06 SES 02, Open Learning in Digital Era
Parallel Paper Session
Debate continues about the meanings and feasibility of open learning. We see open learning as being as much about broader dispositions and possibilities as it is about more specific practices and outcomes. In particular, we envisage open learning as encapsulating the potential of educational freedom, by maximising access and equity and by harnessing the flexibilities of contemporary information and communication technologies.
A crucial, yet still little understood, element of open learning understood as potential educational freedom is the temporal dimension (Barberà Gregori, 2010; Kouadri Mostéfaoui, Ferreira, Williams, & Herman, 2012; Romero, Guitert, Bullen, & Morgan, 2011). Time is vital to learners, instructor and administrators alike, in order to do full justice to the complexity and comprehensiveness of learning and assessment tasks, yet time is an increasingly scarce resource given the ongoing intensification of university work and the competing demands placed on distance learners.
This paper explores the temporal dimension of open learning as it is enacted and experienced in a comparative study of two universities: the Open University of Catalonia in Spain; and the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. The study’s objective was to analyse policies and practices in both institutions that reflected, whether explicitly and intentionally or implicitly and unintentionally, an engagement with time as a crucial factor in framing the opportunities and outcomes of e-learners. The study was informed by two research questions: “How do e-learners, instructors and administrators in the two universities conceptualise time and its role in enabling and/or inhibiting the potential of open learning?”’; and “How are those conceptualisations linked with broader understandings of educational freedom, responsibilities and rights?”.
The study’s theoretical framework focused on the interplay between two complex and contested concepts as they intersect with e-learning: time and openness. Time has a significant philosophical basis (Benovsky, 2011; Vila, 2005) that influences its importance in educational contexts (Di Napoli, Fry, Frenay, Verhesschen, & Verburgh, 2010), including e-learning (Barberà Gregori, & Clarà, 2012). It is therefore incumbent on researchers to highlight the socioculturally specific manifestations of time and their implications for learning. Similarly openness is seen simultaneously as the potential and project of contemporary e-learning (Peters & Britez, 2008) and as inevitably instantiated in politicised material realities that constrain the attainment of that potential and project (Hall, 2011).
Furthermore, the study is intended to contribute to understandings of educational freedom, and the associated responsibilities and rights of e-learning participants, in Europe and globally through this comparison between a Spanish and an Australian university. Those understandings derive from the theoretical interplay between time and openness, and they have implications in turn for e-learning policy-making and practice.
Barberà Gregori, E. (Ed.) (2010, March). Time factor in e-learning. Theme issue of eLC Research Paper Series, 0, 1-32. Barberà Gregori, E., & Clarà, M. (2012). Time in e-learning research: A qualitative review of the empirical consideration of time in research into e-learning. ISRN Education, 2012, article 640802. Baxter, P., & Jack, S. (2008, December). Qualitative case study methodology: Study design and implementation for novice researchers. The Qualitative Report, 13(4), 544-559. Benovsky, J. (2011, December). The relationist and substantivalist theories of time: Foes or friends? European Journal of Philosophy, 19(4), 491-506. Di Napoli, R., Fry, H., Frenay, M., Verhesschen, P., & Verburgh, A. (2010). Academic development and educational developers: Perspectives from different European higher education contexts. International Journal for Academic Development, 15(1), 7-18. Hall, R. (2011, November). Revealing the transformatory moment of learning technology: The place of critical social theory. Research in Learning Technology, 19(3), 273-284. Kouadri Mostéfaoui, S., Ferreira, G., Williams, J., & Herman, C. (2012). Using creative multimedia in teaching and learning ICTs: A case study. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. Lloyd-Jones, G. (2003). Design and control issues in qualitative case study research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 2(2), 33-42. Peters, M. A., & Britez, R. G. (Eds.) (2008). Open education and education for openness (Educational futures: Rethinking theory and practice vol. 27). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers. Romero, M., Guitert, M., Bullen, M., & Morgan, T. (2011). Learning in digital: An approach to digital learners in the UOC scenario. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. Seawright, J., & Gerring, J. (2008, June). Case selection techniques in case study research: A menu of qualitative and quantitative options. Political Research Quarterly, 61(2), 294-308. Vila, L. (2005). Chapter 1 formal theories of time and temporary incidence. Foundations of Artificial Intelligence, 1, 1-24.
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