Daniel Cronin;

To my husband and anam cara, Hamish; and

To Sarah and James, my best teachers and the sunshine of my life.



Yes Equality Ireland 2015 – Storify

original cover image of Storify collection of tweets

Over the past six years, I’ve created several Storify stories (some published, some drafts), usually summarising events, group activities, or conversations that I didn’t want to lose in endlessly streaming social media feeds. (Before that I used Storyful to create stories, but they stopped their story curation app in or around 2012.) I was never a ‘power’ Storify user, but I valued it as a curation tool. Storify will be no more after May 2018, so I’ve started grabbing some of the stories I’d like to keep — using @cogdog‘s excellent Storify Embeddable Link Extractor to grab the html code and embed the tweets here on my blog.

A few days after the historic vote for marriage equality in Ireland on May 22nd, 2015, I created a YesEquality Storify with some of the many tweets I’d favorited (⭐) on Twitter. I’d like to hold onto this little slice of history. Alan’s code made it incredibly easy to do that. Over the next couple of months I’ll do the same for a few other stories.

Continue reading


2017/2018, the turn of the year

A new year, starting quite differently to last year. Last January I outlined a plan for the year with the goal of submitting my PhD thesis by December 1st. I submitted on the Winter Solstice… close enough 🙂

Completing and submitting the thesis left me feeling mostly… exhausted and relieved. The Solstice/Christmas/New Year break has been a wonderful opportunity to recharge, and I look forward to my viva within the next couple of months. So this January it feels like I’m starting afresh — ready to begin a new job and to take on a few new projects. On January 15th, I’ll begin a one-year post in CELT (the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, here at NUI Galway). I’ll coordinate and teach a postgraduate Teaching & Learning module, contribute to professional development courses, and get involved in other projects related to my open education research. So before all that, I’m taking a cue from Lorna Campbell’s wonderful year-in-review post, summarising some highlights of the past year.

2017: year in review

Spring 2017 was a time of travel and conferences. In March I spent nearly two weeks in Cape Town participating in the Open Education Global Conference and the associated GO-GN workshop. I’d wanted to attend #oeglobal for a few years and it exceeded even my high expectations — a truly global perspective on open education past/present/future. The conference prompted a long reflective blog post and new ideas for my research, which I plan to share at #oeglobal 2018 (and in future blog posts!).

The 3-day GO-GN workshop for open education PhD researchers took place immediately preceding #oeglobal. It’s difficult to describe the power and impact of this workshop for me, and indeed for all of us who participated. To share research and deep reflections on the research process with open researchers from around the globe (six continents) was a powerful experience in itself. The creative and sensitive leadership of the OER Hub (Bea de los Arcos, Beck Pitt, Rob Farrow, Martin Weller, and Natalie Eggleston) facilitated the creation of a strong and lasting community. The GO-GN network is active throughout the year — a wonderful resource for all open education researchers and practitioners.

GO-GN Cape Town (almost everyone) March 2017, CC BY-SA

During my time in Cape Town, I was honoured to spend a day at CILT (the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching) at UCT. Work by CILT researchers such as Laura Czerniewicz, Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams, Glenda Cox, Sukaina Walji, Cheryl Brown (and many more) has been a touchstone for me since my first steps into open education. I have so enjoyed getting to know each of them over the past few years — it was a pleasure and a privilege to visit and to share ideas.

In April, Jim Groom came to Galway! Thanks to funding from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, as well as Jim’s generosity, we hosted his workshop at NUI Galway, inviting participants from all other higher education institutions in Ireland. Jim, joined on the day by Mike Cosgrave from University College Cork, explored many facets of Domain of One’s Own and Next Generation Digital Learning Environments. Here’s a full summary of the workshop (Google doc), with links to many resources.

Jim Groom, Caroline Kuhn & Simon Warren, NUI Galway, April 2017

April also brought the OER17 conference in London… another highlight of the year. The OER conference is a gathering/community of open education practitioners and researchers from higher education and beyond. I love this conference for many reasons, but particularly for the way it continually pushes the boundaries — never failing to ask difficult questions and challenge assumptions. The 2017 theme, The Politics of Open, was prescient and made for an outstanding programme. I co-facilitated sessions with both Caroline Kuhn and Laura Czerniewicz, participated in the final plenary panel, and joined one of the many VConnecting sessions. Like many participants, I couldn’t resist blogging afterward 🙂

VConnecting at OER17 (@friedelitis)

It was, most definitely, a year of two halves. The latter half of 2017 was focused primarily on writing. The ‘key shift’ from blogging and informal writing, even writing academic papers, to writing a thesis was a challenging experience. As the year progressed, and the pace of thesis writing (and re-writing, reviewing, re-writing) increased, I found that I blogged less, as I was in a different mode of writing. I found it difficult to switch back and forth, although I did blog a couple of times about the process, which was helpful.

Although my focus was on writing, I very much enjoyed participating in various conversations and webinars during the year. Some of the highlights for me were the #YearofOpen conversation on Open Pedagogy, the EDEN webinar/conversation on How to Be More Open (with Lorna Campbell, Fabio Nascimbeni, Chrissi Nerantzi, and Lisa Marie Blaschke). I also enjoyed joining staff and students in several webinars based on my PhD research for the Open Education Tuesdays series, Royal Roads University, e/merge Africa, and OpenMed (all links on the Presentations tab above). End-of-year highlights included joining the NetNarr students in an Open Research (#ResNetSem) webinar facilitated by Alan Levine, and a visit by Laura Czerniewicz to CELT at NUI Galway in November. So many wonderful conversations!

Pleasures of the year included a week of reading in the sun in Portugal…

reconnecting with the best of friends in Galway…

making new friends and memories in Cape Town…

and being in their company for one of the most humbling and unforgettable afternoons of my life, on a tour of Robben Island…


I am grateful for all of the special times of 2017 with family and friends in Kinvara, Galway, Cork, Dublin, London, Edinburgh, Lochmaben, Estoril, Lisbon, and Cape Town.

Here’s to more wonderful work, more equality, more resistance, and more love and justice in 2018.




Many faces of open research

CC0 by Oliver Cole at Unsplash

I’m in the final few weeks of my PhD — the thesis-writing part of the process, anyway. My research topic is open educational practices (OEP), specifically how educators and students make sense of and make use of OEP in higher education. So, yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about that. But I’ve been reflecting also on my practice as an open researcher, particularly how this has taken many different forms over four years of doctoral research.

I’ve blogged (at decidedly irregular intervals) throughout the process. I blogged about my initial ideas, tentatively. As my research developed, I blogged about the emerging results, particularly when I struggled to make sense of particular findings. Discussions that resulted from sharing ideas — at conferences/workshops (e.g. ALTC14/15, OER15/16/17, Networked Learning 14/16, dLRN15, NextGenDL16, OEGlobal17) and in related posts here in the blog — were instrumental in helping me to develop my thinking and analysis.

And then, as all open practitioners know, due to my open research practice, I’ve connected with many others. As a result, I’ve been fortunate to have many opportunities to share, discuss, and deepen my work, most recently with staff in the e/merge Africa network and the Open Education Tuesdays network and in many global conversations about openness in this Year of Open. One keynote (OER16) made its way into an EDUCAUSE Review article, just published today — Open Education, Open Questions. And I’ve had the joy of collaborating with some amazingly smart and wonderful people including Laura Czerniewicz, Caroline Kuhn, Vivien Rolfe, Frances Bell, Laura Gogia, Maha Bali, Alan Levine, and many more. Thank you all.

When I embarked on this research I had a large and lively PLN. That network is so much richer now. I joined GO-GN (Global OER Network), a network of postgraduate researchers in the area of open education (all open education researchers: do join!). The support I’ve found in that network has been invaluable — from formal GO-GN activities organised by the OER Hub (e.g. webinars, annual workshop) to the informal collaborations and friendships springing from the network.

All of which brings me to the writing-up-the-thesis stage. Beginning last summer, I turned my focus inward somewhat, spending less time on social media and more time immersed in my findings and writing/rewriting — thesis chapters as well as proposals, abstracts, and papers. Sometimes, I couldn’t find words to blog. All of that open research and networking took another form, however. That lively and generous network of open researchers and practitioners checked in, sent encouragement, provided feedback, and generally showed up in all kinds of ways to say Keep Going. Those were sometimes expressions in open spaces…

…but more often they were DMs, emails, cards — too many creative expressions of encouragement to count. The gift of openness returns in myriad ways, so many of which I am just learning about now.

To all who’ve reached out, in any way at all, I extend my thanks. I have a few more weeks of intense writing and editing ahead of me, but I hope to emerge ready to move forward to yet another stage of open research. Chrissi Nerrantzi has been a role model in terms of openly sharing the steps of completion, thesis submission, and preparing for the viva. Beyond that, however, I plan to continue, as the title of my blog suggests: learning, reflecting and sharing as an open educator and open researcher.

OK now, back to #writing that thesis…

Image: CC0 Oliver Cole from Unsplash.



Finding words

Broken Peace CC0 cogdog (Flickr)

Someone died today in #Charlottesville because an ideology of hatred marched through the city, wanting battle.” – DeRay Mckesson

Three people died today in Charlottesville, Virginia because people have not just been taught to hate, they’ve been taught that it’s important to hate in public.” – Ira Socol

I’ve got no words. Not now. Not this week. Not today.” — Audrey Watters

I sit here right now, carving precious time on a Sunday to write. #phdchat and all that. But I’m thinking of all that has happened in Charlottesville, VA this weekend, after all that has happened this week, this month, this year, these years… People — overwhelmingly people of colour — are being killed, injured, deported, jailed, while the President of the United States, obscenely, emboldens white nationalists, white supremacists, and misogynists.

Something is breaking.

I am trying to find words today. I find a memory.

1998. My husband’s PhD graduation. I remember standing with my infant son in my arms, my 4-year-daughter tugging my arm, asking, “Mummy, when will you get your PhD?”. With two Masters degrees, a head bursting with ideas, and a passion for social justice and for research, I saw that path ahead — but when? In that moment I answered, “When I’m a granny”. It was only partly in jest. Two parents working, two young children, living far from both our families. I couldn’t imagine doing PhD research also. I continue to be inspired by all who do just that — many with far fewer resources and privileges than I have had. Fast forward 15 years and I registered for that PhD. (And no, I’m not a granny.)

2017. I’m deep into dissertation writing, planning to submit in November. But I’m struggling.

I always knew this research would take time from the beating heart of my life — family, friends, community — perhaps in ways that work and other commitments did not. But, I’ve managed. We’ve managed. The challenge I didn’t count on was separating myself from the world. So, I’m struggling to find words today.

I believe that “open education is a tool for social change”. I’m writing about open education using a critical approach, based on the voices and stories of academic staff, many of whom are precariously employed, as well as students. Throughout all of this work I am connected to and inspired by many scholars — in South Africa, Kenya, India, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the US, and across Europe — who also see open education as a way of increasing access to education, decolonising education, and decreasing inequality. 

My overwhelming feeling right now, however, is that words are not enough. 

“Soot in our mouths.” – Kate Bowles

But these are all I have today.


Image source: Broken Peace, CC0 by Alan Levine 


Conversations about Teaching & Learning


I’m a lover of a variety of podcasts — education, science, politics, arts & culture. I listen to learn, to laugh, to be moved (and, honestly, often to be transported elsewhere as I inch through another of Galway’s traffic jams). A wonderful find of the past year has been Teaching in Higher Ed by Bonni Stachowiak.

A recent episode with Clint Smith moved me immensely, and as a result I’m now reading Counting Descent. For this one podcast conversation alone I am grateful to Bonni. But there are others — Bryan Alexander and Mike Caulfield with their unique and expansive views of digital literacy, Bonnie Stewart on networked pedagogy and identity, Autumm Caines on digital citizenship, and deep considerations of teaching by Thea Wolf, Sean Michael Morris, and Gardner Campbell. I’ve many more episodes in the queue for listening.

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to record a podcast with Bonni, exploring open education and social justice and more: the episode was posted yesterday. Bonni made this such a wonderful, enjoyable experience. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of a much bigger conversation in this field – I learn from so many. So thank you, Bonni, for your kindness and generosity to me and to educators everywhere. You’ve sparked more thinking and conversations than you’ll ever know.

As for other podcasts, here are some that are on my phone right now:

…any other suggestions?



Opening up Open Pedagogy


Many thanks to Maha Bali for organising tonight’s Open Pedagogy Hangout. Maha has curated a number of blog posts about open pedagogy and also started a Google doc to collect notes, links, etc: http://bit.ly/CurateOpenPed. Thanks to all who have blogged and shared their thoughts. I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate and looking forward to tonight’s conversation very much.

I’ve blogged recently about my understanding of open pedagogy and OEP (considered together and separately) and also about how I’ve defined OEP (inclusive of open pedagogy) in the course of my PhD research. As I’ve explored both the history and current practice of open education, I’ve found it useful to note two broad strands of definitions of OEP/open pedagogy: those focused on OER (and the 5Rs) and broader definitions. I’m re-reading some of this work in preparation for tonight’s hangout. In reading some of my notes on the earlier open education literature, I’ve been drawn to particular ideas and quotes — not complete, not comprehensive, but catching my interest today. I share them here. (Please note: not all of these are available open source, but I will be happy to share PDFs with you if you’d like them.)

Postscript: I’ve made two updates to this post, 3 hours after first publishing it. Firstly, I’ve added a link to the Open practices: briefing paper (Beetham, et al. 2012) — a key source with respect to OER and OEP, mistakenly omitted in my haste earlier. Secondly, the list shared here is a selection of work published between 1975 and 2012. I’ve omitted later references as I don’t wish to pre-empt current thinking about this topic by those participating in tonight’s discussion and/or blogging about the topic this week. For current thinking by all engaged in this discussion, please see Maha’s curated list of blog posts and the Google doc — links at the top of this post. With thanks, as always, to Myles Horton and Paulo Freire: “We make the road by walking“.

Open education, open learning, open pedagogy, OER, OEP…

Open learning is an imprecise phrase to which a range of meanings can be, and is, attached. It eludes definition. But as an inscription to be carried in procession on a banner, gathering adherents and enthusiasms, it has great potential. For its very imprecision enables it to accommodate many different ideas and aims. (MacKenzie, 1975 in Keegan, 1990)

Open education in America is a manifest part of the liberal politics and the reform rhetoric that helped define an era in our recent history. The open classroom approach “arrived” in this country in the late sixties. As methodology, we primarily imported it from England, known widely as the Leicestershire Model, or the Integrated Day, or simply the informal classroom. A series of articles in 1967 by Joseph Featherstone in The New Republic ably publicized the innovative British practices, and educators like Lillian Weber made notable efforts to analyze and adapt them to American settings. (Mai, 1978)

Part of the problem of definition stems from the careless, if evocative, use of the term open by educators and the popular press to describe the wide variety of educational innovations which proliferated at the same time as open education classrooms were being developed. (Noddings & Enright, 1983)

Definition of open learning: increased flexibility and user choice over all aspects of the learning process. (Lewis, 1992)

The approach of the authors is based on the pedagogy of dialogue of Paulo Freire. Its aim is to point out some indications to establish a digital inclusion that transcends utilitarian limits and a merely operational access to machines and programs. That is, an inclusion that is also social, cultural, and political. (Corney, 2006)

New literacy practices are aligned with an “open pedagogy” that embraces collaborative knowledge creation, participatory education models, experiential practices, mentoring, and apprenticeships. (Corney, 2006)

The expanding global collection of open educational resources… contribute to making education more accessible, especially where money for learning materials is scarce. They also nourish the kind of participatory culture of learning, creating, sharing and cooperation that rapidly changing knowledge societies need. However, 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. (Cape Town Open Declaration, 2007) www.capetowndeclaration.org

The historically more certain boundaries – where information and communications were controlled by universities – is being lost. Institutions are struggling to make sense of how to operate in this changed and permeable space. The mind sets and frameworks of references that we have used hitherto are no longer adequate. Many boundaries have blurred: virtual and physical localities, professional and social lives, formal and informal learning, knowledge consumption and production. (Armstrong & Franklin, 2008)

A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices. In a participatory culture, members also believe their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connection with one another. (Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton, & Robison, 2009)

Open pedagogy’ approaches involving collaborative, co-productive and more ‘equal’ roles between ‘teacher’ and ‘learner’ than hitherto implemented are both possible and made more effective by social networking technologies and social networking environments. (Cullen, Cullen, Hayward, & Maes, 2009)

While acknowledging the potential value of content, we contend, however, that it is the opening up of educational processes, which we are calling Open Pedagogy (OP) enabled by the Web 2.0 technologies that are set to play the more transformational role in the collaboration between students and lecturers… Even if the technological infrastructure exists to allow materials to be a button-click away, unless lecturers are willing to share their materials or pedagogy, the technological affordance will remain unrealised… the sharing of the pedagogical process, what we see as ‘open pedagogy’. (Hodgkinson-Williams & Gray, 2009)

The concept of ‘open pedagogy’ (Hodgkinson-Williams & Gray 2009) is in line with Conole’s definition of ‘open educational practices’ (OEP)… “the set of activities and support around the creation, use and repurposing of Open Educational Resources. It also includes the contextual settings within which these practices occur”… The move to incorporate ‘practice’ in the definition signifies the acknowledgement that content disembedded from its context is difficult to adapt without some understanding of the pedagogical and epistemological assumptions underlying the creation of the resource. The latter are of particular import as different views on what is considered ‘worthwhile knowledge’ are likely to increase with the ready access to materials from different parts of the world. (Hodgkinson-Williams, 2010)

Open teaching is described as the facilitation of learning experiences that are open, transparent, collaborative, and social. Open teachers are advocates of a free and open knowledge society, and support their students in the critical consumption, production, connection, and synthesis of knowledge through the shared development of learning networks. (Couros, 2010)

OEP are defined as practices which support the (re)use and production of OER through institutional policies, promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path. OEP address the whole OER governance community: policy makers, managers/ administrators of organisations, educational professionals and learners. (Andrade et al., 2011)

Open educational practices, in light of JISC’s case studies and the Capetown declaration, seem to encompass all of the following: production, management, use and reuse of open educational resources; Developing and applying open/public pedagogies in teaching practice; open learning and gaining access to open learning opportunities; practising open scholarship to encompass open access publication, open science and open research; open sharing of teaching ideas and know-how; and using open technologies (web-based platforms, applications and services) in an educational context. (Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L., & Littlejohn, A., 2012)


Andrade, A., Ehlers, U.-D., Caine, A., Carneiro, R., Conole, G., Kairamo, A.-K., … Holmberg, C. (2011). Beyond OER: Shifting focus to open educational practices. Open Education Quality Initiative (OPAL).

Armstrong, J., & Franklin, T. (2008). A review of current and developing international practice in the use of social networking (Web 2.0) in higher education (Commissioned paper). London: Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience.

Beetham, H., Falconer, I., McGill, L., & Littlejohn, A. (2012). Open practices: briefing paper. JISC, 2012

Calder, J. (2000). Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 1(1).

Corney, T. (2006). Youth work in schools: Should youth workers also be teachers? Youth Studies Australia, 25(3), 17.

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#OER17: personal and political

So many important conversations, so much valuable work, so many new connections made and friendships celebrated. Thanks OER17.

Over the past 11 days or so since OER17 ‘The Politics of Open’ ended, I’ve read as many conference blog posts as possible. There are a remarkable number of interweaving stories and interpretations of the conference, all unique (see the list of OER17 posts). I’ve commented on many blogs but neglected to write my own post… so here I’ll link to some of the posts that have struck a particular chord with me, and add just a few thoughts.

One conversation immediately following the conference has stayed with me. I found myself in lively conversation with co-chairs from four OER Conferences: Martin Weller (OER15), Lorna Campbell (OER16), Josie Fraser (OER17), and Vivien Rolfe (OER18). Each (I think) has been involved since the very first conference. The conversation touched on the fact that each conference has pushed beyond the previous one in a considerable way, and indeed none would have been possible without the previous ones. This is something I have observed since I began attending in 2015, more so than with other conferences — most notably in the engagement with critical approaches to openness. This seems to apply to our work in open education also.

Many OER17 participants have remarked and/or written about the conference focus on criticality, equality, social justice. The conference created space for the personal and the emotional, described in wonderful posts by Sheila MacNeill, Kelly Terrell, Suzan Koseoglu, and Lorna Campbell. OER17 was also a conference of great generosity — in ideas as well as personal interactions. Maha Bali arrived from Cairo bearing gifts, and her keynote mentioned countless others whose words and work she has learned from and built on. She acknowledged and shared these while weaving her own unique story of openness. This generosity continued throughout the conference. Some presenters shared their slides before the conference, inviting feedback (e.g. Frances Bell & Suzan Koseoglu), and noting that comments and feedback helped them to develop their ideas even further. The work of Paulo Freire was referenced by many participants (e.g. see Javiera Atenas & Annalisa Manca) but so was the work of many other activists and educators, quite a few of whom were at the conference. Collectively, we knitted our ideas, publicly and generously, into a broader body of work.

OER17 keynotes: Maha Bali, Diana Arce & Lucy Crompton-Reid – photo by Josie Fraser, via Twitter

The strong and diverse voices of women were notable at the conference — from the 3 brilliant keynote speakers onward. Thank you, Maha Bali, Diana Arce, and Lucy Crompton-Reid. Helen Crump reflected on this in her thoughtful post, Thinking critically about women & care relative to openness. It was intentional that FemEdTech chose OER17 to share their/our collective and nascent ideas for an open network of feminists in edtech and open education, inviting conversation and participation. If you are interested in exploring, please check out current conversations at @femedtech and #femedtech and do get in touch.

All of these conversations move us forward: the tentative, the inviting, the declarative, the challenging. As David Kernohan notes in his brilliant post Roaming Autodidacts and the Neo-Reactionaries: “the will is as important as the tool… the will to collaborate, corroborate and develop”.

Finally, I want to thank all whom I collaborated with before, during, and after the conference.

I’d like to mention many, many more lovely conversations and thought-provoking sessions from OER17. Please check out the OER17 blog posts to explore some of these. These conversations will continue, there is no doubt. I am very grateful to two presentations in particular —  Beck Pitt and the OER Research Hub for illuminating international OEP and Sukaina Walji and ROER4D for exploring OEP in Global South contexts. You have sparked my thinking in new ways and offered exciting possibilities for collaboration. Thank you 🙂

Thanks finally to all OER organisers, keynotes, presenters, and participants. Every voice, every person, was part of creating this special happening. The ripples continue…

Image: OER17 Themes, CC BY 2.0 Beck Pitt