Open Praxis vol. 9 issue 1
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:
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Table of Contents
Brief report on Open Praxis figures and data (2016)
For whom, and for what? Not-yetness and thinking beyond open content
Amy Collier, Jen Ross
Lay Theories Regarding Computer-Mediated Communication in Remote
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
Michael Troy Martin, Olga Maria Belikov, John Hilton III, David Wiley,
Measures of student success with textbook transformations: the Affordable
Learning Georgia Initiative
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)
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/
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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  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
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. . .
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
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
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)
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
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
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
(Percent) per section (Percent) per section
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
(Percent) per section
(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
(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
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;
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
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 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,
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’
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
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
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
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
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
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