Open Praxis vol. 9 issue 1

Open Praxis, Mar 2017

The first Open Praxis issue in volume 9 is an open issue that includes seven articles in the research papers section and one innovative practice paper.

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Open Praxis vol. 9 issue 1

Open Praxis 2304-070X January-March 2017 OPEN PRAXIS Inés Gil-Jaurena 0 0 Editorial board Hemlata Chari, University of Mumbai, India Gangappa Kuruba, University of Botswana, Botswana Thomas P. Mackey, SUNY Empire State College , New York , United States Alan Tait , The Open University, United Kingdom Belinda Tynan, RMIT University , Melbourne, Australia Joel Warrican , University of the West Indies, Barbados Yang Zhijian, Open University of China (OUC) , China INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL FOR OPEN AND DISTANCE EDUCATION - Open Praxis is a peer-reviewed open access scholarly journal focusing on research and innovation in open, distance and flexible education. It is published by the International Council for Open and Distance Education—ICDE The aim of Open Praxis is to provide a forum for global collaboration and discussion of issues in the practice of distance and e-learning. Open Praxis welcomes contributions which demonstrate creative and innovative research, and which highlight challenges, lessons and achievements in the practice of distance and e-learning from all over the world. — Open Praxis provides immediate open access to content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge. — Open Praxis is a quarterly journal published in January–March, April–June, July–September and October–December. — Research articles and innovative practice articles are subject to double-blind peer review by a minimum of two Reviewers. — Authors need to register with Open Praxis prior to submitting, or if already registered can simply log in and begin the 5 step submission process. Publisher and contact information The ICDE Bulletin changed its name to Open Praxis in 1993. In 2003 became an electronic journal. In 2011 Open Praxis is relaunched as an scholarly and peer-reviewed open access journal, hosted by Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) in its first period (2011–2017). Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms: a. Authors retain copyright and grant Open Praxis right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work’s authorship and initial publication in Open Praxis. b. Authors also grant ICDE right to publish a printed compendium of Open Praxis published articles in an annual basis. c. Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal’s published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in Open Praxis. Open Praxis does not necessarily agree with opinions and judgements maintained by authors Table of Contents Brief report on Open Praxis figures and data (2016) Inés Gil-Jaurena For whom, and for what? Not-yetness and thinking beyond open content Amy Collier, Jen Ross Lay Theories Regarding Computer-Mediated Communication in Remote Collaboration Karl Parke, Nicola Marsden, Cornelia Connolly Implementing the First Cross-border Professional Development Online Course through International E-mentoring: Reflections and Perspectives Buddhini Gayathri Jayatilleke, Geetha Udayanganie Kulasekara, Malinda Bandara Kumarasinha, Charlotte Nirmalani Gunawardena A MOOC approach for training researchers in developing countries Ravi Murugesan, Andy Nobes, Joanna Wild Current Status of the MOOC Movement in the World and Reaction of the Turkish Higher Education Institutions Cengiz Hakan Aydin Analysis of Student and Faculty Perceptions of Textbook Costs in Higher Education Michael Troy Martin, Olga Maria Belikov, John Hilton III, David Wiley, Lane Fischer Measures of student success with textbook transformations: the Affordable Learning Georgia Initiative Emily Croteau Innovative practice articles Building a Virtual Learning Environment to Foster Blended Learning Experiences in an Institute of Application in Brazil Andrea da Silva Marques Ribeiro, Esequiel Rodrigues Oliveira, Rodrigo Fortes Mello Brief report on Open Praxis figures and data (2016) Inés Gil-Jaurena Editor for Open Praxis. Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia - UNED (Spain) In this first issue in 2017, as we did in past years (Gil-Jaurena, 2015, 2016a), we briefly report on some illustrative statistics and information about Open Praxis development, covering until publication of volume 8 in 2016 and providing specific data about that volume. Table 1 includes different journal statistics: number of submissions and number of finally published papers; acceptance rates; number of authors and reviewers; paper views (as reported by OJS reports). Open Praxis volume 8 had 61 authors (excluding editor) from 14 different countries that got their research papers, innovative practice papers or book reviews, a total of 30, accepted for publication. Considering the international scope of the journal, contributions are geographically and institutionally balanced. The 61 reviewers reflect a geographical and institutional balance, as well, as shown in the list available in the Open Praxis website (http://openpraxis.org/index.php/OpenPraxis/pages/ view/reviewer). Software or book reviews Rejected before peer-review Average authors per paper Full paper views (until March 15th 2017) 2013, volume 5 2014, volume 6 2015, volume 7 2016, volume 8 issues 1-4 issues 1-4 issues 1-4 issues 1-4 * Special papers: ICDE prizes 2013 and 2015, Open Education Consortium Global Conference selected papers 2014, 2015 and 2016) Regarding visitors and readers, figure 1 shows their location. Since publication of issue 5(1) in January 2013 until February 28th 2017, the Open Praxis website has had visits from 197 countries, being the top ten the following (in descending order): United States, Spain, United Kingdom, India, Canada, South Africa, Palestine, Australia, Indonesia and Greece. About the academic impact, citations to Open Praxis in scientific publications (journals, conference proceedings, books and other specialized works) have progressively increased since the relaunching of the journal in 2013 (figure 2). Open Praxis h-index is 20 (source: Google Scholar, March 20th, 2017). After this brief report, what follows is an introduction to the first Open Praxis issue in volume 9, which includes seven articles in the research papers section and one innovative practice paper. Thanks to a grant we have received from OpenAIRE in the Alternative Funding Mechanism for APC-free Open Access journals and platforms under the EC FP7 Post-Grant Open Access Pilot (https://blogs.openaire.eu/?p=1701), Open Praxis is undertaking some technical improvements, one of them being that the papers in this issue are published in three different formats: the traditional pdf is accompanied by html and xml versions. Another improvement relates to the inclusion of authors’ ORCID identifiers in each paper and metadata, as we informed in the last issue in 2016 (Gil-Jaurena, 2016b). In the first article, Amy Collier and Jen Ross (For whom, and for what? Not-yetness and thinking beyond open content) introduce a new concept, not-yetness, that challenges the discourse about openness and technology and education from a critical perspective. Their analysis goes beyond the dichotomy open/close and puts the focus on overcoming simplification and raising issues of power and inclusion that widen the meanings of ‘open’ in education. The authors illustrate this new approach with examples, and the paper results on an invitation to educators to consider this new lens and reflect about open practices from a different perspective. The next three papers report about studies undertaken in relation to online course experiences. In this regard, Karl Parke, Nicola Marsden and Cornelia Connolly (Lay Theories Regarding Computer-Mediated Communication in Remote Collaboration) have explored students’ previous ideas about CMC and their evolution after experiencing it in a remote collaboration that involves students from various European universities in a master course, which includes CMC in the study contents. The paper describes the course and presents a qualitative analysis of students’ final reports, where their lay theories about CMC emerge. The authors discuss how the previous intuitive ideas and expectations evolve and change in most cases, highlighting the relevance of examining and challenging students lay theories. In the next paper, Buddhini Gayathri Jayatilleke, Geetha Udayanganie Kulasekara, Malinda Bandara Kumarasinha and Charlotte Nirmalani Gunawardena (Implementing the First Cross-border Professional Development Online Course through International E-mentoring: Reflections and Perspectives) report on an international online course for online teachers that used the cycle of inquiry in its design. They collect qualitative information from learners (who were also academics in their respective institutions) and faculty. Thus, through reflective practice, they analyse the course and provide a set of useful recommendations for other faculty of managers willing to implement similar initiatives. Finally, Ravi Murugesan, Andy Nobes and Joanna Wild (A MOOC approach for training researchers in developing countries) analyze a specific course, also addressed to academics, oriented to promoting research publishing among them. The course, implemented in a MOOC format, is based on the Community of Inquiry model. The authors describe and analyze it, providing information about learners’ profile and performance in the MOOC, as well as the results of a follow-up survey that measured the positive impact of the MOOC in improving research publishing. Also dealing with the topic of MOOCs, Cengiz Hakan Aydin (Current Status of the MOOC Movement in the World and Reaction of the Turkish Higher Education Institutions) provides a detailed surveybased analysis of MOOCs in the Turkish context. Framed in a European project that explored MOOCs from a European perspective and confronted it to a USA perspective, this paper focuses on the specific results found in Turkey, in comparison with Europe and USA. The study covers topics of awareness, perspectives, adaptation strategies and refraining reasons regarding MOOCs in Turkish Higher Education, and includes identified challenges and recommendations at different levels. The last two articles in the research papers section deal with open textbooks in USA contexts. In the first one, Michael Troy Martin, Olga Maria Belikov, John Hilton III, David Wiley and Lane Fischer (Analysis of Student and Faculty Perceptions of Textbook Costs in Higher Education) document a survey based research develop in their university, where they have collected detailed opinions from students about textbook costs and from faculty about open textbooks as a type of OER. The authors advocate for open textbooks based on the results of the study, which provides evidence of the limitations derived from textbooks cost for many students and of the demand, from faculty, for support to move towards OER. In the second paper about open textbooks, Emily Croteau (Measures of student success with textbook transformations: the Affordable Learning Georgia Initiative) focuses on analyzing the results of an already ongoing initiative, specifically its impact on students’ outcomes. Besides saving students’ money, this quantitative study shows that the initiative that replaced traditional textbooks with OER did not have a negative effect in various indicators, such as final grades or completion rates. Advocacy for OER becomes an issue in this paper, as well. Finally, Andrea da Silva Marques Ribeiro, Esequiel Rodrigues Oliveira and Rodrigo Fortes Mello present an innovative practice paper (Building a Virtual Learning Environment to Foster Blended Learning Experiences in an Institute of Application in Brazil), which describes the experience in the educational centre (from elementary to high school) attached to their university where graduate and master students get part of their teacher education. The innovation consists in the implementation of a VLE, where students were involved also as part of their teacher education. The paper reports on the initiative, explaining different decisions made and envisioning next steps in the project. We hope these contributions will invite to reflection and innovation in open, distance and flexible education. Special thanks from Open Praxis to the authors and reviewers who have contributed to this issue. Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License For whom, and for what? Not-yetness and thinking beyond open content This article traces a line through contemporary critical perspectives on open online education, which challenge an emphasis on content and access that gives too much weight to instrumental goals of education. This article offers the concept of ‘not-yetness’ as a productive lens for examining alternative meanings of openness. Notyetness emerged as a response to a dominant discourse of technology in education—including technologies of openness—that has been characterised by rhetoric of control, efficiency, and enhancement. Not-yetness invites a rethinking of online learning and digital education in terms of risk, uncertainty, and messiness and brings our attention to the variability of open education contexts and learners. Using examples of a ‘federated wiki’ and ‘agents beyond the course’, the article shows how higher education pedagogies can and should engage with boundary-crossings between openness and closure, and demonstrates the value of the perspectives that such engagements bring to the fore. In open education practice and research, there has been a persistent assumption that openness is an absolute positive (Bayne, Knox, & Ross, 2015). The result of this assumption has been the investment of time and energy in solving problems of access to educational resources, to the exclusion of other considerations. Treating openness as an absolute good has also generated a preponderence of its use as a ‘buzzword’ to describe a whole range of digital practices, some of which are seen as antithetical to a vision of positive educational change: [Original advocates of openness] are despondent about the reinterpretation of openness to mean ‘free’ or ‘online’ without some of the reuse liberties they had envisaged. Concerns are expressed about the commercial interests that are now using openness as a marketing tool. . . . At this very moment of victory it seems that the narrative around openness is being usurped by others. . . (Weller, 2014, p. 3) 1) there is a false binary between ‘open’ and ‘closed’ which needs to be challenged; 2) an overemphasis on access to content homogenises learners and their contexts; 3) open educational practice does not attend sufficiently to issues of power and inclusion. In response to these critiques, we propose that open educational theory and practice needs more attention to issues of multiplicity, uncertainty and transition—framed here in terms of ‘boundary crossings’. The concept of ‘not-yetness’, developed to respond to issues of oversimplification in digital education policy and practice, offers an approach to meeting this need. False binary between open and closed Discourses of openness in education are structured around a series of binary positions that can be misleading—with ‘closed’ associated with hierarchy, repression, exclusion; while ‘openness’ represents creativity, innovation and flexibility. In addition, the negativity associated with closure is attached firmly to the idea of formal education. Gourlay (2015) identifies a fantasy of openness as “total liberation from the perceived constraints of formal study, the rigours of assessment and engagement with expertise and established bodies of (contestable) knowledge, all of which are activities deemed hierarchical and repressive of creativity” (p. 317). Oliver (2015) points out that in insisting on the absolute value of openness, all other forms of education are positioned as: conservative, exclusionary or controlling of learners or knowledge. . . .The risk with such polarised accounts is that education is inevitably bad, because it is and can only ever be ‘closed’. (p. 367) Attempting to move away from this unhelpful polarisation, Edwards (2015) argues that “all forms of openness entail forms of closed-ness” (p. 253)—in other words, that choices around practices always involve “selecting” and “occluding other possibilities” (p. 255). He frames the digital as reconfiguring rather than overcoming this reality (ibid). For Edwards, therefore, educators cannot claim openness as an educational value in its own right, and closedness as its antithesis, but must instead decide “what forms of openness and closed-ness are justifiable” (ibid). If openness and closedness are not absolutes, and do not represent opposite spectrums of theory or practice, educators need strategies and conceptual resources for paying attention to and deciding what forms of openness are appropriate for the settings in which they operate. These considerations are both pedagogical and ideological, as the following two sections illustrate. Homogenisation of learners and contexts Utopian perspectives on openness are largely underpinned by a key assumption: that people are innately disposed to self-educate, and that individuals simply require access to content in order to learn. This is a contestable claim in a number of respects, not least because what it means to be an educated person has varied considerably over places and times, and because education also involves the disciplining of the human subject through, for example, the ‘hidden curriculum’ of schooling. In this respect, decontextualized and deinstitutionalized open content can mask the conditions of its production and the assumptions it makes about learners and learning. If education is more than a delivery of content, then an exclusive focus on the content of open education and how accessible and affordable it is gives too much weight to instrumental goals of content creation and dissemination. In the dominant discourse about openness, open content and Open Educational Resources (OERs) in particular embed values of access, standardization, and deinstitutionalization. Their “emphasis on replication” presumes the uniformity of learners (Knox, 2013a, p. 29). Metaphorically, the current focus on content means that an ‘all-you-can-eat’ ethos underpins the drive towards openness-as-access, with little attention paid to the situations or appetites of the diners. To focus on the diversity of learners would make openness and its goals more open to interpretation and to contestation. It would raise the question of what, precisely, is transformed or transformative about OERs, and might prompt us to view them as aligned with unhelpful “politics of complexity reduction” (Gough, 2012, p. 47). As McArthur (2012) puts it, complexity reduction leads to “bad” rather than “virtuous” mess: “Seeking to force the inherently messy into a respectable tidy form can result in something that distorts, hides or falsifies the actual social world” (p. 421). Promises of simplicity—access, standardization, deinstitutionalization—come at a cost. Issues of power and inclusion A perception that the main issue facing open education is how to separate content from elitist, restrictive, or exclusionary processes and make it more widely and freely available has been driven by what Dalsgaard and Thestrup (2015) describe as the “ideological” motive for openness. However, critiques of Open Educational Resources (OERs) question whether these “reproduce historically asymmetric power relations” (Olakulehin & Singh, 2013, p. 33). Amiel and Soares (2016) observe the need for advocates of openness to be vigilant: to avoid constantly replicating inequalities in terms of those who produce, develop skills and revenue, and actively participate in the commons, and those who are passive observers mostly assimilating the offerings that are made available. (p. 1) They offer the “one-way flow of English-language content to other groups” (p. 2) as an example of replicated inequality which persists in the context of OERs. These are issues that cannot be addressed with what Naidu (2016) calls a “jaundiced” and “narrow focus on free and open access to educational resources” (p. 1). Ironically, insisting that “access alone” is enough (Knox, 2013b) actually deepens existing disadvantage by ignoring the processes through which OERs are taken up and used. As an example, research indicates that there are differences in how women in the Global South access, use, and experience barriers to finding and accessing OERs compared with both their male and Global North counterparts (Perryman & de los Arcos, 2016, p. 170), and such differences are deeply entrenched and require attention to social, economic and structural factors, leading the authors to recommend (amongst other things) that “all OER and [Open Educational Practice] projects operating in the Global South should have a gender equality component” (p. 179). In other words, access is emphatically not enough unless it is seen in a very broad context of social inclusion and social justice. As Rolfe (2015) puts it, Anyone with an internet connection can access global higher education content and tuition. However, these developments have outpaced our critical thinking around the fundamental principles of how to deliver an education that is ethically sound. (no page) The need for this kind of critical thinking cannot be overstated. Moves in this direction have included calls for openness to be framed in terms of “practices” (Ehlers, 2011) and “processes” (Knox, 2013b). These could pay more attention to “architectures” of openness (Ehlers, 2011, p. 3) and work to expose “social, economic, political and educational factors that have influenced the production of technology infrastructures, as well as the forms of open education that are subsequently made possible” (Knox 2013b, p. 27). Framing openness in terms of what we are calling ‘not-yetness’ contributes an additional focus—that of grappling with the uncertainty and complexity which accompanies educational and technological change. Having examined three arguments that complicate a straightforwardly utopian view of openness, we now proceed to explore how these arguments might be usefully taken up by reframing open education as a practice of boundarycrossing, and propose how such boundary crossing can be understood through a framework of ‘not-yetness’. Open education as boundary crossing To reframe the conversation about openness and push beyond openness-as-access, we need to pay attention to other possible forms of openness rather than stop at questions of whether something is open or not, or how broadly to define openness. bell hooks (1994) reminds us that openness can be understood in a range of ways, for example as the result of a mindset in which students are co-explorers in education and the classroom is seen as a space of transgressing hegemonic boundaries: The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom. (p. 207) hooks’ openness involves the inclusion of many voices and the recognition of the ways in which social realities—including open educational programs and processes—are political and often inequitable. This extends well beyond the notion of openness-as-access to views of openness as a “practice of freedom” (ibid), and acknowledges that such freedom may lead students and practitioners to cross boundaries between experiences and mindsets that are open and closed. Oliver (2015, pp. 8–9) noted that boundary crossing is expected in any social institution, including education, and “instead of trying to establish whether something is ‘open or not, the focus should then be on the instances of boundary crossing that take place, and consequently the kinds of “openness” that characterise a system or institution.” The focus on boundary crossing invites critical reflections on the nature of borders between concepts and approaches, say, between openness and closedness.Anzaldua (1987, p. 3), in her seminal work deconstructing the physical, psychological, and cultural borders and borderlands between the US and Mexico, said that “Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. . .a borderland is a vague and undetermined placed created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition.” As Anzaldua’s writings suggest, openness and closedness are in constant tension and in flux, and educators should explore and embrace the complexities that accompany modes of openness. Not-yetness: a lens for analysing openness We propose “not-yetness” as a lens for critically exploring openness and boundary crossing between openness and closedness. The concept of not-yetness emerged as a response to a dominant discourse of technology in education (including technologies of openness) that has been characterised by rhetoric of control, efficiency, and enhancement, and underplaying more “disruptive, disturbing and generative dimensions” (Bayne, 2014, p. 3). Emerging technologies in education, as defined by Veletsianos (2010) are those which are “not yet fully understood” and “not yet fully researched, or researched in a mature way” (p. 15). Technologies can readily be viewed in this way, but we argue that many forms of teaching and educational practice, and learner and teacher identities, can also be seen to be in states of not-yetness (Ross & Collier, 2016). The need to maintain pedagogical space for uncertainty is an appropriate response to what Barnett and Hallam (1999) call higher education’s “conditions of radical and enduring uncertainty, unpredictability, challengeability and contestability” (p. 142). The rhetoric of openness in education has come, ironically, to represent a much more constrained set of possibilities and practices than many researchers and educators might have expected in the years leading up to the explosion of high profile initiatives in areas such as massive online courses and open educational resources. Framing openness in terms of not-yetness means accepting risk and uncertainty as dimensions of technologies and practices which are still unknown and in flux. Not-yetness offers approaches that “help us stay open to what may be genuinely surprising about what happens when online learning and teaching meets emerging technologies” (Ross & Collier, 2016), and it therefore suggests some characteristics that are undervalued when we understand openness primarily in terms of access, standardisation, and de-institutionalization: Not-yetness draws our attention back to context, to variability, and is therefore able to work against the tendencies of OERs to assume a one-size-fits-all approach. There is a real need for such attention, as even when standardisation is recognised as problematic, solutions are often superficial. For example, a recent blog post on the US government web site (whitehouse.gov) discusses the potential flexibility of OERs to address diversity by tailoring features while “retaining fundamental content”: an open-source model could empower educators to collaborate on and adapt textbooks across local and international borders, retaining fundamental content while tailoring certain features, like names in math word problems, to reflect students’ ethnic diversity and culture. (Culatta, Ison & Weiss, 2015) This assumption of fundamental content as something akin to a room, stable and solid but able to be made appealing to anyone with some modest redecoration, indicates the power of the rhetoric of openness-as-access discussed above. The complexities and messiness of learning are swept under a metaphorical rug as we celebrate that our students can enter the room at all. In addition to using the idea of not-yetness to examine practices and assumptions around OERs, not-yetness can create conceptual space for alternative modes of openness in digital education. OER proponents regularly note that mere adoption or creation of resources should not be the focus of an OER movement. Weller (2014) calls for “open pedagogy [that] makes use of open content, such as open educational resources, videos, podcasts, etc., but also places an emphasis on the network and the learner’s connections within this” (p. 10). While this can be a useful starting point, we should look for kinds of openness that call into question the very approaches we use, “taking. . . an interest in the fundamental relations of power that influence the social order and the formation of human subjectivity” (Farrow, 2015). Morris and Stommel (2014) argue that “openness can function as a form of resistance both within and outside the walls of institutions. But open education is no panacea. Hierarchies must be dismantled—and that dismantling made into part of the process of education—if its potentials are to be realized”. Not-yetness asks, as Olakulehin & Singh (2013, p. 38) ask, “What curriculum and pedagogic designs are strong enough to challenge the dominant forces that determine the meaning, interpretation and outcomes of openness?” What kinds of spaces and practices, and in particular digital spaces and practices, invite critical reflexivity about openness and closedness? In asking these questions, we can look to examples of how educators can use openness as a framework for critical inquiry about the for what and for whom of open education. For instance, federated wiki1 [1] provides an example of an alternative mode of openness that crosses boundaries between openness and closedness. Traditional wikis, collaborative writing spaces in which users are able to add and edit content, are often upheld as exemplar open 1 Caulfield, M. http://hapgood.us technology. However, wikis are built on servers that host one version, one copy, of a wiki page that can be served up to users for viewing and editing. Caulfield (2016a) argues that, because of that architecture and their primary design for collaboration, wikis promote consensus around dominant voices: “personal voice is meant to be minimized. Voices are meant to be merged” to a singular representation of a topic or idea. With the openness of collaboration comes a closedness to individual voice and multiple perspectives on topics. Caulfield proposes a federated wiki as a wiki infrastructure that upends collaboration-by-consensus by allowing an individual to maintain their own copy of a wiki page that they can edit and individually control (Caulfield, 2016b). Unlike traditional wikis, federated wiki pages resolve to multiple servers but remain connected so that individuals’ copies stay linked to other copies. Federated wikis allow individuals to manage and control content while also freely sharing the content that they add and manage: a form of boundary crossing. Beyond the affordances of federated wikis to allow individuals to intentionally navigate between openness and closedness, the use of federated wikis encourages teachers and learners to call into question how openness is shaped by the technologies we use. This, in turn, provokes useful questions about what we exchange for open collaboration and ask us, as teachers and technologists, to be transparent and critical about these choices, and sensitive to the risks and compromises they entail. Engaging critically with openness requires approaches to learning, teaching, and assessment that welcome risk-taking, but also understand the possible risks well. Some common forms of open digital practices can be personally risky for students, especially those that involve reflection and self-expression, like blogging. With blogging the foundational notion is one of personal engagement in a digital environment for the gaze of another or others, and blogs are typically accepted as at least semi-public environments. Indeed, many teachers value them for exactly this reason: they provoke an awareness of audience and voice (Walker, 2005), and communities of learners can inspire and encourage one another (Ladyshewsky & Gardner, 2008). However, student bloggers rarely have the option to experiment with identity, or set their own limits on their exposure (Ross, 2012). So, part of the process of developing pedagogies that involve openness is considering how environments and practices can support students to set such limits (which we might productively think of as ‘closures’). Part of the reason such limits may be needed is because of the unpredictable nature of the audience and how it might respond—what Bayne and Ross (2013) refer to as “contamination” (following Lewis and Kahn in their 2010 work on posthumanist pedagogy), where: qualities of safety and control are abandoned in favour of an openness to ‘contamination’—best understood here as the unexpected interventions and interruptions from agents beyond the course. This kind of ‘contamination’ can take multiple forms: some are unwelcome (spamming), some are hoped for (external commentary on students’ blogs), some are inevitable. . . and others are more or less planned. . . (p. 100) Agents beyond the course may be strangers, and they may even not be humans (the rise of Twitter bots is one example of increasingly prevalent non-human agents). As such agents are not “controllable”, McKenna and McAvinia (2011) describe how students may react by trying out identities as ‘readers’ of their own writing on the open web, making decisions based on an awareness of audience: The students were, in part, accommodating an imagined reader and, in part, positioning themselves as readers in order to analyse their writing and a strong sense of audience was generally evident. Some students even made direct appeals for feedback from an anticipated, but unknown audience. (McKenna and Mcavinia, 2011, p. 57) In other words, exposing teaching and students’ learning to an unknown audience can lead to consequences that are unpredictable both in terms of how that audience might respond, and in terms of how students will shape and position themselves as what MacNeill refers to as open practitioners—“able to express themselves and interact appropriately and openly, not just be consumers of open resources” (MacNeill, 2015). However, encounters with human and technological agents beyond the course (Bayne & Ross, 2013, p. 99) means the range of appropriate interactions may be more diverse, and more surprising, than educators imagine. This section began with a discussion of not-yetness in relation to openness, arguing that openness in education needs to be seen in terms of criticality, power relations, risk and the unknown. These considerations are not commonly associated with open education, especially when the emphasis remains firmly on content and resources. However, new things become possible when online educators understand openness as a quality of relationship amongst students, teachers, technologies, texts, and the ‘unknown audience’. We conclude with some thoughts about how a ‘not-yetness’ orientation to openness can generate fruitful futures for open education. This article has presented the concept of not-yetness and aligned it with critical perspectives on open education which challenge oversimplified, idealised visions of openness. There are other perspectives which can be useful in combination with not-yetness—for example, Dalsgaard and Thestrup’s (2015) three pedagogical dimensions of openness: transparency between students; communication between students and the outside world; and interdependent relationships between educational institutions and external practices (pp. 85–6). Above all, not-yetness offers conceptual support for accepting and allowing context, variability, and uncertainty to inform open education, and it helps problematize an overemphasis on access to content. We end with a call for educators, technologists and educational researchers to address and work with the risks and complexities that come along with open practices beyond open content—not to minimise the risk or resolve the complexity, but to understand these factors as part of the challenge of boundary work that involves openness and closures. The examples of federated wikis, and supporting students to engage with ‘agents beyond the course’, demonstrate how such boundary work can play out in practice, and emphasise how concepts like not-yetness can help us get an appropriate handle on the possibilities of digital education and its multiple relationships with openness. For educators, a shift to thinking about openness as boundary work might result in approaches to design, assessment and collaboration that take better account of the unpredictability of gains and losses that come with decisions around openness. In addition, there may be direct applications for not-yetness in classroom activity and in discussions with students. Teachers in disciplines where critical and interpretive discourse may be comfortable in the classroom may find the notion of notyetness appealing as a framework for exploring openness. Classroom conversation and curriculum could include opportunities for discussion of the not-yetness of the open practices and resources at use in the class, and what possibilities those uses open and close for students. In disciplines where open educational resources might be adopted primarily for their instrumental purposes (retention, reducing costs, progress toward specific metrics), teachers may look for ways to bring distinctiveness and emergence to practices around those open educational resources. Might students, for example, create a “study guide” wiki to accompany an open math textbook as a way to introduce multiple perspectives on the interplay of math and students’ lives? To close, we encourage educators to explore the uncertainty of their open practices, and offer these three questions as supports for such exploration. When considering particular forms of openness as part of a pedagogical approach or strategy, educators might ask, perhaps along with their students: 1. What space is in these practices for distinctiveness, diversity, open-endedness? 2. How much uncertainty can this approach to openness accommodate? 3. What closures come along with these practices? What is in the borderlands? In addressing questions around open-endedness, uncertainty and closures, we can create more critical space for our open educational practices, and challenge some of the constraints occasioned by an overemphasis on the content of open education. We wish to acknowledge the work of Dr George Veletsianos, and the Open Education conference (November 2015, Vancouver, Canada), where this work was first presented. Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License Lay Theories Regarding Computer-Mediated Communication in Remote Collaboration Karl Parke & Nicola Marsden Hochschule Heilbronn (Germany) & Cornelia Connolly Dundalk Institute of Technology (Ireland) Computer-mediated communication and remote collaboration has become an unexceptional norm as an educational modality for distance and open education, therefore the need to research and analyze students’ online learning experience is necessary. This paper seeks to examine the assumptions and expectations held by students in regard to computer-mediated communication and how their lay theories developed and changed within the context of their practical experiences in conducting a remote collaborative project, through computermediated communication. We conducted a qualitative content analysis of students’ final reports from an inter-institutional online course on computer-mediated communication and remote collaboration. The results show that students’ assumptions were altered and indicate the strong benefits of teaching how to collaborate remotely, especially if a blended approach of theory and practical application are combined. For distance learning environments, successfully employing computer-mediated communication (CMC) is often deemed one of the most relevant factors (Dennen, 2005; Thompson & Savenye, 2007). CMC has become embedded in the social and organizational lives of people (Walther, 2013). It is frequently used and a common tool for team collaboration, allowing participants to work on tasks without having to be at the same place at the same time. Despite this customary practice, CMC is excessively and still mostly used in private contexts, allowing users to communicate with friends or family. Consequently students of Informatics, software engineering and related subjects are not fully aware of the possibilities and limitations of computer-mediated communication for organizational and workplace environments. Due to infrastructure and technology advances remote collaborations (RC) are becoming more commonplace and students are likely to encounter CMC in their working life. Nonetheless students, actually have vague ideas about how such remote collaboration through computer-mediated communication works—how they are scheduled and organized; which tools can or should be used; how the communication between the participants in such settings might look like; and which problems might occur when tasks are completed remotely using CMC. These ideas or assumptions often arise from comparison with practices in face-to-face settings, private use of CMC or cultural references to this topic, mainly in TV shows or movies. Such assumptions do not always reflect the reality of the matter but can nevertheless affect the way in which remote collaboration is started or dealt with once a person actually uses it. Considering the structure and purpose, such ideas often have a lot in common with actual scientific theories, which is why they can be called implicit, subjective or lay theories. In light of how CMC has become commonplace as an educational modality for distance and open education, the need to research and analyze students’ online learning experience becomes obvious (Dennen, Darabi & Smith, 2007). In this study we sought to examine what kind of assumptions and expectations students have about CMC. We wanted to know what happened to the students’ subjective theories as their knowledge of CMC was developed within the classroom environment. In particular we aimed to investigate if and how students’ beliefs changed when they were confronted with scientific theories and new experiences regarding computer mediated communication. Computer-mediated communication can be defined as the study of how human behaviors are maintained or altered by exchange of information through machines (December 1996). It can be defined as communicative transactions occurring through the use of two or more networked computers (McQuail, 2005). Different theoretical models have been developed to explain how individuals and groups adapt to computer-mediated (vs. face-to-face) communication, how they develop relational communication and organize their collaboration (Ang, Talib, Tan, Tan & Yaacob, 2015; Sheldon, Abad & Hinsch, 2011; Walther, Van Der Heide, Ramirez, Burgoon & Peña, 2015; Walther & Parks, 2002). Researchers have investigated Internet-based social networking supported by social software, including instant messaging, YouTube, e-mail, social networking sites (SNS) and Internet forums (Chen, Yen, Hung & Huang, 2008; Haridakis & Hanson, 2009; Hunt, Atkin & Krishnan, 2012; Ou & Davison, 2011; Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000; St. Amant, 2002; Sun, 2008; Sun, Rubin & Haridakis, 2009). Interpersonal motives for using the Internet include interpersonal utility (Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000), social utility (Kaye & Johnson, 2002), social or interpersonal interaction (Ebersole, 2000; Wolfradt & Doll, 2001), and chatting (Sjoberg, 1999). In our research we focus on text-based interaction, since the fact remains that text-based communication is still dominating the interaction on the Internet and text-based technologies are the most interactive. Computer-mediated communication can take place in different environments: Students commonly use CMC for personal use, i.e. outside a working environment and outside educational purposes (Knight-McCord et al., 2016). More and more, corporate environments are adopting different modes of CMC for professional communication and collaboration (Carlson, Zivnuska, Harris, Harris & Carlson, 2016) and CMC is increasingly being used for educational purposes (Andersen & Ponti, 2014) or is a subject of academic learning (Howard, 2011; Marsden & Connolly, 2010). Through their personal use of computer-mediated communication and social media, individuals develop ideas of how to behave in this social setting: Understanding how people act in a social setting is influenced by the way people think about and infer meaning from what happens around them (Heider, 1958). Research on human perception, attitudes and behavior, motivation, and metacognition has shown that people’s beliefs influence their perception of reality and shapes their behavior (Dweck, 1986; Fiske & Taylor, 2013; Furnham, 2013; Igou, 2004; Kruglanski, 2013; Snyder, 1984). We adopt this perspective to investigate the beliefs that students hold regarding computer-mediated communication. In order to understand how people behave in a remote collaboration setting, it is important to investigate how the conditions of computer-mediated communication are perceived and how people think they should behave under these conditions. Research into individuals’ views of communication technology shows that their experiences with personal CMC in social media influences their expectations and assumptions of CMC in work settings and influences their views about CMC (Treem, Dailey, Pierce & Leonardi, 2015). Literature shows divergent assumptions and findings regarding the influence that prior familiarity with a technology has for its use in the workplace. While there are numerous positive effects to be expected Lay Theories Regarding Computer-Mediated Communication in Remote Collaboration from CMC in the workplace (Ellison, Gibbs & Weber, 2014), there are good reasons to suspect that individuals’ implicit belief systems may not align well with goals in a work setting: The expression of opinions, potential disinhibition, and relationship building in personal CMC could clash with professional communication norms (Cheney & Ashcraft, 2007). The study by Treem et al. (2015) showed that the beliefs that people have regarding CMC in a work setting were related to their prior use of CMC, but in directions contrary to the expectations that prior use of CMC facilitates its use within work: Younger workers and people who had used CMC heavily in a personal context were more skeptical about the use of CMC in the workplace; older individuals and those without much experience with CMC in a personal context were more positive about the different modes of CMC in the workplace. These views and belief systems that people use in their everyday life are called lay theories, they comprise implicit belief systems that people are not necessarily aware of, neither are they aware of the impact of those theories on their social understanding. Lay theories, like scientific theories, are constructed to make sense of the world, i.e. they serve an epistemic function (Hong, Levy & Chiu, 2001). They are organized knowledge structures, and as such set up a framework for interpreting specific situations and for making inferences about the world around us. With this sensemaking function, they offer a starting point for pedagogical processes (Groeben, 2014; Groeben & Scheele, 2000). Lay theories are affected by scientific knowledge—and can be activated or deactivated based on the scientific knowledge that is offered in a particular situation (Levy, 1999). It has been shown in studies in which participants read fictitious scientific articles, the reading influenced participants to judge a social situation more in line with the “scientific” evidence that was presented to them; also, the existing lay theory could be influenced by generating persuasive arguments for a particular theory (Levy, Plaks, Hong, Chiu & Dweck, 2001). If reading a persuasive article in an experimental session can change lay theories, a classroom setting in which scientific papers are read and hands-on experiences are made should have even stronger effects. Consequently, we hoped to find similar effects on our course, in which we provided authentic scientific information and the experiences encountered by the participants in a real-life collaborative environment. After all, the purpose is to educate, inter alia by completing the participants’ lay theories and hypotheses about how the object of study works with scientific knowledge and/or practical experiences. Our research question was how students’ understanding of and reflection about computer-mediated communication changes through a course covering scientific theories and practical experience regarding computer-mediated communication. Through the students’ reflection of their experiences we aimed to reconstruct and explore the Intuitive Lay Theories that the students held when entering the course. This study is based on a qualitative content analysis of students’ final reports from an inter-institutional online course on computer-mediated communication and remote collaboration. The course “Computer-Mediated Communication and Remote Collaboration” The course or module “Computer-Mediated Communication and Remote Collaboration” is part of the master’s program “Software Engineering and Management” at Heilbronn University, Germany. The course includes three to seven weeks of remote collaboration with students from Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland and Transilvania University of Braşov, Romania. On average, approximately 60 students attend the course from the three institutions and the course takes place Middle Georgia State College South Georgia State College University of North Georgia Pre- and post-transformation data sets compiled for completion rate resulted in the analysis of eight courses/sections of courses (Table 3). Eight data sets were included affecting 329 students. Completion rate was provided for paired courses/sections of courses. These data also showed some individual variation from course to course. Two courses showed changes in completion rate in favor of pre-transformation and four courses showed changes in favor of post-transformation. In two cases, there was no change. A Shapiro Wilk test indicated that the data was not normally distributed (α = 0.05; Table 10) but a Levene’s test indicated that there was equality of variance across the data (α = 0.05; Table 10), so a Wilcoxon signed rank test was performed and was found to be not significant (α = 0.008; Table 10). Hence, the null hypothesis that there was no difference pre- and post- transformation was supported. Completion Rate Completion Rate Pre-Transformation Post-Transformation (Percent) per section (Percent) per section Georgia Southwestern State University University of North Georgia Pre- and post-transformation data sets compiled for grade distribution rate resulted in the analysis of 14 courses/sections for A/B grades (Table 4, affecting 828 students), 12 courses/sections for C grades (Table 5, affecting 733 students), and eight courses/sections for D grades (Table 6, affecting 403 students). Grade distribution data was provided for paired courses/sections of course in each table. Variation from course to course was evident. For A/B grades, six courses showed changes in favor of pre-transformation, seven courses showed changes in favor of post-transformation and there was no change in two courses. For C grades, seven courses showed changes in favor of pre-transformation, four courses showed changes in favor of post-transformation and there was no change in one course. For D grades, three courses showed changes in favor of pre-transformation, three courses showed changes in favor of post-transformation and there was no change in two courses. Separate Shapiro Wilk tests implemented for A/Bs, Cs and Ds indicated that the paired data for A/Bs and Cs was normally distributed but that the paired data for Ds was not (α = 0.05; Table 10). However, separate Levene’s tests for numbers of A/Bs, Cs and Ds all indicated that there was equality of variance across the data (α = 0.05; Table 10). As a result, paired t-tests were performed for A/Bs and Cs and a Wilcoxon signed rank test was performed for Ds. All tests were found to be not significant (α = 0.008; Table 10). Hence, the null hypothesis that there was no difference pre- and post- transformation was supported. East Georgia State College Georgia and State University College Middle Georgia State College South Georgia State College University of North Georgia East Georgia State College Georgia and State University College Middle Georgia State College South Georgia State College Georgia and State University College Middle Georgia State College South Georgia State College Pre- and post-transformation data sets compiled for final exam grade rate (Table 7, affecting 186 students) and assessment grade (Table 8, affecting 328 students) resulted in the analysis of three courses for each. All courses showed changes in favor of pre-transformation (Tables 7 and 8). A Shapiro Wilk test indicated that the data was normally distributed and a Levene’s test indicated that there was equality of variance across the data (α = 0.05; Table 10). Although the raw scores were higher pre-transformation, these results were not statistically significant (α = 0.008; Table 10). Hence, the null hypothesis that there was no difference pre- and post- transformation was supported. Georgia Institute of Technology Assessment Grade Pre-Transformation (Percent) per section Assessment Grade Post-Transformation (Percent) per section Final Exam Grade Final Exam Grade Support Pre-Transformation Post-Transformation of Pre(Percent) per section (Percent) per section or Post-? Data analysis was not performed within the final grade data category since only one paired course data set was provided (Table 9). However, in the sample of 68 students, final grades pre-transformation was favored. Final Grade Pre- Final Grade Post Transformation Transformation (Percent) per section (Percent) per section Georgia Institute of Technology The Shapiro Wilk Test and Levene Test was tested at α = 0.05 and the Paired T-Test and Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test was tested at α = 0.008 (Table 10). Number of A’s & B’s Course specific assessment The qualitative data that was provided varied. Quotes provided by students were generally uninformative with regards to their perception of the quality of the text. The vast majority of comments were about textbook cost (or lack thereof). Responses to survey data were more informative; however, since questions were different for each project, standardizing responses is impossible. That being said general insight can be gleaned from these data. Of the 20 projects that provided survey data, 16 (80%) were on average positive or neutral with regards to OER quality and perceived learning, three provided an overall negative perception of OER (15%), and one was uninformative with regards to OER quality and enhancement of learning (5%). The three projects that had negative OER survey data related to specific chapters of the OER rating lower or the entire book rating lower in terms of quality in comparison to the traditional textbook. In these surveys quality in general was perceived as organization, helpfulness with coursework or visual appeal. The null hypothesis that there would be no differences between pre- and post-transformation rates of DFW, rates of completion, distribution of letter grades, final exam grades and course specific assessment grades was supported (p values ranged from 0.51–4.30). Thus, this study demonstrates that the USG’s ALG initiative helped students save money without negatively impacting learning outcomes. Non-significant results are important to report (Polanin, Tanner-Smith & Hennessy, 2016) and in this case supports the utility of OER because they indicate that students did as well using an open resource as they did using a traditional resource. Furthermore, Polanin et al. (2016) suggested that not reporting non-significant results can create dissemination biases that can affect which programs or policies are continued that may or may not be effective. Additionally, the purporting of these biases may inhibit the growth of new research. This study is the first of its kind to measure some of these learning outcomes (e.g. final exam grade, assessment grade, and distribution of letter grades) at this scale. Fischer, Hilton, Robinson and Wiley (2015) focused on course completion, final grade, and enrollment intensity measures in a multi-institution study but indicated that more replicative studies were necessary and suggested that questions pertaining to the grades individual students receive when using OER vs. traditional resources would be of value. The overall results are not statistically significant even though some measures of student learning outcomes show small gains or decreases in student learning when OER are adopted. These results suggest a consistent level of student performance pre- and post-transformation and underscores the quality of each chosen OER. The survey data that was provided generally supports the notion that students did not perceive a difference in quality or understandability when using the OER and the demonstration that students performed equally as well with the OER supports perceived high quality. This study indicates that the individual project investigators chose appropriate OER to substitute for the traditional text(s) and aligned their course objectives with them well. The differences between pre- and post-transformation may have been more widespread with different overall results had the OER not been chosen and developed carefully. While the overall results are not statistically significant, there were individual instances in which students did better (or worse) when OER were implemented. Future studies should examine more carefully what factors coincide with higher or lower efficacy results. For example, it is possible that the change in resources resulted in instructor anxiety, lack of confidence or disorganization relating to the alignment of teaching materials with the new resources. Furthermore, it is possible that the overall impact of curriculum materials is relatively low and that the overall influence is small because it reflects this fact. Moreover, further studies should examine whether there are connections between students’ utilization of curriculum materials and their overall scores. While explicit quantitative data on student use was not gathered, I have implicitly assumed that had utilization decreased significantly, it would have had a significant negative impact on student measures. However, it is conceivable that curriculum materials matter less than we think, or that the relative use of materials would need to be dramatically different in order to significantly influence student outcomes. Selecting projects that performed pre/post-transformation analysis and further selecting for specific measures whittled down the sample size for each data point, even though the overall sample size is large. This was a result of an inconsistent rate of reporting of specific data measurements amongst researchers (i.e. some reported only DFW while another only reported assessment grades), lack of pre-transformation data reporting and limited reporting of informative data (perhaps researchers were not sure what to report). Far more data should be collected by future Textbook Transformation Grant awardees to clearly address whether students are succeeding with OER. Additionally, the data that are collected should be consistent throughout grants. For example, all grantees should collect the same types of data to form a more robust data set and this data collection should be explicitly requested by ALG in the information when the call for proposals is made and outlined in final reports. Additionally, identical surveys should be employed across grants to ensure consistency of qualitative data. The overall non-significant differences between pre- and post-transformation may have come from the overall re-design of courses and not the OER on its own. In some cases, the OER may have necessitated a reexamination of the course, so it is possible that course objectives aligned better with the OER than the traditional text. In addition, a fresh look at course material may have clarified objectives or alignment issues that were previously undetected. However, both of these factors are positive occurrences in terms of teaching and education. To date, relatively little is known about the efficacy of OER. Additional large-scale studies are needed. With so many institutions now using OER there is an opportunity to conduct research on many aspects, including those that focus on differences in outcomes between traditional and OER taught courses. Furthermore, some individual courses are taught by multiple professors, which would lend to studying the learning outcomes based on pedagogical differences. Identifying differences in pedagogy may provide insight into the instructional design measures that may enhance OER learning outcomes. The results of this study showed no difference in expected learning outcomes, which is satisfactory. However, most teachers are looking to improve student learning. It would be important to identify if there are certain types or platforms of delivery of OER that assist in learning or whether there are specific improvements that could be made to the OER to augment learning. I’d like to thank J. Gallant at ALG for providing the data for analyses. J. Hilton III deserves special recognition for providing comments on and direction of the manuscript. Thanks to L. Fischer and C.L. Mott for help with statistical analyses. Additional thanks to R. Bodily and several anonymous reviews of previous versions of this manuscript. This work could not have been completed without the support of the OER research fellowship program provided by the open education group (openedgroup.org) and additional support provided in part by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The Foundation did not see or influence this work prior to its publication. Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License Building a Virtual Learning Environment to Foster Blended Learning Experiences in an Institute of Application in Brazil Andrea da Silva Marques Ribeiro , Esequiel Rodrigues Oliveira & Rodrigo Fortes Mello Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro - State University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) , & Blended learning, the combination of face-to-face teaching with a virtual learning environment (VLE), is the theme of this study that aims at describing and analyzing the implementation of a VLE in the Institute of Application Fernando Rodrigues da Silveira, an academic unit of the State University of Rio de Janeiro. This study’s main contribution is to reflect on the complexity of the institute that comprises schooling for basic education students and teacher education, from elementary school to postgraduate education. The wide scope of the institute encompasses face-to-face and non-presential activities, in different proportions, depending on the educational segment. Thus, starting from the assumption that blended learning teaching processes foment more student-centered educational models and facilitate interactions between individuals, a collaborative way was chosen as the VLE development method, contributing to pedagogical practices that favor meaningful learning. The VLE design was developed to meet the different needs and demands of the different educational segments. Currently there are 295 registered users. However, there are no registered basic education students so far. This can be justified by the fact that the VLE is relatively new to the community, and the participation of basic education students in the VLE depends on their teachers’ enrolment and use of the VLE itself. Keywords: blended learning; basic education; teacher education; design of virtual learning environment; cooperation school/university The aim of this study is to describe and reflect on building and implementation of a virtual learning environment (VLE, henceforth) in different education segments, from basic education to postgraduate courses in the Institute of Application Fernando Rodrigues da Silveira, an academic unit of the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The VLE was designed to complement the activities of face-to-face teaching and build blended learning teaching processes. Despite technological advancements and legislation, that regulate Distance Education (DE, henceforth) in Brazil, there is still prejudice and misinformation about its potentialities. DE has been substantially growing. According to figures provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC), there were 49,911 students enrolled in distance higher education courses in 2003. However, in 2013, the number of enrolments rose to 1,153,572. The 2015 census conducted by the Associação Brasileira de Educação a Distância - Brazilian Association of Distance Education (ABED, 2015) accounted for 5,048,912 students, with 1,108,021 in fully distance education and hybrid courses and 3,940,891 in corporate or non-corporate free courses. The census shows that, in higher education, most of students are enrolled in teacher education courses. As presented in the census, 406 distance graduation courses are offered in Brazil; among those, 258 courses are related to teacher education. In terms of post-graduation, there are 1,079 specialization courses, 197 MBA and only 7 Master’s courses. In basic education, there are 20 courses in middle school and 19 in high school. This DE framework is outlined mostly by technological advancements, increasing access to Internet and its digital resources as well as the legislation that governs DE in Brazil. Law number 9,394 (1996), also known as The Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education (LGBNE, henceforth), was the first one to tackle DE in Brazil. In its 32nd article, it establishes that elementary and middle schools activities must be carried out face-to-face, and DE is to be used to complement the process of teaching and learning in emergencies only. In its 80th article, it determines the role of public powers in the development of DE programs in all levels of education and continuing education. According to LGBNE, it is also up to the federal government to regulate DE courses concerning the examination, issuance of certificates and accreditation of institutions (Law n. 9.394, 1996). Borba, Malheiros and Amaral (2014) highlight that the LGBNE was aimed at presenting quantitative and qualitative goals for DE instead of treating it as an experimental project. In 2005, Decree number 5,622 was published to regulate the 80th article of LGBNE. In its first article, it characterizes DE as an educational model in which the didactic-pedagogic mediation in teaching and learning processes occurs with the use of media, information and communication technologies, with students and teachers developing educational activities in different places or times. Besides determining means and tools for mediation, it also brings up aspects of asynchronicity and territory dilution in the DE teaching and learning processes. This decree also organizes methodology, management and evaluation, as well as determines that face-to-face moments are mandatory for exams, trainings and laboratory activities. However, the complementary nature of DE remains. The decree maintains that DE is for emergencies, cases of health problems and places where there are no educational institutions. Considering the importance of DE and the current legislation, MEC published the Quality Benchmarks for the Higher Distance Education (Benchmarks, henceforth) in 2007, which has no power of law. Instead, it is a guide to subsidize legal acts of the government to specific processes of regulation, supervision and evaluation (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2007). The Benchmarks emphasize that there are many ways of implementing DE courses and programs, which can have different design, methodologies and resources to meet students’ needs and the context conditions. The document also acknowledges that DE has its own characteristics and language that requires consistent administration, design, evaluation, technical, technological, infrastructural and pedagogical resources. In this sense, DE also requires a political and pedagogical project that clarifies the concepts of education and curriculum in the processes of teaching and learning, communication systems, educational and evaluation materials. In addition, it should favor the formation of a multidisciplinary team, determine the infrastructure of support and, finally, keep academic and administrative management to define its financial sustainability. Therefore, the elaboration and implementation of DE activities, online and blended learning experiences, runs through different spheres. In supporting infrastructure, in Brazilian public educational contexts, we face lack of funds and resources, which interferes negatively in the offering of DE programs. For instance, the lack of connectivity or low speed connections are common in public schools and universities. In the sphere of the formation of a multidisciplinary team, human resources are scarce because of low hiring what leads to accumulation of tasks and functions. In the Institute of Application (IA, henceforth), the landscape is not favorable because it faces problems in infrastructure and lack of material and human resources. Despite that, we proposed to build and provide a VLE to different levels of education in order to foster meaningful practices in both distance and blended learning in the institute. The Institute of Application Fernando Rodrigues da Silveira The IA is an academic unit of the State University of Rio de Janeiro, which encompasses the axis of teaching, research and extension. It is a training field for graduation students from other institutes Building a Virtual Learning Environment to Foster Blended Learning Experiences in an Institute of Application 111 in Brazil in the university. It builds rich spaces for dialogue and experiences sharing among different areas of knowledge, which makes it suitable for multidisciplinary work and collective knowledge production. The IA is composed by a school where children and youngsters go to elementary, middle and high school; it offers mandatory subjects in graduation courses and hosts a postgraduate Masters’ course. Nowadays, it has 1,030 students in basic education, 463 students in higher education and 120 postgraduate students, 189 teachers and 70 employees in the technical and administrative staff. The IA has also an exchange program with Tokyo University Foreign Students (TUFS). When students graduate from high school, they can apply to study in the Japanese university. The benefits of the IA structure reside in fostering the cooperation between university and school, especially in teacher education to improve the quality of teaching in basic education. This occurs mainly because both university and school students share the same training space and all teachers in IA work in both levels: university and school. The IA structural organization requires that teachers must be formally qualified to work in basic education levels and in university, as well. The diversity of activities of the IA demands different teaching processes to search means to provide access to accumulated and produced knowledge in varied areas as well as the production of new knowledge, to foster the dialogue between specific contents and teaching methods (Shulman, 1986). Knowledge does not occur in a vacuum. Nor is it produced in isolation in classrooms and laboratories. Instead, it relates to participants’ contexts and the world’s realities. To make knowledge more accessible and contextualized, technology plays a fundamental role. Different technological resources (computers with Internet access, multimedia projectors, tablets, cell phones, etc.) can have different functions that range from material storage to generation of interactional spaces by means of information and communication tools, which are essential in knowledge produced in researches and didactical materials. Moreover, technologies in the educational daily life can favor new ways of communication and facilitate understanding of knowledge as a process, not a final product (Magnavita, 2003). In this way, the proposal of a VLE to different educational levels can contribute to more meaningful pedagogical practices in accordance to the IA amplitude. The potentiality of blended learning in the Institute of Application Technology is present is all spheres of our daily lives and affects different sectors and areas. In education, for instance, digital technologies increased possibilities in different types of teaching. Romiszowski (2005) considers the integration of new electronic technologies to the practical realities of human communication is a kind of synergy, which affects DE, especially online learning. Nowadays, with the broad access to Internet and digital resources, not only can students search for materials, such as books and articles, but also need to establish relationships with others who belong to different cultures in order to interact and discuss topics of mutual interest. The educational scope of IA congregates face-to-face and non-presential or online activities in different proportions according to the educational segment. Elementary, middle and high school students stay at school full time, which sums more than the 800 hours/year determined by the LGBNE. The activities are face-to-face mostly, while the non-presential ones have to do with homework, readings and researches. The IA has no official DE activities for basic education. On the other hand, in graduation courses, we gradually introduced the VLE aiming at building a digital repository for theoretical texts, didactical materials and students’ productions. We also intend that it becomes a space for interaction between teachers and students to deepen discussions previously conducted in classrooms. Thus, our pedagogical practices move towards blended learning experiences. Graham, Allen and Ure (2005) highlight three advantages of seeking merged processes of teaching and learning in higher education: more adequate pedagogical practices, access and expanded flexibility and increased cost-effectiveness. Concerning pedagogical aspects, the authors point out that merged teaching processes promote a more student-centered educational mode and facilitate interaction between individuals. We can understand blended learning in different ways. The most common one associates faceto-face activities in classrooms with distance activities (online or not). It can be a way of teaching that combines face-to-face activities to distance ones, technologically mediated by computers and other technological resources (Graham, 2006). However, So and Bonk (2010) state that it is not enough to put the activities together to have successful blended learning experiences. The design is an important component and it is paramount that it integrates the activities in a coherent way in order to offer efficient contents and give support to students. Therefore, building a VLE to all educational segments in a public institute, such as IA, that faces shortage of human, financial and technological resources, constitutes a great challenge. Besides, it is necessary to deal with the characteristics and objectives of the segments. A VLE for students in basic education (children and teenagers) is different from one for undergraduate and graduate students. The processes of creating and delivering the VLE go through several stages and bring together different sectors of the university. Next, we describe the architecture and the design process of the VLE. The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) of the Institute of Application We elaborated the VLE in cooperation with Information and Communication Technologies Laboratory, an academic unit responsible for development and management of technological platforms in the university. This partnership was based on the division of labor according to the functional nature of each unit. The laboratory provides technological support and the IA is in charge of the design and administration of the VLE. This is already a difference in the VLE development since teachers design the tasks and develop the VLE in their professional practices in line with their subjects and students’ needs. Brazilian basic education is organized into pre-school, elementary school, middle school and high school (Fig. 1). The VLE was created to foster teaching-learning processes in six levels of formation. Its structure contemplates elementary school, middle school and high school as well as well as graduation, post-graduation and extension courses. Besides, a research group has requested registration in the VLE to help their activities. Each level or course has a different design to meet specific needs. Elementary school is the first level, from 1st to 5th grades and students’ age range from 6 to 11 years old. The group encompasses 60 students, organized into 3 classes of 20 students. Teachers mediate the activities in the VLE in all subjects, except Visual Arts, Music and Physical Education. However, in the VLE, all the students integrate the same grade (1st) of elementary school (Fig. 2). The horizontal integration of these groups enables collaborative performing tasks, contributing to the critical development and enhances socialization. Middle school students’ age ranges from 10 to 16 years old and they are organized into the 6th to 9th grades, which encompasses about 120 students in 4 groups of 30 students. This segment has a multidisciplinary formation with about 10 subjects mediated by different teachers. Thus, the VLE was organized in order to promote interdisciplinary actions, considering each group as a course (Fig. 3). In high school, the courses are organized into knowledge areas aiming at scientific preparation and the ability to use different technologies to perform (MEC, 2000). Each grade has around 100 students, distributed in 4 groups of 25 students (Fig. 4). Building a Virtual Learning Environment to Foster Blended Learning Experiences in an Institute of Application in Brazil The extension courses are the ones that meet the needs and expectation of the external community. Consequently, they do not have a previous configuration so that the courses can meet the needs of each proposal (Fig. 6). The post-graduation consists of two categories: post-graduation itself and research groups, with very different purposes. The research groups have internal activities such as forums and research activities and function as digital repositories for the group production. That is why they should be visible in the menu and grant access to contents (Fig. 7). Collaborative construction of design as development methodology Collaboration and similar experiences sharing contributes to developing awareness about one’s own actions in a VLE (Jesus, Figueiredo & Ribeiro, 2016). By choosing a collaborative development method over a technical and specialized one, we seek to contribute to teachers’ actions that are more autonomous. This leads to the option of batch registration, for instance. Due to operational aspects, batch registration makes the process of enrolment and support faster since teachers compile the demands and send them to the VLE administrator. This avoids a large number of similar requests and congestion of access channels, which compromises service quality. Current Stage of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) in the institute The VLE has, nowadays, 295 registered users with attributed role of “teacher” or “student”. There are 306 attributed roles so far. This difference is justified by the fact that a user can be enrolled in different courses with different roles. Concerning the three axis of teaching, research and extension, the extension one had largest number of registrations. The majority of users and attributed roles is in the extension course Constituting the Collaborative Education in Baixada Fluminense, with 183 registered users (about 58% of total number of users). 10 users assume the role of teacher and 173 of student. In post-graduation, there are 97 registered users (about 31% of total registered users), participating in four courses: Special Education in the Perspective of Inclusive Education (2 teachers and 18 students); Education and Transformation in Paulo Freire (1 teacher and 20 students); Daily Life in Elementary School (2 teachers and 28 students) and Visual Language, Communication, Teaching and Learning (3 teachers and 23 students). Language and Education: Teaching and Science is the only research group in the VLE so far, with 17 registered users (about 5% of the total users): 2 teachers (the group leaders) and 15 researchers and post-graduation students whose attributed role is student. In this initial stage, teachers use different resources in the VLE platform: insertion of content by means of verbal and non-verbal texts (images, videos etc.), collaborative activities (thematic forums, database building), cooperative management of the subjects and feedback, which provides information to foster our interventions. Students’ most common demands relate to technical support: problems about passwords, difficulties to access and find contents and activities within the courses. This happens mostly due to lack of previous technical knowledge and little familiarity with the environment. Some teachers point out that many students do not consider the VLE a legitimate tool and space to interact and deepen discussions and concepts studied in the classroom. Most of them view it as a repository of materials and texts. For instance, there are postgraduate students who send messages via e-mail or WhatsApp instead of participating in the forums and other activities in the VLE. On the other hand, teachers are concerned with technical training to use the VLE and its tools. They indicate the necessity of larger workload to develop projects and products. They also state that the use of the VLE should be encouraged. They consider that we should share knowledge about the use of the environment vis-à-vis the ongoing researches in the institute. Concerning basic education, there are no registered students in the VLE so far. This can be justified by the fact that the digital environment is relatively new to the community of the institute. Teachers have gradually shown interest in integrating it with their pedagogical practices in presential classroom. To do so, we intend to seek strategies to disseminate and insert the VLE in pedagogical activities. Training courses and workshops have been developed and offered to meet teachers’ demands and needs. Since the participation of basic education students in the VLE depend on their teachers’ registration and effective use of the environment and use it as a pedagogical tool, we expect that the number of basic education students registered in the VLE will increase as more teachers decide to use it, as well. According to figure 8, there are 295 users today. 97 are in postgraduation segment (89 students and 8 teachers). Our goal is to include all basic education students in the VLE until November 2017. Building cooperation between school and university is challenging. Teachers and students have different knowledge, experiences and opinions concerning blended learning experiences. In order to find solutions and strategies that can contribute to learning and teaching processes at school, to teacher education and to research in education, school / university cooperation is established by the articulation of the objectives of both: the first to produce a competent basic education process and the second to form good teachers for basic education. Based on this, shared actions are elaborated and developed. Some of them take place in common space-times, such as the school’s classrooms. Others occur in specific places, such as laboratories of teaching research and research group meetings. The design of the VLE reflects not only the curriculum organization of the educational segments, but also the actions taken by the participants in its scope. Next stages to implement the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) In 2017, blended learning experiences consolidation will take place in three dimensions: full coverage of the virtual rooms in all segments, building a broad multidisciplinary collaborative network, expansion of epistemological and methodological perspectives and search for partnership with external sectors to foster research and extension actions. Building a Virtual Learning Environment to Foster Blended Learning Experiences in an Institute of Application 119 in Brazil The networking of studies and production in the IA will encompass a set of integrated actions, such as surveys with the VLE users; interviews with teachers working in the virtual classrooms, forums and seminars to share methodologies and pedagogical practices, workshops to develop technical skills. We expect that this set of actions will contribute to meet the target public needs. We intend to expand dialogue with external communities according to the professional demands of the ones who work in basic education by means of extension courses. In the field of research, the inter-institutional cooperation is already in progress. The National Institute of Science and Technology: teaching and communication—creativity, innovation and technology in teacher education includes 40 Higher Education institutes all over Brazil and the IA is one of them. In addition, the VLE is meant to be a space and a tool for interaction and collaborative learning and teaching. Thus, the data obtained from the different participants (basic education, graduation and post-graduation teachers and students) will contribute to investigate and analyze their ways of participation and engagement in the different levels of formation. We intend to conduct studies on mediation, access patterns in the different age groups and schooling levels. Since teachers and students will probably present their points of view and report their experiences in using the VLE, we expect that they mention aspects of usability to meet students’ and teachers’ needs and aptitudes. Therefore, the data obtained will also contribute to design improvements. Besides that, it will be possible to understand how learning takes place from the insertion of the VLE and its impact on teaching quality. In this way, the VLE will be opportunity to foster teacher and student participation and to create spaces for discussions and exchange of experiences and knowledge. We presented and described the proposal of blended learning experiences in a VLE in IA to establish the bases of comparison for the next studies. Different aspects of basic education and teaching methodologies are potential objects of inquiry in different educational segments. We intend that our reflections on teaching and learning digital contexts will gain prominence when we identify and understand new forms of interaction and communication, creating knowledge-building opportunities in everyday school life. Reflect upon building and implementing a VLE in different segments of education brings about the consideration of different spheres of teaching and design. Up to the current stage, we have reached some provisional findings about the different levels of formation in basic education, graduation and post-graduation courses. In general, we notice that most teachers are not well prepared to include the VLE in their pedagogical practices. They tend to underutilize the technical resources (for instance, use it as a digital repository of texts) instead of promoting more meaningful teaching practices that meet students’ needs in a digital era that requires new social practices. Especially to basic education students, the individual differences demand plural pedagogical practices. In this sense, the VLE makes possible the use of different languages and multimodal texts, which can contribute to better learning. Besides that, the VLE minimizes the frontiers between schools and other learning spaces, since it can be accessed from different places. We strongly agree that we should promote the use of VLE despite the infrastructural and technological problems in public institutions in urban and rural areas. Brazilian continental dimensions call for the dissemination of blended learning experiences to promote intertwined practices of local and social accumulated knowledge and, thus, helping to foster means to more meaningful learning (Ausubel, 2003). OPEN PRAXIS Ausubel , D. P. ( 2003 ). The psychology of meaningful verbal learning . New York: Grune & Stratton. Borba , M. de C., Malheiros , A. P. dos S. & Amaral , R. B. ( 2014 ). 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Retrieved from http://portal.mec.gov.br/seed/arquivos/pdf/legislacao/ refead1.pdf Romiszowski , A. J. ( 2005 ). Online learning: are we on the right track ? In G. Kearsley (Ed.). Online learning: personal reflections on the transformation of education . New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications. Shulman , L. ( 1986 ). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching . Educational Researcher , 15 ( 2 ), 4 - 14 . https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X015002004 So , H.-J. & Bonk , C. J. ( 2010 ). Examining the roles of blended learning approaches in computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL) environments: A Delphi study . Educational Technology & Society , 13 ( 3 ), 189 - 200 . http://www.ifets. info/others/abstract.php?art_id=1072


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Inés Gil-Jaurena (ed.), various authors. Open Praxis vol. 9 issue 1, Open Praxis, 2017, 1-120, DOI: 10.5944/openpraxis.9.1.615