Openness 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
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Open 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.
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