06 SES 05, Open Education: Debating theories and frameworks
At the collective level of national and international policy-making, the divergent discourses and conflicting understandings suggest that coherent and sensible educational reform is easier to aspire to than to actualise in practice. Considerable ambivalence attends open learning by and for adult learners in universities throughout Europe and internationally. This ambivalence includes what open learning is, its potential for disrupting educational barriers and for generating new forms of andragogy, and effective affordances for maximising that potential.
A key indicator of the competing discourses associated with this ambivalence is the diverse approaches to policy-making and provision related to blended and online learning in Australian and European universities, drawing on the authors’ experiential knowledge in Australia (De George-Walker, Hafeez-Baig, Gururajan, & Danaher, 2010; Gururajan, Hafeez-Baig, Danaher, & De George-Walker, 2011; Hafeez-Baig, De George-Walker, Gururajan, & Danaher, 2011; Hafeez-Baig, Gururajan, Danaher, & De George-Walker, 2013), and also encompassing philosophical, policy, practice and theoretical debates in Europe (Castaño Muñoz, Redecker, Vuorikari, & Punie, 2013; Elken, 2015). The authors’ experience traverses undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral education in the business and education disciplines, and ranges from several hundred students in certain undergraduate courses to individual doctoral candidates. This experience also includes innovations in open learning, such as cohort- and team-based learning and peer marking of some assessment items, while acknowledging the constraints on such innovations arising from a mass higher education system. These innovations and constraints resonate strongly with developments in open learning in European universities, while noting the differential impact of highly diverse geographies and cultural traditions within Europe (Amin, 2013).
Theoretically, this paper brings together two key concepts in order to explore this issue more intensively and to provide a framework for comparing the situations associated with open learning in Australian and European universities. Firstly, ambivalence (Bauman, 1991) demonstrates the multiple and generally unintended effects of certain policies, including their varied impact on different social groups, which also often have at their disposal different opportunities to engage with and benefit from those policies. Secondly, policy refraction (Goodson, 2010) highlights the enduringly significant influence of local and regional contexts on the reception of and engagement with centrally developed policies, which are sometimes contested, disrupted and distorted by those contexts. In combination, ambivalence and policy refraction generate new understandings of policies and practices related to blended and online provision in Australian and European universities. These understandings contribute to addressing the study’s two overarching research questions:
- “How do blended and online learning experiences in Australian and European universities illustrate broader, contemporary, global social changes?”
- “Which policy debates related to open learning in Australian and European universities are generated by those social changes?”
More broadly, this discussion has important implications for identifying prospects for sustainable educational reform that are afforded by those social changes and policy debates. In particular, these prospects are tentative and uncertain, not least in view of the accompanying evidence of ambivalence and policy refraction. At the individual level of certain courses and specific universities, there is plenty of scope for development and innovation that can potentially provide educational reform with examples of effective and even transformative provision.
Amin, A. (2013). Land of strangers. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 20(1), 1-8. doi: 10.1080/1070289X.2012.732544 Arnold, J. (2011, December). The self as data: A qualitative methodology. Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology, 1(1), 65-73. doi: 10.5539/jedp.v1n1p65 Bauman, Z. (1991). Modernity and ambivalence. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. Castaño Muñoz, J., Redecker, C., Vuorikari, R., & Punie, Y. (2013). Open education 2030: Planning the future of adult learning in Europe. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 28(3), 171-186. doi: 10.1080/02680513.2013.871199 De George-Walker, L. R., Hafeez-Baig, A., Gururajan, R., & Danaher, P. A. (2010). Experiences and perceptions of learner engagement in blended learning environments: The case of an Australian university. In Y. Inoue (Ed.), Cases on online and blended learning technologies in higher education: Concepts and practices (pp. 23-43). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Elken, M. (2015). New EU instruments for education: Vertical, horizontal and internal tensions in the European Qualifications Framework. Journal of Contemporary European Research, 11(1), 69-83. Retrieved from http://www.jcer.myzen.co.uk/index.php/jcer/article/view/623/512 Goodson, I. F. (2010). Times of educational change: Towards an understanding of patterns of historical and cultural refraction. Journal of Education Policy, 25(6), 767-775. doi: 10.1080/02680939.2010.508179 Gururajan, R., Hafeez-Baig, A., Danaher, P. A., & De George-Walker, L. R. (2011). Student perceptions and uses of wireless handheld devices: Implications for implementing blended and mobile learning in an Australian university. In A. Kitchenham (Ed.), Models for interdisciplinary mobile learning: Delivering information to students (pp. 231-246). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Hafeez-Baig, A., De George-Walker, L. R., Gururajan, R., & Danaher, P. A. (2011, October). Challenges and opportunities for academics adopting an online peer review innovation. Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development, 8(1), 26-37. Retrieved from https://my.cqu.edu.au/documents/103286559/103287136/SLEID-2011-369.pdf/a38830c9-c610-4e4d-99f1-6ada772f567e Hafeez-Baig, A., Gururajan, R., Danaher, P. A., & De George-Walker, L. R. (2013). Principles and pressures in managing student attitudes to innovative mobile learning: A view from an Australian distance-education-intensive university. International Journal of Management in Education, 7(1/2), 149-162. doi: 10.1504/IJMIE.2013.050818 Wodak, R., & Meyer, M. (Eds.) (2016). Methods of critical discourse studies (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications. Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods (5th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.
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