28 SES 08 A, Digital Technologies and the Governance of Education
Open education (OE) initiatives, particularly Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), have been hailed for their ambition to include more diverse populations in online learning (e.g., Weller, 2014). Nevertheless, learners are generally segregated or excluded by the language and pedagogical orientation of MOOCs (Brouns, Serrano Martínez-Santos, Civera, Kalz, & Juan, 2015; Liyanagunawardena, Adams, Williams, 2013). The European Multiple MOOC Aggregator (EMMA), an online platform funded by the EU as a pilot project, aims to bring together diverse European learners by tackling these barriers (Rosa, Ferrari, & Kerr, 2017). EMMA has several unique features, including translation systems that allow each MOOC to be offered in multiple languages, and a personal learning environment (PLE) with specific pedagogical functionalities intending to enable more personal learning (Kerr & Merciai, 2015). Herewith, EMMA explicitly targets EU policy goals, like harmonization and skills development (Brouns et al., 2015).
More implicitly, EMMA is also related to EUs recent prioritization of policies around OE, prompted by the EC to keep pace with international OE developments and to enhance efficiency and equity in educational practices (European Commission, 2013, 2018). This means that EMMA can be considered another policy instrument, beside projects like EPALE or Open Education Europa, focused on the wider EU goal of building a common European identity through education (cf. Grek, 2008). Instead of operating around objective, predictable procedures, European policy instruments have shown to establish particular political rationalizations and to have outcomes different from or beyond formulated aims (Lascoumes & Le Gales, 2007). From this perspective, it can be expected that EMMA installs particular conceptions, for example about learners’ language, abilities and dispositions. These embedded conceptions could then constitute limits or offsets to ideals of diversity (cf. Bayne, Knox, & Ross, 2015). Hence, the objective of this study is to explore how ideas about ‘diverse European learners’ are established on EMMA and what this implies for the form and boundaries of diversity in learning and learners.
While considering policy instruments as normative technologies with unpredictable outcomes, this notion can be specifically applied to websites. Traditional understandings of technologies, either as mere ‘means-towards-ends’ (i.e., instrumentalist) or as dominating, regularizing devices (i.e., substantivist), are therefore criticized as they ignore the entanglement between humans and technology (e.g.,Verbeek, 2005). Appreciating these critiques, this study will adopt a combined sociomaterial (SM) – sociotopological (ST) approach. The SM approach has been known for its recognition of both human and non-human agency, and that agency is situated in often complex relations among entities (e.g., Latour, 2005). ST shares with SM the focus on relations and recognition of non-human agency. In addition, ST is concerned with forms and material specificity of these relations. Hence, the combined approach can help to push beyond an exploration of the relations, and to conceive of the expression of relations as well (Decuypere & Simons, 2016). For example, while the SM approach will focus on detecting how actors are ‘made’ in relation to other (non-) human actors (Latour, 2005), the ST approach will help to consider how this process and the involved actors are shaped (Deleuze, 1986). This is especially useful considering the research interest in the formation and boundaries of diversity. Consequently, the research questions within this study are: (1) what relationships are developed while learning in EMMA, (2) what is specific about diverse learning in EMMA and, (3) what is specific about diverse learners on EMMA? By answering these questions, the aim is to delineate forms of and boundaries to the diversity of learning and learners on the EMMA platform.
The method will encompass a Qualitative Website Analysis of the EMMA website, which differs from content analysis in considering distinctive qualities of websites. Following Lemke (2002), this analysis addresses ‘hypermodality’ in websites, which “is the conflation between hypertextuality and multimodality” (p. 301). Multimodality refers here to the interplay between different semiotic modalities in website content (e.g., text, image, audio), whereas hypertextuality concerns the embedded linkages between webpages that allow interactivity and diverse routes through the website. This hypermodality, unique to websites, thus calls for a specific sensitivity for interactions between visual and textual elements in websites (cf., Decuypere, 2016), yet equally for the interplay between webpages and how these structure various wanderings through the website. From a SM perspective, this requires consideration for relations among the website features and the website visitor, as well as the activities of the latter within the assemblage. The ST approach helps to elaborate by exploring the distributions of actants and specificity of the relations, which can well be done by following and describing them (Decuypere & Simons, 2016). While this ‘actor following’ requires a flexible rather than predefined procedure of data collection, it is relevant to start with an overview of the website, its structure and main characteristics. Therefore, the home page and EMMA platform tutorial are initially examined to gain insight in the (navigational) features. Consequently, a trajectory through the website will be pursued, including registration as a student and navigation through and participation in course offerings. Explicit attention will be given to services that are specific to the pilot project, which are the translation systems and functionalities in the PLE (e.g., ‘Toolbox’, ‘Coursebook’, activity tracker). In order to structure the data collection, a purposeful sample of courses with a considerable variety in subjects and providers will be included. The actual data collected entail observation notes and videos of the navigations captured with a screen recorder. The data analysis involves, beyond rigorous description and interpretation, the development of visualizations. That is, visualizations will be constructed that integrate the observation notes and videos and that will help to display relationships between actants in particular composition. Hence, this analysis will not attempt to represent or resemble ‘reality’, but intends to imagine and present the configuration of the relationships within the assemblage and the specific setting (Decuypere & Simons, 2016).
The results will consist of different components, aligning with the (theoretical) particularity of the research questions. Results for the first question will involve textual descriptions of relationships within the assemblage of the website, corresponding to ethnographic SM studies. Results for the second and third question, both inspired by ST approach, will include visualizations. While visualization techniques will be developed in the analysis, this is done with specific consideration of their role as research results. That is, they will present diversity in learning and learners on EMMA, while accounting for the interactive nature of website visits (Lemke, 2002) and for the intersectional nature of diversity (Anthias, 2013). A possible visualization is a dynamic range (cf. color range) that portrays specificities of relationships, types of learning and learners. Software (e.g., Image Plot: https://github.com/culturevis/imageplot) that can help to integrate the collected data and to systematize the visualization will be explored. Furthermore, text will be used to complement rather than overtake the descriptive nature of the visualization (Decuypere & Simons, 2016). The results are intended to function as an interpretation of what the website and learners ‘do’ and ‘make do’. Following Latour (2005), this implies a focus on the aspects involved in ‘actor-making’. Similarly, the results respond to a central question inherent to Deleuze’s topology of thought (1986, p. 119): what can be seen and what can be said? That is, the results will describe image and (hyper)text on EMMA, how these shape possibilities for interactions within the website and with users, and consequently infer specific impossibilities. Hence, the results will approach an understanding of what is allowed to be shown, seen and said in the constellation of the EMMA website, and what this more broadly implies for forms of diversity in learning and among learners today.
Anthias, F. (2013). Moving beyond the Janus face of integration and diversity discourses: Towards an intersectional framing. The Sociological Review, 61(2), 323–343. Bayne, S., Knox, J., & Ross, J. (2015). Open education: the need for a critical approach. Learning, Media and Technology, 40(3), 247–250. Brouns, F., Serrano Martínez-Santos, N., Civera, J., Kalz, M., & Juan, A. (2015). Supporting language diversity of European MOOCs with the EMMA platform. In Proceedings of the Third European MOOCs Stakeholder Summit (Vol. 1, pp. 157–165). Retrieved from http://dspace.ou.nl/handle/1820/6026 Decuypere, M. (2016). Diagrams of Europeanization: European education governance in the digital age. Journal of Education Policy, 31(6), 851–872. Decuypere, M., & Simons, M. (2016). Relational thinking in education: topology, sociomaterial studies, and figures. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 24(3), 371–386. Deleuze, G. (1986). Foucault (7th ed.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. European Commission. (2013). Opening up Education: Innovative teaching and learning for all through new Technologies and Open Educational Resources. Brussels. Retrieved January 22, 2018, from http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52013DC0654&from=EN European Commission. (2018). First European Education Summit. Retrieved January 31, 2018, from https://ec.europa.eu/education/education-summit_en Grek, S. (2008). From symbols to numbers: The shifting technologies of education governance in Europe. European Educational Research Journal, 7(2), 208–218. Kerr, R., & Merciai, I. (2015). EMMA: Towards multicultural learning. The EuroCALL Review, 23(2), 53–58. Lascoumes, P., & Le Gales, P. (2007). Introduction: Understanding public policy through its instruments - From the nature of instruments to the sociology of public policy instrumentation. Governance, 20(1), 1–21. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social. New York: Oxford University Press. Lemke, J. L. (2002). Travels in hypermodality. Visual Communication, 1(3), 299–325. Liyanagunawardena, T. R., Adams, A. A., & Williams, S. A.. (2013). MOOCs: a systematic study of the published literature 2008- 2012. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 14(3), 202–227. Rosa, R. De, Ferrari, C., & Kerr, R. (2017). The EMMA Experience. Emerging Patterns and Factors for Success. In D. T. S. C.D. Kloos, P. Jermann, M. Perez-Sanagustin (Ed.), Digital Education. Out to the World and Back to the Campus. (pp. 20–28). Springer International Publishing AG. Verbeek, P. P. (2005). What Things Do. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Weller, M.(2014). The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press.
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