In terms of openness in relation to my educational practice related to my students, and in relation to UKPSF K4 (HEA, 2011), I currently use Twitter but have come up against student resistance to this medium. Hilton et. al.’s (2010) research detailed the amount of time needed for utilising FDOL to open up practice and the lack of benefit felt by students enrolled on a course and as such any ‘opening up’ of educational practice should be carefully considered in terms of evidenced pros and cons. Some of the resistance to open practice is due to the concerns of students about privacy and public/private boundaries (Costa and Torres, 2011), and as such in one module I opted to trial a slightly more closed peer discussion forum via the university’s virtual learning environment (VLE). More students engaged with the less open forum, and this might therefore provide a good starting point for motivating student involvement in open practice however, it must be noted that students were asked to participate as part of attendance requirements which may have stimulated the difference in engagement. Further, student fears about privacy and public/private boundaries should not be side-lined because opening up in this way could involve risks such as non-constructive negative feedback by internet commentators or by peers engaging in bullying, and whilst students on the course engaging in this behaviour could be sanctioned under university regulations, those from outside could not. Kelly (2013) however, argues that the benefits of openness outweigh the risks, and as an open educational practitioner with many years of open practice he has not had a bad experience. The success of open educational practice may in fact be attributed to what is often called ‘digital literacy’, but which it is argued could also be a more general ‘social literacy’ and maturity, in that for students to benefit they must understand what is and is not appropriate activity in the context of a wide and largely unknown audience.
As part of the PGCAP I have maintained an open blog of my teaching practice which has opened up my educational practice to course peers, students (although I do not think they have accessed it), and to others. In a few instances this has facilitated reciprocal engagement with other academics, something which has been observed by Tosato & Bodi (2011) as positive for creating communities of practice (COP). Further, from WordPress statistics I have also engaged those from outside of these environments, which addresses V4 of the UKPSF (HEA, 2011) to acknowledge that higher education works within a wider context. Personal benefits have been that it has engaged me in an ongoing process which I actively consider on a regular basis, and motivation through the feedback from peers and others. On the negative side not receiving feedback on such an open platform can be demotivating, and in researching Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) Kop et. al. (2011) did find that some learners found creating relationships with others online difficult. However, Weller & Anderson (2013) argue that MOOCs could provide an opportunity for the survival of what they see as an educational system under threat, and in this light it may be important to not only engage with open practice but to embrace it in terms creating MOOCS related to already established courses. However, in using such open platforms there are also legal issues to be aware of as Mewburn & Thomson (2013) highlight in their research on academic blogs. Further, in the context of sociological research an academic’s blog has the potential to bias fieldwork if the behaviour of research participants is altered in relation to their perception of the researcher’s work.
In terms of the future for openness in relation to my academic practice I will engage in a considered development of online peer support mediums, research and teaching open blogs for connecting with others, and further understand the relevance of MOOCS in relation to my academic practice and educational ethos.
Costa, C. & Torres, R. (2011). To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society Retrieved from www.eft.educom.pt/index.php/eft/article/download/216/1261 i i i
Hilton, J.L., Graham, C., Rich, P. & Wiley, D. (2010). Using Online Technologies to Extend a Classroom to Learners at a Distance, Retrieved from: http://hdl.lib.byu.edu/1877/2326
Kelly, B. (2013). Webinar on Open Educational Practices, 5 Dec 2013, retrieved from http://ukwebfocus.wordpress.com/events/webinar-on-open-educational-practices/
Kop, R. Fournier, H. & Sui Fai Mak, J. (2011). A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Open Online Courses, The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(7), Retrieved from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1041/2025
Mewburn, I. & Thomson, P. (2013). Why do academics blog? An analysis of audiences, purposes and challenges. Studies in Higher Education 38(8), 1105-1119. DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2013.835624
The Higher Education Academy (2011) UK Professional Standards Framework. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/ukpsf
Tosato, P. & Bodi, G. (2011). Collaborative Environments to Foster Creativity, Reuse and Sharing of OER, European Journal of Open, Distance & E-Learning, Retrieved from: http://www.eurodl.org/?p=special&sp=articles&article=461
Weller, M. & Anderson, T. (2013) Digital Resilience in Higher Education, European Journal of Open, Distance & E-Learning, Retrieved from: http://www.eurodl.org/?article=559