Mediating open education: popular discourses, situated policies and institutional practices for participatory learning

Alevizou, Panagiota (2010). Mediating open education: popular discourses, situated policies and institutional practices for participatory learning. In: Media Communications and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) Annual Conference, 6-8 Jan 2010, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom.



Recent advances in ICTs have enabled educational institutions to rethink and experiment with the ways in which they conduct learning using digital social media. Meanwhile, various initiatives within the Open Education Resource (OER) movement have been launched since the early 2000s, to create building blocks that would engage educational, cultural institutions and ordinary publics in providing access to, and repurposing of, free content, ranging from courseware to academic resources, from pedagogical designs to instructional learning archives (e.g. Atkins et al., 2007; OECD, 2007; JISC, 2009). With several well-known – yet distinct – initiatives continuing to purport a mission of education as a ‘public good’, and current thinking as well as emerging UK and international policy agendas on education shifting from the idea of simply providing access to content, towards the notion of creating ‘Open Participatory Learning Ecosystems’ (e.g. Seely-Brown & Adler 2008), the mediation of open education requires further theoretical exploration.

Combining notions of ‘institutional mediation’ articulated by activity theory (e.g. Engeström, 1993; Engeström et al., 2003) with sociocultural perspectives (e.g. Thompson, 2005; Silverstone, 2005; Livingstone, 2009) the paper considers the meaning of Open Educational Resources (OERs) as participatory learning media (cf. Dalsgaard, 2008). Drawing on textual analyses, and a number of interviews with stakeholders from higher education institutions, policy advocates and members from popular community initiatives, a working typology of OERs is proposed. The paper argues that the multiple articulations of ‘mediated learning’ and (global) ‘learning media’, framing the socio-technical affordances and OERs, hinder many tensions pertaining the definition of openness, the nature of participation and indeed the purpose, legitimacy and quality of such resources.

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