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A model of the interplay between academic agency, institutional structure and open culture in the contribution and non contribution of Open Educational resources


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PhD research presentation GO-GN seminar in Cape Town. Glenda Cox

PhD research presentation GO-GN seminar in Cape Town. Glenda Cox

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  • Start by explaining the local contextUCTOutline empirical and theoretical gaps that I have identified andThen talk about what I plan to research and how I will go about doing it.
  • Khan academy
  • Almost 300 resources, granular- over 1000 itemsOver 300 academics have added, includes collaborations
  • I manage the OpenContent directoryMy concern is to make this work> I feel this this is the one of the best parts of my job. I think this can make a differenceOther initiatives like the OpenUCT project.
  • This the main question and three sub questions ( there are other key questions that I will mention in my method a little later)
  • Term motivators used in some of the key authors. Not necessarily one I will use.
  • Percy (2011) Exploring the barriers and enablers to the use of open educational resources by academics in higher educational institutions inAfrica. Unpublished Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) degree, University of Cape Town
  • Already used by others and it seemed that perhaps it would be useful for my purposes...
  • The activity in the system at UCT is preparing or creating teaching materials to share as OER in the OpenContent directory. Engeström et al (2010:6) clarifies that “the object is turned into outcomes with the help of instruments, that is, tools and signs”.In this triangle the Tools, are the mediating artefacts through which the object is transformed into the outcome (Figure 1). These mediating artefacts influence how the subject (s) acts on the object in order to arrive at the outcome. The subject is therefore influenced by the rules of the system, the community and also the division of labour (Engeström 1987). The community consists of all the individuals or groups who have a stake in the object of the activity system. The object therefore defines the community and helps to distinguish the community from other communities (Engeström 2001). The division of labour represents the hierarchy in the system including the power relations at play. Contradictions are historically present in Activity systems. When a new activity is introduced into the system internal ‘primary’ contradictions result in “aggravated secondary contradictions where some old element collides with a new one...” (Engeström, 2001:137). Contradictions are present and are crucial driving forces of transformation (Engeström and Sannino 2010). Articulating the location of these contradictions in the system and overcoming them can transform the activity.
  • Agency- that fine grained analysis of the individualArcher argues that it is possible to unpick them analytically. By isolating structural and/or cultural factors which provide a context of action for agents, it is possible to investigate how those factors shape the subsequent interactions of agents and how those interactions in turn reproduce or transform the initial context.
  • Importance if the agents- earlier social theorists gave structure the most power but Archer emphasises the importance of the agent to make choices.
  • Archer views individuals as “active agents” who follow a trajectory which starts with their ‘concerns’ - “those internal goods that they care most about”, which results in elaborating a ‘project’ and if the project successfully addresses the concern it is “translated into a set of established practices”(Archer 2007b, p.42).
  • Wheelehan article with the title: Blending activity theory and critical realism to theorise the relationship between the individual and society and the implications for pedagogyAnalytic dualism: While recognizing the interdependence of structure and agency (i.e. without people there would be no structures) she argues that they operate on different timescales. At any particular moment, antecedently existing structures constrain and enable agents, whose interactions produce intended and unintended consequences, which leads to structural elaboration and the reproduction or transformation of the initial structure. The resulting structure then provides a similar context of action for future agents. Likewise the initial antecedently existing structure was itself the outcome of structural elaboration resulting from the action of prior agents. So while structure and agency are interdependent,
  • Critical realists recognise the existence of an external world, independent of, and often defying, our desires of it and attempts to understand and change it (Benton and Craib 2001). Or Realists in the theory of knowledge are committed to the existence of a real world, which exists and acts independently of our knowledge of it. (B & C p.120)
  • At UCT we have seven Faculties and therefore two academics will be interviewed from each faculty. The sample will include 7 individuals who have contributed OER and seven who have not. The sampling strategy involves choosing individuals across all faculties, both male and female, from different age groups and from different academic rankings.
  • Group 1 recognise the time and effort it takes. Group 2 not willing to shareEven Policy more No’s it would not move them….
  • Transcript

    • 1. A model of the interplay between academic agency, institutional structure and open culture in the contribution and non contribution of Open Educational resources. By Glenda Cox
    • 2. Context: OER in South Africa • University of the Western Cape were the first to launch an OER directory. • SA Department of Higher Education and Training included a section on the value of OER in their 2012 Draft policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in SA Universities. • UCT OpenContent launched in Feb 2010 • UNISA has recently launched “UNISA Open” 2
    • 3. 3
    • 4. OER from UCT: OpenContent 4
    • 5. +185 000 visits 184 countries UK: 5980 USA: 21 437 Germany: 1632 India: 6010 Philippines: 2134 Brazil:1564 Australia: 1892 South Africa 91 281 5
    • 6. Why am I doing this? • My day-to-day work • The basic rational of this study is that if academics do not contribute and continue to contribute resources as part of their academic practice all Open Initiatives at UCT will fail, “without academic buy in OER has no future” ( Browne et al. 2010:5). Rolfe (2012) concludes that “central to sustainability is the community and growth of a critical mass of interested individuals” (p.7) 6
    • 7. Purpose of this research • Participation, both globally and locally is a voluntary process. • Why are academics contributing or not? At UCT roughly 320 contributors so far ( out of 1000 permanent staff and many more on contract and part time) 7
    • 8. Goals • Explain what impacts on individual choices in the “socio-cultural system” in other words in the context and also the broader realm of ideas • Aim to explain the interplay between the various complex and transforming components 8
    • 9. Research questions • What is the relationship between academic agency{Individual choices}, the institutional system {context}and open culture {ideas}and how does this impact on contribution and noncontribution of OER by academics in a Higher Education Institution? • Sub questions: • 1. Why do academics choose to, or not to, contribute OER? • 2. What aspects of institutional structure impact upon OER contribution and non contribution? • 3. How does Open culture influence academics contribution to OER? 9
    • 10. Literature focused on sharing and concerns about sharing • Studies mostly in US, Europe, UK • A handful from Africa 10
    • 11. Suggested ‘motivators’ from literature • Can be grouped under three main headings: • Altruistic: Altruistic motivations are inspired by the premise that everyone has a right to education and therefore learning should be available to all, built on a belief in sharing and culture of collaboration. • Reputational: In the case of reputational or commercial motivations the argument here is around raising the visibility of the institution thereby enhancing its branding. This can also be on an individual level • Transformational: Transformational motivations concern a fundamental change in the way education at institutions have functioned 11
    • 12. Key Concerns from literature Sustainability Systemic organisations issues: Time, copyright infringement, lack of promotion and recognition Quality: View that some materials are of poor quality Pedagogy: Some disciplines and materials not suited and OER are not interactive Personal concerns: students won’t come to lectures 12
    • 13. Key concerns Cultural Structural Individual Philosophy of openness. Technicalaffordances of the internet Pedagogy Altruism Financial-models Sustainability Legal-alternate copyright licensing Quality 13
    • 14. Identifying the GAPS Empirical Theoretical • Few empirically based, but many based on surveys & not detailed interviews • Very few studies in Africa • Some partial attempts to describe • Not compelling or sufficiently explanatory 14
    • 15. Identifying the GAPS Empirical • Rolfe (2012) suggests that the interviews are a better method of collecting data [than the survey] because if the “richness of opinion” • Ngimwa (2010) has written a report on OER readiness in Africa and says:“the question of human factors affecting this adoption still remains a big issue” • Percy (2011) suggests a qualitative study were academics are also asked the underlying feelings and attitudes towards OER and how these are affected by culture and politics. 15
    • 16. Identifying the GAPS Theoretical • McAndrew (2006) used Activity Theory as a lens to investigate how the various aspects in the adaptation of OER influence an entire system. • Hodgkinson-Williams and Paskevicius (2012) also used AT in order to understand the role of postgraduate students in adapting academics teaching materials as OER. These authors have used AT to make useful causal arguments around the university system as well as to explain individual actions. 16
    • 17. Filling the Gaps • This research will build on the pioneering work of these authors who used AT to explain the impact of OER. This research will potentially fill this theoretical gap where up to this point in time only a few attempts have been made to move beyond describing the results of interviews and surveys to explaining why academics share OER or choose not to share OER 17
    • 18. Theory • What do I need? A theoretical framework that: • enables a fine-grained analysis of the individual as well as the institutional and cultural systems within which they are located • will be able to provide descriptive and analytical tools to enable the description and exploration of barriers and enablers and how these impact upon teaching projects of the individual academics • is dialectical in its approach and able to move between the individual and the social setting • it needs to enable an explanation of change and transformation. 18
    • 19. Starting point: Activity Theory • Activity Theory enables the researcher to investigate activity within a social setting. This social setting is also referred to as the activity system. Engeström (1987) formulated a model of the structure of this system which includes the subject, object, tools, division of labour, community, rules. 19
    • 20. Pilot study (conducted 2011) • 3 academics who have contributed • 3 academics who have NOT contributed • to assess the usefulness and applicability of Activity Theory to frame and describe the barriers and enablers across various contexts within the University (UCT) system. 20
    • 21. 21
    • 22. Barriers to sharing from Pilot • The main barriers to contribution seem to be around – the rules of the institution around promotion and what is valued by the institution. – rules around the quality of teaching materials and their readiness which seem unclear and are tacit – some concerns about the pedagogical use and value of OER. 22
    • 23. Enablers: New findings from pilot • In this pilot study it seems that the altruistic belief that sharing has value (Sclater 2010a) is combined with another enabler such as increased visibility. • Other enablers of sharing includes; – the importance of the stage in career in a faculty like commerce where commercialisation is a key barrier to sharing; – the content of the resource itself is suited to sharing, this enabler can also be a barrier, in other words some content is simply not suited to sharing; – the technical ability of the lecturers who are able to record and upload their own lectures without any support from the institution is an enabler. 23
    • 24. Subjects’ role/Agency • It is not clear from this initial pilot study whether the role of the individual academic in exercising their free will is important • The three academics who are sharing were also faced with constraints that they managed to overcome because of their belief in sharing and the value they place on OER. 24
    • 25. Theory (repeated slide) • What do I need? A theoretical framework that: • enables a fine-grained analysis of the individual × as well as the institutional  and cultural systems within which they are located. • will be able to provide descriptive and analytical tools to enable the description and exploration of barriers and enablers  and how these impact upon teaching projects of the individual academics (did not test this). • Is dialectical in its approach and able to move between the individual and the social setting. x • And lastly it needs to enable an explanation of change and transformation.(Did not test this) 25
    • 26. Gap: explaining agency • It seemed from the pilot that my explanation of why academics were adding resources was limited. • I would like to explore “agency” and I feel that the well established social realism of Margaret Archer could potentially fill this gap • Archer also theorises the relationship between structure and agency 26
    • 27. Archer: Agency • An individual’s sense of self comes from what really matters to them, what we choose to invest in. Individuals can exercise free will however there are ‘degrees of freedom’ that are constrained by the social structure (Archer 1982:464). 27
    • 28. Agency of lecturers ...Individuals develop and define their ultimate concerns, those internal goods that they care about most (Archer 2007:42) Ultimate Concerns ...develop course (s) of action to realise that concern by elaborating a project... Projects Translated into a set of practices Practices
    • 29. Engeström and Archer • AT: Structure and culture • Archer: Agency and interplay between structure and agency • The two theories overlap in some ways as they are both “materialist and realist, and all focus on tool and artefact-mediated human labour as the basis of social reproduction and change and as the basis for development of knowledge” (Wheelehan 2007:5). • Wheelehan (2007) suggest the two theories should be blended in order to take into account both the individual agency and the broader workplace context and the presence of unequal power relationships in the socio-cultural context (p.5) 29
    • 30. Use both Activity theory and Archer Tools Structure Subject/ agent Outcome Object Activity system Rules DOL Community 30
    • 31. Research design • The bulk of the data will come from interview transcriptions and will be qualitative. • Some quantitative (analysis of codes and artefacts) • I am using a case study approach. The aim of these cases is : “to catch the complexity of (each) single case” (Stake 1995: xi). The study will not attempt to claim findings generalisable across all HE institutions however it hopes that the deep mining nature of the data will reveal the agental, social and cultural influences on OER contribution and non-contribution that have previously been unexplored. 31
    • 32. Sampling • 14 academics from UCT. • Purposive sampling, a non-representative subset of some larger population, (Cohen, Manion and Morrison 2007:114) will be used to identify these 14 individuals. • Purposive sampling allows the researcher to “Handpick the cases on the basis of their (researchers) judgement of their typicality or possession of the particular characteristics being sought” (Cohen, Manion and Morrison 2007:115). • The academics will each be interviewed twice with a gap of approximately one year between interviews. 32
    • 33. Method • Maxwell’s Qualitative Research Design (2005, 2011) (critical realist) • Interviews will be transcribed and then coded according to the activity theory framework which will position the barriers and enablers onto nodes in the activity theory triangle (Rules, Community, Division of Labour, Tools). • Interview questions informed by Archer’s (2003, 2007) work on agents and their ultimate concerns, projects and practice. • Coding is the main categorising mechanism in qualitative research. Coding gives the researcher a mechanism to “fracture” (Strauss 1987, p.29) the data and rearrange it. 33
    • 34. Interviews (focus 1) • First round complete- busy with findings • Focus 1 includes open ended questions asking: acedemics why they are sharing or not sharing? • Also questions around themes that have emerged in the literature 34
    • 35. Factors impacting OER Cultural Agentiall Technicalaffordances of the internet Philosophy of openness. Structural Pedagogy Financial-models Altruism Legal-alternate copyright licensing Quality 35
    • 36. Findings: Complex interplay between factors impacting OER Cultural Agential Technicalaffordances of the internet Philosophy of openness. Structural Pedagogy Financial-models Altruism Legal-alternate copyright licensing Quality 36
    • 37. Interviews (Focus 2) • Set of questions around life concerns, projects and practices • Can you describe your life projects or key goals that you would like to achieve over the next few years? • whether or no they saw ( or had seen) anything in their backgrounds which was helpful or obstructive in relation to the realising of concerns? Etc… 37
    • 38. Individual action on OER sharing Agential Pedagogy • Understand life concerns and life histories in order to understand the concerns academics have Quality 38
    • 39. Stop here…. 39
    • 40. Archer (2003) • Archer maintains that individuals have ‘internal conversations’ where they reflect on social situations in light of their concerns and ask themselves “what should I do?” • Archer has identified four forms of internal conversation which govern agents’ responses to social conditioning • These conversations she argues are the link between society and the individual, structure and agency. 40
    • 41. Four forms of internal conversation • Communicative: maintain structure • Autonomous: ambitious and seek to change structures to fit their concerns • Meta- reflexives: idealists who help others and will ignore or subvert any constraints or enablers in the structure ( Context) • Fractured: not able to have internal conversations 41
    • 42. Meta-reflexives • Usually academics ( but will have to show that) • They reflect on the process of reflecting • High ideals and serve others • Subvert constraints and enablements in their environments in order to achieve their concerns 42
    • 43. Findings: reward and policy • Would some kind of reward enable you to add teaching materials as OER? • Would a University policy enable you to share? • Both aspects in the literature 43
    • 44. Reward or Policy Reward an enabler Yes Group 1 Group 2 Total Policy an enabler Yes No No 5 whether or no they saw ( or had seen) 2 4 anything in their backgrounds which was helpful or obstructive in relation to the 2 5 1 realising of concerns 3 7 9 7 5 6 44
    • 45. Possible explanation • For these meta-reflexives incentives do not work. • They are not sharing because they have chosen not to… • Their life concerns and projects are not about sharing so for some of these academics incentives will not change their practice. 45
    • 46. Culture, Structure and Agency Why are some academics influenced by structure and culture? Why are some not? What are these academics concerned about and can we model a framework to encourage them to share? How to explain sharing and not sharing? Agents at the heart of sharing ( not extrinsic awards) 46