Open Praxis vol. 9 issue 4
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.
Inés Gil-Jaurena, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Spain
Beatriz Malik, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Spain
Publisher and contact information
ICDE—International Council for Open and Distance Education
0283 Oslo, Norway
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).
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Introduction to Open Praxis volume 9 issue 4
The ecology of the open practitioner: a conceptual framework for open research
Fractal: an educational model for the convergence of formal and non-formal education
Mainstreaming use of Open Educational Resources (OER) in an African context
Tony John Mays
Student Views on the Cost of and Access to Textbooks: An Investigation at
University of Otago (New Zealand)
Sarah Stein, Simon Hart, Philippa Keaney, Richard White
Learning the psychology of the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon through on-line practice
Marcos Ruiz, María José Contreras
The effects of participants’ engagement with videos and forums in a MOOC for teachers’ professional development
Fernanda Cesar Bonafini
Effect of Tell Me More on EFL undergraduate students’ English
George Gyamfi, Panida Sukseemuang
Recognizing the expatriate and transnational distance student: A preliminary demographic exploration in the Republic of Korea
William H. Stewart
Book review of MOOCs and Their Afterlives
Introduction to Open Praxis volume 9 issue 4
Editor for Open Praxis. Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia - UNED (Spain)
Open Praxis is a peer-reviewed open access scholarly journal focusing on research and innovation
in open, distance and flexible education. It publishes 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. This last Open Praxis issue in 2017 is an open issue
that includes eight research papers and one book review. 14 authors from Australia, México, South
Africa, New Zealand, Spain, the United States of America, Thailand and the Republic of Korea have
contributed to the different sections.
The first two papers deal with conceptual frameworks and models that can help to understand and
improve educational practices.
In the first paper (The ecology of the open practitioner: a conceptual framework for open research),
Adrian Stagg from the University of Southern Queensland (Australia), after explaining the relevance
of local context to interpret open educational practices and introducing Bronfenbrenner’s approach,
uses his ecology of development levels to show how it can be used as a framework to undertake
research to deeply understand OEP. In the first stages of an ongoing study, the author has applied
the framework in four Australian universities.
In the second conceptual paper (Fractal: an educational model for the convergence of formal and
non-formal education), Larisa Enríquez from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, considering
the challenges that universities currently face, presents a model for flexible education that deals
with fours dimensions: student-centered teaching, concept-based curriculum design, heutagogy and
openness. In an iteration mechanism, this leads to a fractal model. The author provides two examples
of application of this model and defends its usefulness to improve education.
The next two papers relate to educational resources, one focused on OER and the other in
In the first one (Mainstreaming use of Open Educational Resources (OER) in an African context),
Tony John Mays from University of Pretoria (SouthAfrica), presents a case study in a Kenyan university,
framed in a wider research that included other African countries and institutions in the exploration of
the transformative potential of OER. Using an interpretive and participatory methodological approach,
the author explains the research process and findings in detail, and highlights the importance of
aligning the introduction of OER with the overall institutional vision and mission, if willing to become
In the second one, Sarah Stein, Simon Hart, Philippa Keaney and Richard White [Student Views on
the Cost of and Access to Textbooks: An Investigation at University of Otago (New Zealand)] present
a survey-based study focused on affordability and accessibility behaviours related to textbooks,
undertook in a face-to-face university where traditional (hard copy purchased) textbooks are the
main resources used in the courses. Their findings challenge other studies’ results, and the authors
express the need to listen to students’ voices and reflect about the changing nature of information
The next three papers address the study of three online educational practices and explore their
effects on students’ learning.
In the first case (Learning the psychology of the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon through
on-line practice), Marcos Ruiz and María José Contreras from Universidad Nacional de Educación a
Distancia - UNED (Spain) report about an experimental study in a distance course, where students’
performance in the final exam was compared considering their previous participation in an online
practical lab focused on a specific content included in the “basic psychology” course study program.
The positive results encourage integrating more online apps and practice in the courses.
The second case (The effects of participants’ engagement with videos and forums in a MOOC
for teachers’ professional development), by Fernanda Cesar Bonafini from The Pennsylvania State
University (United States), focuses on MOOC-Ed, presenting a statistical study about the learners’
profile and factors that predict completion. In this particular MOOC, the number of videos watched
was not significant to predict completion; and engagement in discussion forums was. The author
highlights the implications of these results.
The third case (Effect of Tell Me More on EFL undergraduate students’ English Language
achievement), by George Gyamfi and Panida Sukseemuang from Prince of Songkla University
(Thailand), describes the use of an asynchronous online learning system (TMM) and its effect in
the students’ proficiency in English. Initial placement in any of the four levels, progress and final
achievement were measured through online tests, and the study shows the improvement considering
the different levels, as well as the role of the time devoted to the program.
Closing the research papers section, William H. Stewart from Gangnam-University of California
Riverside (Republic of Korea), in his paper Recognizing the expatriate and transnational distance
student: A preliminary demographic exploration in the Republic of Korea, attempts to recognize a
specific type of students in the distance mode, different to the international student, and focuses in
the case of South Korea to describe their profile. He also highlights difficulties encountered when
undertaking this research about a yet quite unknown population.
Finally, the issue includes a review, by Daniel Domínguez, of the book MOOCs and Their Afterlives:
Experiments in Scale and Access in Higher Education, edited by Elizabeth Losh and published by
the University of Chicago Press in 2017.
In this issue 4th issue in 2017, we specially thank all the reviewers who have collaborated in the
four issues in volume 9. Their names and affiliations are listed in the full issue and in the journal
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
The ecology of the open practitioner: a conceptual framework
for open research
University of Southern Queensland (Australia)
Open Educational Practices (OEP) have gained traction internationally over the last fifteen years, with individuals,
institutions, and governments increasingly interested in the affordances of openness. Whilst initiatives, policies,
and support mechanisms are evident, there is an ever-present danger of localised contexts being unintentionally
unrecognised, which has a negative effect on mainstreaming the practice sustainably. This paper presents a
conceptual framework for open research based on Bronfenbrenner’s’ Ecology of Human Development (1979)
and asserts that it is through an understanding of complex influences and contexts of practice that strategic
and operational processes to enable open education are manifested. It presents the framework through the
lens of an emerging research project examining the experience of OEP in four Australian universities which will
apply the framework as a guide for not only survey and interview question design, but also data analysis with
the aim to inform broader policy development locally and nationally.
Keywords: open educational resources; open educational practice; theory of ecological development; higher
education; academic development; affordance theory
The term Open Educational Resources (OER) has been researched for fifteen years. Over that
time the Cape Town Declaration and the Paris Declaration have reached an international audience,
operationalised by global progress in institutional and national policy, legislation, funding initiatives,
research projects, conferences, symposia, and communities of practice. Despite this, awareness
and capacity-building remain two of the seemingly indefatigable barriers to widespread engagement
with Open Educational Practice (OEP).
The position of OEP has been at the nexus of educational change as it relates to teaching practice,
teaching resources, and the role of the student and teacher in an open and connected learning
environment. As student and teacher context and prior experience is accepted as an integral part
of constructivist, and connectivist pedagogies, so too should this inform the sustainable, embedded
transformation that open education promises.
This paper will propose a framework that aligns Bronfenbrenner’s ecology of human development
(1979), and Sperber and Wilson’s relevance theory (1995), and situates the resulting framework
within the context of open academic development. It is suggested that by examining the practitioner
from an authentic perspective, more effective understanding of the key stakeholders in OEP will
be possible. The ‘authentic perspective’ sought is one informed by actual, lived practice that
recognises the effects of enablers and barriers within an individuals’ environment. It seeks to do
so concurrently with an examination of the value proposition of openness in a global educational
environment that provides a rationale for engagement with OEP to accompany the proposed
framework. Finally, the application of this conceptual framework is considered as it relates to an
emerging research project.
Open educational practice: a question of context
Whilst the promise of OER has been equity of access to education, to reduce the associated
costs of education, broader participation and opportunities, and opportunities to raise the quality
of education internationally, the priorities for OEP differ by geographic region. The results of an
international community of practice across nine geographic areas
perceived priorities for resource investment to support OEP (Table 1). Whilst there are some areas
of common concern, very few of the priorities are listed in consistent order. This is unsurprising
when one considers that each geographic region has differences in culture, education, infrastructure,
access, and equity of education.
respRoengsieonnuamndbers Priority 1
Sub-Saharan Africa Awareness
Latin America &
Caribbean (n= 28)
South & West Asia
East Asia (n=15)
The Pacific (n=14)
Central & Eastern
Arab States (n=8)
Note that only priorities that were identified by at least 50% of respondents were included in this table.
Whilst ‘awareness raising’ was identified as a key issue by many stakeholders, issues such as
copyright, quality assurance, research, and even policy were not well represented. When the data
is aggregated by stakeholder type
(D’Antoni, 2008, p. 25)
, the three highest ranked priorities for
higher education institutions are research (81%), learning support services (74%), and awareness
raising (71%). Capacity development is ranked fifth (66%) and communities and networking is ranked
eleventh (of twelve, at 54%). The aggregate data presents a very different priority focus. Table 2
shows the representation by region in the response count. In the aggregate data, North America and
Western Europe account for 52% of respondents, whilst others are represented significantly lower
such as Arab States (2%), The Pacific (4%), and East Asia (5%). The contextual differences between
each region make the aggregated data problematic for international strategies, but when viewed by
region, an actionable list becomes more apparent.
Latin America & Caribbean
South & West Asia
Central & Eastern Europe
In order to gain traction globally, open education resources, and OEP need to focus on enabling
reuse and repurposing for localisation of education. Creative Commons and Public Domain licensing
remain key levers for this process, but providing resources in non-proprietary formats (rather than
assuming access to software) is an essential part of a sustainable movement. It is this reliance
of proprietary formats that have hampered reuse in Sub-Saharan Africa (Muganda, Samzugi &
Mallinson, 2016) for example, and a criticism of MOOCs (Godwin-Jones, 2014) which had previously
promised to reach new learners. The considerations that drive repurpose-enabled resource and
learning design only arise from a combination of awareness raising and regard for the context of
other practitioners. Discounting the role of context in open education, however, implicitly empowers
a very different, marginalising agenda.
Almost a decade has passed since the publication of these research findings, but more recent work
reinforces geographic differences in open education adoption. Latin America still focuses on capacity
development and policy implementation as government policy making education mandatory and free
does not have universal traction, and expenditure on education does not show marked increases
(Toledo, Botero & Guzman, 2014). The capacity of teachers to improve the quality of education,
especially in Argentina, Chile, Columbia, and Uruguay, remains a priority for action, as does the
development of models for creation and dissemination of OER (Toledo et al., 2014), and general
awareness-raising (Torres, 2013). Brazil’s government has actively invested in open education,
open science, and open government initiatives (Pena, 2015) in response to citizen expectations for
transparency, accountability and affordability.
African researchers report similar needs for awareness-raising and capacity building (Mtebe &
Raisomo, 2014). A 2016 survey (Muganda et al., 2016) found evidence of a strong desire among
educators to work with OER, driven by challenges in effectively purchasing and disseminating
commercial proprietary learning resources. The priority for community (as noted in the D’Antoni
outcomes) has acted as a mechanism for partnerships such as the Open University UK (Mtebe
& Raisomo, 2014), and the active participation of OER Africa (2016) in the higher education
environment. Recent research conducted in Turkey (Islim & Cagiltay, 2016; Islim, Koybasi & Cagiltay,
2016) mirrors the findings for Eastern Europe; again showing that awareness-raising (this time
focused on students), and perceptions of quality and standards were particularly salient. In direct
contrast though, Turkish Faculty responded that the greatest priority for action was the protection of
their intellectual property rights, and establishing incentives for (re)use of OER (Kursun, Cagiltay &
Across these regions, it can be reasonably argued that similarity remains in articulated priorities,
despite nearly ten years of OER research and practice. This demonstrates that local context is still
critical to understanding OER and OEP; that is, a universal approach is neither appropriate nor
beneficial for increasing the traction and acceptance of open education globally. The affordances of
openness, therefore, are interpreted locally, and the practitioner environment mediates the ability of
the individual to fulsomely engage with OER and OEP.
The role of context
The term ‘affordances’ is used interchangeably with ‘opportunities’ in higher education; most often
when describing educational technology. Open Educational Resources (OER) are no different.
Tracing the term back to Gibson’s (1977) work is useful as it reinforces the need to reconsider
language, or at least, purposefully understand and consistently use language meaningfully. Gibson’s
lens was ecological physics, stating ‘the affordances of the environment are what it offers animals,
what it provides or furnishes, for good or ill (1977, p. 68). That is, the ‘combination of properties’
(p. 67) found in an environment or component of that environment are judged by the inhabitants
of the environment, who ultimately ascribe worth or value. As each species of animal occupies an
environment niche, pre-existing conditions first need to be evident to support the species to occupy
the niche. The pre-existing conditions, therefore, enable the affordances, and also shape ease of use
of these affordances.
In the same way, pre-existing conditions need to exist in an educational environment (and the
levels will be explored using Bronfenbrenner’s work as a lens in the next section) for the affordances
of OEP to be judged as ‘worthy’ or valuable’ by practitioners. The extent to which an affordance is
evident, or perceived as such, is entirely dependent on environment inhabited by the practitioner.
For example, the pre-existing condition of reliable, stable Internet access enables global sharing of
resources. The Creative Commons licence is another pre-existing condition.
When this ‘combination of properties’ (Gibson, 1977, p. 67) is realised, the affordances of OEP,
namely accessing existing resources to save time and build on the work of others, and sharing local
content, become apparent. If one has access to Creative Commons licensing, but an unreliable
(or inaccessible) Internet connection, the affordances are interpreted differently –and the resulting
action– is likewise different. Obviously, the above example is simplistic in its failure to recognise
awareness levels, individual alignment with open philosophies, technical proficiency, pedagogical
and licensing support, platforms to enable sharing, and even the presence of policies that support
(or act as a barrier to) sharing.
Furthermore, Gibson explicitly references the environment as shaped by humans to yield certain
affordances, especially as they relate to making life easier and more controllable. In the same manner,
OEP advocates seek to alter their environments, whether by policy, strategy, or support, to make the
environment more ‘hospitable’ to OEP. Interestingly, Gibson does note that in making changes to the
environment to benefit one species, others are either disadvantaged, or their survival becomes more
difficult. This manifests as a commercial reality for entities that rely on closed or controlled access
to proprietary sources of information –such as privatisation of research outcomes, and textbook
publishing models– thus positioning free culture and open education as counter-movements to
All of these ‘conditions’ form part of a larger contextualised ecology of practice – thus leading to
Engagement with Bronfenbrenner’s’ ecology of human development and its application to OEP is
predicated on value propositions of education requiring articulation prior to an exploration of the
Firstly, if we accept the integral role of context in not only OEP, but in education globally, it is
accompanied by a commitment to the notion that each educator and learner applies their own
experiences, assumptions, knowledge, and values to an educational encounter. Paolo Freire’s
pedagogy of the oppressed (1997) notionally rejects education as ‘banking’ – that is, that students
are ‘empty accounts’ that are enriched only when the teacher makes a ‘deposit’ (of knowledge).
Freire argued that accepting the banking metaphor was tantamount to ‘dehumanising’ the learner by
actively discounting and devaluing their existing knowledge and experience in favour of prevailing
information (which he linked to education as a tool of the oppressor). Constructivist and connectivist
pedagogies explicitly build upon this position by actively applying student-centred learning design.
Secondly is the somewhat problematic nature of semantics in the open education discourse.
‘Adoption’ of open practice has become part of the vernacular to describe the process whereby
a practitioner accepts (‘adopts’) OEP; with an implied outcome of transforming practice to include
openness. A more realistic description would be ‘engagement’; wherein a practitioner explores OEP
through the lens of their own context. The outcome of engagement is conceptual and practical
alignment between aspects of OEP and the practitioners teaching approach, mediated by influencing
It is possible to repurpose a definition of student engagement and propose that a higher education
‘the time and effort that practitioners put into their teaching practice, that leads to experiences and
outcomes that constitute success, and the ways an institution allocates resources and organises
professional learning opportunities and support services to induce staff to participate in, and benefit
from such activities’ (adapted from Garrison & Vaughan, 2013, p. 27).
The way in which practitioners are engaged with OEP, and how the institutional factors influence this
will be discussed further in this paper.
Bronfenbrenner’s work was heavily influenced by Wilhelm Dilthey who stated that generalised laws
of psychological process were impossible, and instead argued for a descriptive psychology that ‘would
capture the unique complexity of the individual with all its idiosyncrasies’ (Bronfenbrenner, 1979,
p. VIII). Bronfenbrenner sought a middle ground of descriptive and explanatory psychology, believing
that explanations of behaviour ‘are to be found in interactions between characteristics of people and
their environments past and present’ (1979, p. X). Rather than seek ‘truth’ in laboratory settings,
this approach advocated for understanding/comprehending/studying the enactment of behaviours in
authentic settings underpinned by the belief that one’s environment is part of an overlapping, complex
ecology that includes four distinct inter-connecting systems (described below). This complexity is
observed as the inter-relationships between the practitioner and the broader environment (such as
whether the local environment permits open practice); discrete parts of the environment (such as
the interaction between government proprieties and educational funding); and even between the
practitioner and aspects of the environment (such as how national research agendas can be linked
to government funding, and how these two agendas then influence the publishing behaviour of an
Whilst the ecology is equally as valid for describing the student experience this paper will focus on
the practitioner only. The inter-relationship of practitioner and ecology is expressed at four distinct
• Microsystem. These are the inter-relationships present in an individuals’ most immediate
environment - including peer relationships and the personal working space – that impact on a
• Mesosystems occur when two or more microsystems interact and an individual is able to
correlate these systems. This could be in terms of expectations of others in the setting, or
behavioural norms between settings. Whilst the conceptual bridging can often provide an
individual with a sense of shared role across the microsystems, conflict can occur when an
individual perceives that two entirely different roles from two distinct microsystems are now
present in a single mesosystem – leading to a crisis of role identity.
• Exosystems are the larger forces that have an (often) indirect influence over the individual.
Institutional policy, expectations for graduate outcomes, requirements of professional
accrediting bodies, and changes to work environment or structure are all examples of exosystems
encountered by academic staff.
• Macrosystem are the highest tier of the ecology, representing culture, socio-economic status,
typology of country (such as developing, developed, industrialised, and semi-industrialised).
The macrosystem is a societal construct of shared values, history, and identity, and can be
altered or reconstructed through generational change.
Each level has inter-dependencies and inter-relationships that influence an individual’s practice,
assumptions, values, and ability to conceptualise change and development. In an educational setting,
all four levels of the ecology informs the practitioners approach to teaching and learning, and frames
their response to enhancing, transforming, or challenging their own practice. For OEP researchers,
the ecology becomes a map of influencing factors providing a macro- and micro-view of an institution
and how OEP may distinctly manifest (or develop) under those conditions, and how perceived role
aligns with openness.
What is development?
The focus on the ecology levels (systems) acknowledges that developmental change is predicated
on a change of role for the practitioner –whether actual or perceived– which is supported by
the open education literature. Once empowered by a model of scarcity, higher education (and
education more generally) has needed to adjust their role as information resources become
both easily-accessible, and freely available. One such approach, the ‘pedagogy of abundance’
(Weller, 2011) is founded on changing economic models that are outmoded due to abundance,
and non-economic models such as teaching practice. Previous models of education privileged
the centrality of the ‘scarce expert’ (p. 226) who was responsible for the provision of
informationas-knowledge (akin to the aforementioned ‘banking metaphor’ of Freire). This teacher-centred
pedagogy has been challenged by information digitisation and broader access; the result being a
repositioning of the teacher in the educational space. Approaches such as connectivist pedagogy
(Siemens, 2013) is an example of student-centred learning and teaching which presents a
catalyst for re-positioning the teacher – often from creator-of-content, to curator-of-content, and
guide. In part, connectivism was a response not only to the digitisation of resources, but also the
availability of OER.
When a practitioner experiences examples of open practice, this alone can be a catalyst for change
in role, as Bronfenbrenner states that ‘active engagement in, or even mere exposure to, what others
are doing often inspires the person to undertake similar activities on her own’ (1979, p. 6). The
success of these endeavours is contingent on the presence of supportive networks or processes
that both present in the meso-, and exo-systems within the ecology and, are valued by the culture
or subculture. Thus, the role of mediating artefacts (Conole, 2009), or those people and resources
that can explicitly articulate, contextualise, and support open practice (whether as library guides,
websites, access to learning designers, membership in a network), becomes integral to successful
change and development.
Development is influenced by the ability to correlate a range of settings and apply these settings
to one’s own environment. Sperber and Wilsons’ (1995) relevance theory asserts that individuals
always try to seek relevance in any setting (and thus establish value), and that they will usually
expend as little energy as possible (a path of least resistance) to assimilate relevant knowledge
into practice. Recognition of the epistemological, contextual, and situational value of change is
part of the evolving nature of teaching experience; with relevance as a driving force for individual
change in teaching practice. Thus, any type of professional learning support for open education
needs to be purposefully and deliberately aligned with the micro-, meso-, and exo-systems of the
ecology to maximise relevance, although there is space in this model to acknowledge that
macrosystems will influence priorities and desired outcomes for professional learning. Traction for OEP is
therefore established through relevance-making, and value proposition. The latter can be reasonably
argued as part of relevance-making, but assumes different guises at each level of the ecology,
that is, institutional policy-makers may ascribe a different value on openness at the strategic level
than practitioners seeking the operational value of openness. When viewed through the lens of
professional learning, this applies ‘contextual positioning’ (Amundsen & Wilson, 2012, p. 109-110) to
development initiatives. This positioning chooses to focus on activities that will lead to ‘improving or
enhancing an instructor’s individual teaching practice versus activities that engage faculty in teaching
enhancement as a socially situated practice’ (p. 109), and that support is identified and implemented
for individual use.
Bronfenbrenner describes development as ‘a lasting change in the way in which a person perceives
and deals with his environment’ (1979, p. 3; gendered language retained from the original text).
Mindful of this definition, support, relevance-making, and value all become part of a sustainable
change in practice – which is not possible without an understanding of context, or the ability to create
Reshaping reality: OEP as aspirational reality
Bronfenbrenner was influenced by Piaget’s notion of child development as a series of
rationalisations between the self-constructed imaginative world and the ‘constraints of objective
reality’ (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, p. 10), and that this internal environment is in a constant state of
refashioning to become more compatible with achievable reality. The highest form of development,
he argues, is the ‘growing capacity to remould reality in accordance with human requirements’
(1979, p. 10). This stance is mirrored by Gadamer (1989) in the construction of ‘the lifeworld’
(that an individual is the product of history and culture) that he asserts exists not only as an
individual reality, but as part of a communal whole. The lifeworld is therefore influenced by, and
able to influence, broader reality. A concurrent, cyclical development process is thus possible as
the individual undertakes internal development (such as capacity- and knowledge-building that
may alter values and priorities) that allows greater agency for external development within the
achievable reality. That is, new realities are more achievable as a result of internal development
The role of individual and communal realities is an important touchstone for OEP as it is
not just the individual’s ability to conceive changes to their reality (and the means by which
to achieve them), but also the positioning of openness. It could be argued that if openness
is presented as a too radically ideological reality, it dis-incentivises engagement. Presenting
OEP in combative terms (i.e. ‘the battle for open’) or as a ‘disruptive’ idea that will lead to the
destruction of traditional education systems may be counter-productive to gaining traction in
A more strategic approach for OEP to gain a significant foothold in higher education is
one designed around achievable, local aspirational realities, coupled with opportunities for
professional learning and support – all of which requires contextual understanding for success
Ecology, development, and reality: applying Bronfenbrenner an OEP research
Thus far, this paper has established –based on context– the need for a deeper understanding of open
education practitioners (both emerging, and established) environments of practice and the manner
in which these environments act as enablers and barriers to OEP. The ecology of development has
been leveraged as a mechanism for articulating and exploring contextual influences on practice, as
well as the role of constructed and mediated realities in development. This approach privileges the
role of contextual focus for strategic and operational initiatives related to OEP and provides a lens for
communicating the value of openness in higher education, and will be enacted (as described below)
by the author as part of emerging research.
The role of the conceptual framework is to organise the aspects of inquiry contained within the
research project as a way of representing them to an end-user, or reader (Antonenko, 2015). It
provides purposeful articulation of the phenomena to be observed, and in whom they will be observed.
Additionally, it seeks to represent (often visually) theory that demonstrates alignment between the
phenomena to be researched, and the methods employed to do so (Ravitch & Riggan, 2012), as a
foundation for empirical research.
Table 3 provides a sample representation of the data sources within a proposed survey that are
linked to the levels of ecology. Each level provides a conceptual ‘boundary’ for data, but these are
porous boundaries due to the relational nature of the influencing factors. When applied to the author’s
emerging research on the Australian higher education (HE) experience of OEP, an analysis of the
influences on engagement with OEP is sought to establish ‘institutional identities in openness’ across
four case study sites.
The case study sites have been selected as a mix of metropolitan, and regional; research-focused,
and teaching-focused, and a selection of those teaching primarily on-campus, as well as those
teaching primarily online cohorts. Each of these characteristics describes a type of institutional focus
and environment that may demonstrate differences in the engagement with, and value proposition of,
OEP. It is initially hypothesised that even within a single country; contextual differences will be evident
based on the key characteristics of the participating institution.
Level of ecology
Alignment with survey questions
Age, length of time employed in the HE
sector, professional or academic staff.
Degree level taught, primary mode of
teaching, ‘ownership’ of course design.
Awareness of open resources within
their discipline, influence of commercial
publisher resources in course design,
types of material included in course
Institutional policy, disciplinary
requirements, accrediting professional
• Demographic questions
• Who has the decision-making power
over the resources included in your
• Please tick from the list the types of
self-authored resources included in
your course (examples include but are
not limited to videos, eBooks, textbooks,
recorded lectures, study guides).
• Please tick from the list the types
of commercial publisher-authored
resources included in your course
(examples include but are not
limited to videos, eBooks, textbooks,
recorded lectures, study guides).
• Does your institution have policies
that support openly licensing your
• What mechanisms or resources are
in place at your institution to support
open practices? (select from a list
including but not limited to general
websites, librarians with specialist
knowledge, copyright officers)
High-level barriers to OEP engagement, • Please select from the list any
national policy, disciplinary culture. barriers you have experienced to
open practice (list includes but is not
limited to access to internet, access
to technology, no support within
the discipline for openness, lack of
access to specific software packages)
The case study method will be used as it supports the investigation of a phenomenon in context
(Yin, 2014), rather than seeking an artificial divide between context and activity. It is applied when
the researcher approaches continuing phenomena situated in complex circumstances and to
examine the behaviour of groups within a particular structure (Yin, 2014). The method therefore
directly supports studying and comprehending the complexity of contextual open practice. Whilst
previous studies (Bossu, Bull & Brown, 2015) have examined the Australian OEP environment, this
was undertaken at the ‘exosystem’ and ‘macrosystem’ levels only. This study uniquely contributes
to an understanding of OEP by examining the impact and inter-relationship between all systems in
the ecology in order to propose processes for guiding OEP initiatives that recognise and operate
alongside local practices.
Analysis of the survey indexed against the ecology levels is anticipated to illuminate areas for
further investigation through semi-structured interviews with practitioners, referred to by Gillham
(2000) as ‘the most important form of interviewing in case study research (p. 85). As the research
is positioned to inform change and improve engagement with OEP, the ‘methodology of friendship’
(Fontana & Frey, 2008, p. 117) is intentionally aligned with the desired outcomes. Arising from Kong,
Mahoney and Plummers’ (2001) work, the methodology of friendship assumes that the neutrality of
the interview as data collection is compromised by complex contextual factors; thus the interviewer
takes ‘an ethical stance in favour of the individual or group being studied. The interviewer becomes
an advocate and partner in the study, hoping to be able to use the results to advocate social policies’
and change in practice (Fontana & Frey, 2008, p. 117). As openness contains an ideological
component, and the author is dispositionally empathetic to openness, this method pragmatically
frames the interview component for this research. The research design intentionally embraces the
idea that ‘the more methods we use to study [practitioners], the better our chances will be to gain
some understanding of how they construct their lives and the stories they tell us about them[selves]’
(Fontana & Frey, 2008, p. 152).
It is this deeper emerging narrative of OEP that is sought by engaging with, and implementing this
This conceptual paper forms the model for emerging mixed methods research of the Australian
higher education experience of OEP. The conceptual model informs and is interwoven in the mixed
methods approach for this research, with explicit links to all questions in the initial survey and the
semi-structured interviews that form the secondary data collection phase. A case study approach has
been selected for four Australian institutions to provide a deep understanding of individual cases as
a basis for a broader meta-analysis. Over the course of this research, the conceptual model will be
tested, refined, and re-presented as part of the overall research outcomes. It is suggested that such
an approach is transferable across the sector (and to other geographic regions) as it is inherently
disposed to revision and repurposing based on context.
Context is the foundation for understanding teaching and learning practice, and the influences on
practitioners are evident at varying levels of a complex ecology. In order to gain momentum, OEP
must be positioned in such a manner as to offer a value proposition to practitioners, whilst incentivising
change of practice. Successful implementation of any OEP strategy requires a fulsome understanding
of this ecology to present achievable aspirational reality shifts for the sector, institutions, faculties,
and individual staff, whilst concurrently operationalising support mechanisms to purposefully engage
practitioners in professional development related to OEP.
Presenting OEP as a direct threat, challenge or radical reconceptualization of teaching role is
counter-productive, but institutions should instead seek approaches that are consistent with
incremental change aligned with institutional and individual values in education.
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Open Praxis, vol. 9 issue 4, October–December 2017, pp. 375–386 (ISSN 2304-070X)
Fractal: an educational model for the convergence of formal
and non-formal education
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México - UNAM (México)
For the last two decades, different authors have mentioned the need to have new pedagogies that respond
better to current times, which are surrounded by a complex set of issues such as mobility, interculturality,
curricular flexibility, accreditation and academic coverage. Fractal is an educational model proposal for online
learning that is formed by four basic elements that allow higher education institutions to advance in four different
dimensions: teaching, knowledge, personal development and access. The elements that make up the model
are: student-centered teaching, concept-based curriculum design, heutagogy, and openness. The present
work describes the educational model and two possible applications of it in the area of Education, thus giving
rise to an option that could transform the curriculum of a degree, while integrating in the formal environment of
online education, the space for non-formal education.
Keywords: Concept-based curriculum; heutagogy; student-centered teaching; concept domain
For the last two decades, different authors (Tünnerman, 2003; Adell & Castañeda, 2012; Bates
2015; Cobo, 2016) have mentioned the need to have new pedagogies that respond better to current
times, which are surrounded by a complex set of situations that require reflection and to re- think
about the way we educate students. In the specific case of universities, different drivers of change
(both external and internal) are identified, which demand us to consider new perspectives in order to
continue developing knowledge, understanding, research and outreach tasks that have traditionally
been developed. Among the external factors, we find demographics, technological and labor aspects
that have quickly changed the social and professional context, bringing up mobility, migration and
permanent training into the scenario. Likewise, we also find internal factors related to the daily
activities that occur within the universities. Since the end of the 20th century and at the beginning
of the 21st century, several authors have pointed out the need to adapt universities’ models to those
that are more in line with the current context we live in, considering pedagogical methods centered
on collective and self-directed work which allow, through curricular flexibility, personal learning paths
with interdisciplinary approaches that combine formal and non formal education. These methods
should also consider the strategic use of information and communication technologies, not only
to provide materials, academic counseling and the development of learning networks beyond the
formal classroom, but also to promote scientific and technological knowledge (González-Casanova,
2001; Tünnerman, 2003; Miklos & Arroyo, 2008; Redecker et al., 2011; Bates, 2011). In particular
Schuetze, Bruneau and Grosjean (2012) mention:
The old, isolated, ivory-tower university is outmoded as universities are driven in new directions.
The trend toward networks of research and learning; internationalization with its unfinished
agenda; the information and communication technologies with their potential, still largely untapped;
competitiveness and the attempt to create market niches; and commercialization have, or will have,
effects that are difficult to capture by one single uniform model (Schuetze, Bruneau & Grosjean,
2012, p. 9).
At the same time, as there are opinions and specialists who talk about the transformation
of universities, there are also experts in governance and university reform who have pointed
out the difficulties that the traditional big universities are undergoing in order to renew
and reinvent themselves since, in many cases, the internal processes that exist to modify
organizational structures and curricula are long and complicated. Having said this, how
could more flexible and open educational schemes be offered where formal and non-formal
study converged? How can we reconcile the work carried out by teachers with the students’
personal learning interests? What characteristics should educational models on which the new
universities rely, have?
Elements of a flexible model of education
As it has been said in the introduction to this paper, the challenges facing universities are complex
and it is believed that is difficult to address all of them in a single proposal. Even Enríquez (2017)
points out how this concern has led to the birth of educational proposals, some of which arise
within existing institutions that share a renewal interest while other proposals have been born
completely as new institutions, under alliances with companies or non-governmental organizations,
governmental organizations or, among institutions of education and research. Examples of these
proposals are found in MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses), Quest University of Canada
(https://questu.ca), Alternative University in Romaine (http://universitateaalternativa.ro/), University
of the People (http://www.uopeople.edu), Knowmads (http://www.knowmads.nl/), to name a few. All
of these examples have a solid foundation in curriculum flexibility, which also include some other
features such as the fusion of standardized contents with individualized content, learner-control
with teacher-control, academic community with open communities; giving in this way, solutions that
combine formal and non-formal alternatives to build knowledge (if we consider non-formal learning
as Rogers describes it).
Non-formal learning includes active, participatory, democratic, responsible, reflexive, critical
and inter-cultural elements. Non-formal skills tend to be similar to everyday life skills, or at least,
to be a means by which individuals can cope with their lives in different contexts. Non-formal
competences could be specified in terms of acting as a bridge between formal knowledge on
the one hand and informal aspirations, wishes and perceptions on the other (Rogers, in Singh,
2015, p. 38).
The educational model presented below is composed of four elements that are considered, to give
rise to advance in four specific dimensions: curricular flexibility, adaptability to the environment,
pertinence and academic belonging and, ease of access. The central elements of the model to
achieve these objectives are student-centered teaching, concept-based curriculum design, heutagogy
and openness (see Figure 1).
Fractal: an educational model for the convergence of formal and non-formal education
The reason and specific focus of each of these elements is briefly described below.
Concept-based curriculum design
It is common to find, in the traditional models of education, that the content of the academic
programs is composed by subjects or units that has generated, among other things, extensive
detailed programs that, in the vast majority of cases, isolate a topic from the others. However,
if we consider the essential concepts of a curriculum, we can optimize teaching and learning by
concentrating on deep understanding of each term which, depending on the context to which it
is translated, takes on new meanings (if we consider concepts to be cognitive units of meaning,
which arise from the interaction with the environment and the previous knowledge we have, in
the moment we relate this concepts with new ones, we can create new knowledge and even new
According to Erickson’s work, concept-based curriculum design not only reduces curricular load
in a course, but also helps to focus teaching on general and relevant aspects while making learning
methods and strategies used by students more flexible (Erickson, 2008).
Erickson herself points out that concept-based design, when it is connected with prior knowledge,
brings relevance and meaning to students’ learning while causing students to process facts and skills
departmental and/or university record keeping can benefit from a slight modification in recording
whether or not their distance students live abroad and where. In effect, the result is a blueprint that
can streamline future studies in Korea and elsewhere in the world.
Given the notable ambiguity in speaking clearly about the GDS population, this researcher developed
and proposed a taxonomy based on the student’s relationship to their host country and that of the
academic institution (Appendix A). This descriptive relationship is beneficial for two reasons since
a) it avoids socioeconomic, cultural, and/or ethnic bias which is easily observed (and exemplified) in
the argument between the terms expatriate and immigrant
(and the classifications used by Habib et
, and b) because it adequately describes the nuance central to the expatriate/transnational
distance student phenomenon. Therefore the two terms below are the foundational lenses for this
• Expatriate Distance Student: A student from country A, sojourning via a non-tourist visa in
country B, attending university online in country A.
• Transnational Distance Student: A student from country A, sojourning via a non-tourist visa in
country B, attending university online in country C.
The expatriate/transnational distance student population, though not a sensitive one, is transparent
. While census data is collected and published by the Korean Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
and Immigration Department, there is no obvious way to extrapolate the number of foreign residents
who could be expected to complete distance programs online while abroad. This makes random or
probabilistic sampling unfeasible
(Creswell, 2015; Levin & Fox; 2011)
. While data published by the
MoJ does contextualize and categorize the amount of foreign residents in Korea by visa type and age
(among other categories), and serves as an invaluable point of reference, there is no obvious way
to identify the population beyond snowball sampling. For example, as of 2015 the foreign population
of Korea was reported at 1,899,519 people or roughly 3.69% of the population
(MoJ, 2016, p. 36)
we examine residents by nationality and visa type, a more complex portrait emerges. Respondents
in this study represented four nations (Canada, the U.S., the U.K., New Zealand) however Korean
immigration only reports on Canada and the U.S. due to their relatively large number of foreign
residents at 25,17 and 138,660 respectively (p. 45). It should be noted that although the foreign
resident numbers for the U.S. are considerably larger than many nations (though only roughly 7.5%
of all foreign residents), this is skewed by the presence of the American military under Status of
Forces Agreement (SOFA) visas.
When looking at visa type and subsequent issuances, that amount can be more realistically
contextualised. The highest number of visa types (E-2) reported in this sample totaled at 16,144
for all eligible nationalities combined
(MoJ, 2016, p. 37)
. In other words, there are far fewer U.S.
citizens living in Korea outside of the military than the numbers would suggest prima facie. More to
the point is that the number of foreign residents in Korea is at present a very small fraction of the
total population, and the nationalities represented in this study represent an even smaller fraction
of the foreign population. The challenge of estimating representative statistics notwithstanding, this
endeavor also uncovered difficulties/limitations with identifying expatriate/transnational distance
students at this researcher’s own university department’s distance program.
While students must provide addresses when applying to and enrolling in the program, many
list their home-addresses of record as a matter of convenience, not their current actual residence.
A search of the department’s database by an academic advisor produced only a single address
abroad, despite common knowledge that there were around 10 students living abroad in South Korea
currently enrolled in the program. Thus in order to recruit participants from within the department as
a matter of convenience, the survey was simply advertised on the department’s Moodle homepage.
The primary sampling plan was to announce a basic demographics survey and recruit participants
currently in South Korea. To do so, this researcher built a website to advertise the nature and scope of
study. This served multiple purposes such as acting as a simple access point for all related information,
along with indicating the initial announcement and subsequent open response period
Nonnecke & Preece, 2003; Archer, 2008; Bennett, & Nair, 2010)
. The survey was advertised on 13
internet/social media forums that cater to expatriates locally (in addition to word of mouth). Given the
context of public social media forums, it was important to establish credibility as a researcher and
research project. The website was hosted on this researcher’s university’s server, and all contact was
directed to a university email address that shared the same domain name
The design of the website also took into account advice from the literature for universal access
as it was made mobile friendly
(Andrews et al., 2003)
, and the survey tool chosen, SurveyMonkey,
specialized in conducting surveys
. Moreover, SurveyMonkey would also provide
better data security
(Barchard & Williams, 2008)
, easier logic features, and a question bank to draw
from if needed
. Several revisions of the overview page, as well as the layout of the
information were made in order to make it as clear as possible to respondents
(Evans & Mathur, 2005)
This researcher also had the survey items reviewed and piloted by several known acquaintances
who fit the definition of expatriate distance student as a formative evaluation for wording, clarity, and
to point out any discrepancies or errors
(Bennett & Nair, 2010; Burford et al., 2009; Morrison, Ross,
Kalman & Kemp, 2011)
. By observing and timing trial runs, the length of time needed to complete the
survey was documented and advertised as an effort to increase participation
(Andrews et al., 2003;
Archer, 2008; Sinkowitz-Cochran, 2013; Trouteaud, 2004)
The survey ultimately resulted in 25 fixed items that ranged from basic demographics (e.g., gender,
age range, area of residence) to characteristics of the academic program (e.g., level of study, location
of the program). A 26th item was an optional, open-ended text-box that allowed respondents to
add any additional or clarifying information. Equally important was recognizing the complication of
respondents potentially having completed more than one program online while living abroad. For
such a scenario, participants were asked to simply list the most recent/highest level of study and list
additional online programs such as certificates, licenses, or other degrees in the optional text box.
The survey was advertised prior to the opening date for two weeks, and collected responses
through various channels (i.e. email link, web link, embedded form) for one week following the
announcement period. Throughout the collection period, additional reminder-announcements were
made, and reminder/follow-up emails were sent to participants who signed up for the survey mailing
list in an effort to increase the response rate
(Edwards et al., 2009)
The initial response count was 38 over the seven-day collection period with 5 incomplete responses.
The completed total response rate was n=33. The most effective channels through Survey Monkey
proved to be the direct email link (19 responses) for the mailing list, with the direct web link (17
responses) that was advertised on various public and private social media forums coming in second.
The embedded survey form on the research project website was the least effective (2 responses).
Response activity was also clustered around the opening of the collection period, though throughout
the week there was a low but consistent response rate until day 6. This researcher offers the following
profile extrapolated from the data. A far more detailed presentation of the demographics is presented
in tables B and C in the appendices B and C.
• The expatriate/transnational distance student in South Korea is:
• Disproportionately male (87.8%)
• Most likely single/not-married (57.6%)
• Around 35 years old at the start/during the program (45.5%)
• Begins the program on average around 5 years of expatriation (60.6%)
• Lives in the capital-metropolitan area (81.9%)
• Studies almost exclusively at the master’s degree level (84.9%)
• Most likely to be studying online in their home-country (69.7%)
• Has no prior online course experience (78.8%)
• Has a program GPA of around/above 3.6 (69.7%)
• The program and field of employment/study are congruous (84.8%)
As an exploratory study, the primary goal was to collect and offer data that was descriptive and
indicative rather than anything generalizable to other populations, or anything predictive as was
noted in a study with similar scope and purpose conducted by Hughes in 2013. This would allow
comparison to other literature regarding characteristics of distance students, and more importantly
provide a starting point with insight and context for discussion and further exploration.
The general profile of the expatriate/transnational distance students fits the three characteristics
of the non-traditional student proposed by Bean and Metzner in 1985, but more relevantly is very
similar to the students in studies that
a/b) conducted, particularly in terms of age, prior
educational attainment, and GPA. Although the data has stated limitations from sampling methodology
and sample size, the most salient characteristic that stood out was the gender distribution similar to
MOOCs. Broadly speaking higher education statistics tend to have women students/degree earners
as a slight majority (Hoyt & Simon, 2016). Although the most recent data published by the Ministry of
Justice detailing Korean immigration statistics does not report the gender distribution of visa types,
they do provide entry numbers by gender with a majority being women at 55.6%, and by gender and
age with there being nearly double the amount of women entering Korea between the ages of 20-29
at 1,060 versus 1,908 respectively, and a slightly higher amount of women between the ages of
3039 at 1,243 to 1,452 respectively
(MoJ, 2016, p. 24)
Although these numbers vary from year to year and age bracket to age bracket, there is a large
disparity between that of foreign male and female entries. The results for expatriate/transnational
students cannot be generalized without the caveat of them potentially being grossly inaccurate, but
the gender ratio is definitely not reflected by Korean Immigration statistics
, or general
higher education statistics
(Hoyt & Simon, 2016)
. It is possible that they are mostly male for reasons
that are unclear; but this requires more data. Moreover, if universities and/or departments tracked
these characteristics, there would be an additional point of reference to compare against local
immigration statistics, especially if relying on a sample selected from a single university/department.
This researcher has provided a two-way chi-square test to examine the likelihood of a relationship
between categorical data; and in this particular case, gender, in table 1. This is appropriate since it
does not assume “a normal distribution in the population nor interval-level data”
(Levin & Fox, 2011,
. A basic cross-tab and chi-square analysis suggests that the following potential relationships
are statistically insignificant. This researcher offers the reminder that the focus of this paper, however,
is on offering the conceptual taxonomy, a practical research method, and highlighting future research
avenues and issues more so than an emphasis of the results given the small sample size.
The chi-square statistic is 0.0606. The p-value is .805539.
The second preliminary data point that stood out was student age. Nearly 55% of respondents
reported being older than 35 within the ranges of 35-44 and 45-54 being the most prominent.
and Metzner’s (1985)
criteria for the non-traditional student all apply (i.e. classified as a part time
student, not living on campus, and being older than 24) but arguably to a degree far beyond what was
originally imagined, even in the case of graduate students. Living in a different country with a different
language and culture for years is arguably quite different from not living on campus. Nonetheless,
additional chi-square tests in table 2 suggest some statistical relationships but also reveal the
challenge of having low cell counts in several categories.
Levin and Fox (2011)
noted that the counts
per cell should not be too small, although exactly what this threshold should be depends on a number
of factors. Notable again was the gender distribution. According to the Ministry of Justice (2016), as
of 2015 there were more women entering the nation than men for comparable age categories.
χ2 = 4.536, df = 3, χ2/df = 1.51, P(χ2 > 4.536) = 0.2091
Expected values are displayed in italics
Individual χ2 values are displayed in (parentheses)
Moreover related to age was the length-of-time abroad when students decided to enroll in online
programs. It is not widely known what the average length of expatriation is in South Korea but
this researcher suggests/speculates from personal experience (having lived nearly a decade
incountry) that two to three years is probably the most common. Respondents that have lived in
country for a decade or more are quite interesting from this researcher’s perspective as it is unclear
as to what the impetus is to complete a graduate degree at such a later point in time. This is
detailed in table 3.
χ2 = 9.246, df = 5, χ2/df = 1.85, P(χ2 > 9.246) = 0.0996
Expected values are displayed in italics
Individual χ2 values are displayed in (parentheses)
A fourth point that was surprising was the uniformity in the degree of study. In order to have the
visas listed (in most if not all cases), an undergraduate degree is necessary. Thus, studying at
the master’s level is completely logical. Yet, for those that already had master’s degrees prior to
expatriating to Korea, there are only two instances of doctoral level study, and reasons for this are
not forthcoming. However, there were few instances of licensure or certificate programs, or doctoral
level study. Some respondents noted that a certificate of some kind was completed as a component
of their master’s program, or in addition to it (given the structure of the survey, it was included in the
optional comments section). Graduate or professional certificates may not be valued as much as a
full degree is. As noted earlier, while master’s level study is logical, there is no obvious reason why
those who came to Korea already possessing graduate degrees are not pursuing additional or higher
levels of study such as a doctorate, especially if they work in higher education.
A brief explanation of the visa categories is described below but not all statuses necessarily have
a direct relationship to any particular employment industry. This is exemplified with the F categories
of visa, and to a much lesser degree with the E category. Broadly speaking, the visa classifications
that participants held are described below, with an additional set of chi-square analyses in table 4.
• E1 - University Professorship
ο While this is required for official designation as a professor, many working for Korean
universities do not necessarily hold this visa and are designated assistant professors or work in
other non-credit programs. In practice, this is not necessarily adhered to and circumvented
with the E2.
• E2 - Foreign Language Instruction in Conversation Only
ο As noted above, in practice this visa status is should granted solely for instruction in
conversational aspects of a foreign language, although practically speaking many work in areas
beyond the scope of the designation (e.g., writing instruction).
• E7 - Specialized Skill
ο This researcher is personally mostly familiar with E-7 visas for international school teachers
(i.e. licensed content area teachers), though other jobs like copy editing or programming
can qualify under this broad (if not vague) designation.
• F1 - Visiting relatives for an extended period of time
ο An ethnic Korean who is not a Korean national might be visiting parents, grandparents,
siblings, etc. who are citizens for a period greater than 90 consecutive days.
• F2 - Long Term Residency Visa (merit based)
ο This is a merit/point-based visa that, among more germaine requirements, requires
significant Korean language skill. Holders of this visa are not restricted to any one area of
• F4 - Ethnic Koreans who are not Korean citizens
ο This visa is often obtained by members of the Korean diaspora around the world who have
originally never had Korean citizenship, or whose family left Korea as a minor, or gave it up
to maintain/obtain a different nationality. Adoptees also qualify under this designation.
• F6 - Marriage to a Korean citizen
• H1 - Working Holiday
Chi-square = 5.64 Degrees of freedom = 7 Probability = 0.582
In briefly scanning the types of programs students were enrolled in, they are almost entirely related
to education, which is congruous with the visa categories. Additionally, the geographic distribution of
students in the various Korean provinces also reflects the regular population distribution within Korea
with about half of the nation residing in the capital (approximately 10 million) or the surrounding
metropolitan area (an additional 13 million).
Although this study is a proverbial first step into uncharted territory, it has provided three pillars
for future research to build on in the form of a student definition and taxonomy for global distance
students, experiences from with a practical research methodology along with limitations/suggestions,
and a discussion of avenues for future research below. Globalization has challenged the traditional
relationships between nations and people, and with greater patterns of migration and access to higher
education, there are new relationships to consider and explore in the domain of distance education
and the students therein. The hope is that this paper provides the distance education community with
a better way to address distance students as a whole, and more effectively identify and address their
needs. Moreover, universities and departments can better tailor programs to meet the needs of such
students or simply market their programs more effectively. For example, in the field of education, the
Korean context presents a number of challenges to the application of inquiry based learning or
selfdirected. learning given that this not the norm in Korean education. How western-based education
departments understand or address this for expatriate/transnational distance students remains to be
seen. Other legal compliances such as the American FERPA or COPPA do not exist in this context.
Similar regulatory/statutory content may ultimately prove to be less useful from a practical standpoint,
among other significant differences in how the education system functions, and the perpetually limited
roles and influence that expatriate/transnational students have in it as working professionals. This
goes far beyond the pedagogical implications for learners that Selinger (2014) described.
Other more germain requirements like degree authentication through apostilles and notarization
regulations are required in Korea and presumably other comparable requirements exist elsewhere.
The question is whether or not universities, their departments, and support services are prepared
to accommodate these unique needs that otherwise do not necessarily exist for national students.
First was the unexpected difficulty of identifying distance students under this categorization from
within a known database (i.e. a department database), in addition to recruiting participants from
an in-situ population locally. These hurdles necessitated the use of non-probabilistic
respondentdriven sampling that limited the ability to obtain more data in the form of a larger sample, as well as
broader applicability. However, as noted by
in relation to a similarly small sample of
25 participants with international students, “the findings are intended to be descriptive and indicative,
rather than predictive or generalisable” and to offer “personalised, contextualised insights” (p. 139).
This paper has discussed the complexity and nuance of the global distance student population by
clearly articulating a definition of the expatriate and transnational distance student. This distinction
highlights this phenomenon’s absence in the literature, as well as the more than likely unintentional
but problematic biases in other definitions. The findings presented here provide a first look at
how the expatriate/transnational distance student is manifested in South Korea through a simple
demographic lens, along with their related academic programs. From this vantage point, both the
expatriate and transnational distance student fall in line with other descriptions of distance students
in the literature, but also raises questions for which there are no clear answers. The insight and
context are meant to serve as a starting point for further investigation to address these questions,
and explore others not currently asked. This is envisaged in not only the Korean context, but at a
regional, and global scale as well.
There are numerous opportunities and avenues for future research. In a local context, possibilities
include expanding the sampling scope within South Korea through more active participant recruiting
methods in addition to having a much longer announcement and data collection period. This should
more effectively address the relatively small sample size in this study. The demographic study can
be replicated in other countries to see if there may be trends among the expatriate and transnational
distance student population in national, regional, and global scales, or if there are disparate
characteristics from host-nation to host-nation.
The sample collected in this study indicated a significant disparity in the gender ratio, but without
more data, it is difficult to suggest this is accurate. This scale at which this trend occurs can further
be explored. The potential for future qualitative studies such as phenomenological inquiries would
give voice to this particular group and provide deeper insight in the essence of a being an expatriate/
transnational distance student that is not widely known. Additionally, exploring why foreign residents
are opting to attend university in their home countries when earning a local degree would not require
the authentication process that is required by the Korean government for visas and the Ministry of
Education for Korean nationals who have earned degrees abroad. Yet as this study indicates, there
are students willing to incur the extra work and complexity for reasons unknown.
Exploring aspects of isolation would be interesting as well since distance students living in nations
with cultures and languages that are different from their own may compound the online isolation
often described by distance students more broadly. There is no clear data, either, on the success/
attrition rates of this particular population that would yield insight on why either result is the case.
While the sample here reported significantly high GPA’s, how many do not actually complete their
programs and why? Such data could inform university, department, and/or program policies, provide
better guidelines for academic support staff, or offer suggestions for instructors to adapt curriculum
and/or pedagogical approaches for such students.
Moreover, given that local academic opportunities exist in Korea at all academic levels, often with
generous scholarships for foreign residents, it is not known why students are choosing to study
elsewhere. In this particular study, the majority of degree programs were focused on master’s
degrees in language education and reputable, nearly 100% scholarship granting programs are
offered locally in English in the same field! As distance students, numerous opportunities exist to
explore technology specific issues as well such as self-regulation or self-directedness in a virtual
environment situated in a foreign culture. In short, there is a virtually limitless horizon to explore and
numerous future discussions to have.
This researcher hopes to start that discussion by providing a taxonomy to identify and describe
expatriate and transnational distance students in a way that is practical, equitable, and globally
applicable, share experiences of expected challenges that may be proactively addressed in light of
this study, and to inspire the distance education community to explore national, regional, and global
trends that are intrinsic to the expatriate and transnational distance student phenomenon.
Table A: Proposed Concepts and Definitions
To encompass all subcategories of international, expatriate,
and transnational distance students
A student who requires a student visa to attend the institution
A student who is designated as an international student by
proxy of citizenship that is different from that of the institution’s
country. No visa is needed to attend online and the student
resides in their home country of citizenship.
A student who does NOT require a student visa to attend the
institution onsite by proxy of another non-tourist sojourn status
(e.g., working visa, residency visa, dependant visa).
A student who does NOT require a student visa to attend the
institution at a distance by virtue of having the same citizenship
as the the institute, and sojourns abroad with a legal non-tourist
status (e.g., work visa, residency visa, dependant visa).
A student that lives in a geographically dense or deliberately
connected group of nations where commuting to country C is
possible, while living in country B, and having citizenship from
country A. (e.g., the EU). A visa may or may not be necessary
for student status.
A student whose nationality is different from both their current
legal residency, and neither have a visa or citizenship of
the institution they are studying at (i.e. a national of nation
A, sojourning via a non-tourist visa in nation B, attending a
university in nation C). They are designated as an international
student by the institution but have local non-tourist sojourn
Age while completing the
program in country
Visa status during the
Geographic location within
Number of prior earned
degrees (Bachelor’s and
Prior distance course
Principal industry of
Length of expatriation
in Korea at time of the
Average number of courses
taken per semester
Grade point average
of the program
Type of institution
Level of study
Cost of program in
(1 million won = app.
Length of academic
Table C (Continues...): Characteristics of participant’s academic programs
Academic program characteristics % of total
B. Information Science & Technology 3
Ed.D. Literacy, Culture, & Language Education 3
Ed.D. Educational Technology 3
DELTA Certificate 3
Teacher Licensure 3
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Open Praxis, vol. 9 issue 4, October–December 2017, pp. 483–484 (ISSN 2304-070X)
Book review of MOOCs and Their Afterlives
Losh, E. (ed.). (2017). MOOCs and Their Afterlives: Experiments in Scale and Access in Higher
Education. University of Chicago Press. 384 pages. ISBN: 978-0226469454.
Reviewed by: Daniel Domínguez
Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia – UNED (Spain)
What was once known as open and distance learning is now
almost entirely incorporated into the conceptual framework
of massive open online courses (MOOCs). It is well known
that MOOCs are not always courses, nor always open, nor
always massive. There are a wide variety of MOOCs, making
it difficult to establish a clear definition according to course
type. Nevertheless, MOOCs currently serve as a frame of
reference for discussing digital education. This book attempts
to enlighten the reader about the MOOC phenomenon by
carrying out a rigorous exploration of this conceptual and
applied amalgam. The aim of this book is to carry out a
review of the experimental work carried out in the field of
digital learning. The information included should assist the
reader in identifying what are known as the “afterlives of the
The editor’s main achievement was to categorize cases
and experiences according to theme. The chapters found in
“Part 1: Data Driven Education” focus on issues of scale.
Scale has historically been a significant challenge for open
& online learning experiences. In the early years of distance
education, scale was considered to be double advantageous. First, distance courses initiatives
facilitated access to learning, mainly in higher education, to a greater number of people. And also,
the scalable organizational methodologies simplified course management and institutional logistics
through incremental processes that could respond to the demands of a growing number of enrolled
students. These two approaches now add a new one, related to the management —also “scalable”—
of the data generated in digital learning practices. Here too, the scale functions in two directions. On
the one hand, information analytics facilitates the provision of personalized learning services to large
and heterogeneous groups of students. On the other hand, by receiving direct attention, smaller
groups of students can benefit from knowing about behaviour patterns that have been elucidated
through data science techniques. This section may be of interest to designers of institutional courses
for large groups of students (xMOOCs?) and instructional design professionals.
The chapters in “Part 2: Connected Learning” cover connected learning experiences and delve
into the learning theories that are applied in the design of MOOCs. There are varying approaches to
“connectivity” in the different education theories. One approach gives rise to “connectivist” MOOCs,
which are based on Connectivism Theory. Some courses, however, are based on Connected
Learning. These rely on peer collaboration, are guided by student interest, and are open to a network
of community actors. Examples of both approaches can be found this section.
“Part 3: Openness and Critical Pedagogy” covers alternative theoretical approaches that give rise
to practices that have a cross-conceptual basis. This cross-conceptual approach is observed in the
case of feminist and critical theories, which encourage the creation of peer communities that reject
the figure of the professor/instructor and seek alternatives to the traditional banking and industrial
models of knowledge dissemination that are characteristic of conventional digital distance learning
environments. Cross-conceptual approaches are also seen in theories that are centred on opening
up the didactic process and community participation in course development.
The book ends with “Part 4: The Pathos of the MOOC Moment” and “Part 5: MOOC Critiques”.
These sections deal with some of the problematic aspects of the emergent field of MOOCs from a
variety of perspectives. Some of the subjects covered are: the perceived paternalism associated with
the digital universalization of education, the paradoxical feelings students have of isolation versus
companionship when studying in digital spaces, and the externalization of education, which can lead
to the platforms and data falling into the hands of profit-seeking corporations. The subjects covered
in this section are quite diverse, perhaps too diverse.
In summary, this book reflects the current state of MOOCs, their doctrines, their potential, and
the questions they precipitate. This text will be especially interesting for education professionals
interested in designing and participating in an open online course. This book should also interest
educational institution administrators that want to expand their field of action into the terrain of the
Internet or who want to innovate online experiences that are already in place. The principal value of
this book is that it allows the reader to understand the current reality of open and distance learning,
a reality that has already gone beyond MOOCs.
Papers are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Open Praxis, vol. 9 issue 4, October–December 2017, pp. 485–486 (ISSN 2304-070X)
List of reviewers 2017 (volume 9)
In alphabetical order
Bernard Nkuyubwatsi, EUCLID University, Rwanda
Ebba Ossiannilsson, Ossiannilsson Quality in Open Online learning (QOOL) Consultancy, Sweden
Brenda Padilla Rodríguez, Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, México
Nicola Pallitt, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Michael Paskevicius, University of Victoria, Canada
Luis Pedro, University of Aveiro, Portugal
Ayesha Perveen, Virtual University of Pakistan, Pakistan
Juliana Elisa Raffaghelli, Istituto per le Tecnologie Didattiche - CNR, Italy
Fernando Ramos, University of Aveiro, Portugal
Kristen Rebmann, San Jose State University, USA
Octavio Reyes, Universidad Virtual del Estado de Guanajuato (UVEG), Mexico
Silvar Ribeiro, Universidade do Estado da Bahia, Brasil
Vivien Rolfe, University of the West of England, United Kingdom
Du Ruo, The Open University of China, China
Mohsen Saadatmand, University of Helsinki, Finland
Thomas Salmon, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa
Ramesh Chander Sharma, Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia, India
Saunand Somasi, Indira Gandhi National Open University, India
Stefano Stefan, University of California, Irvine, USA
Christian Stracke, Open Universiteit (OUNL), The Netherlands
Chryssoula Themelis, Lancaster University, United Kingdom
Gemma Tur, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Spain
Inge de Waard, Open University, United Kingdom
Sukaina Walji, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Egbert Weisheit, Studienseminar Gymnasien (Teacher Education College), Kassel, Germany
Muhammad Zaheer, Virtual University of Pakistan, Pakistan
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