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Presented at the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) World Conference for Online Learning in Toronto, Canada, October 2017.
This study addresses a gap in the available literature by exploring how discourses around open education have evolved over time. Understanding how individuals conceptualize openness over time can provide insight into the trajectory of the open movement, enable researchers to recognize how stakeholder interest may (or may not) be changing, and allow researchers to understand interest in and motivations of the open education community.
We used Twitter posts and user profiles as data sources to identify the focal points of social media discourse around openness. By targeting sixteen hashtags related to open education created from 2009 to 2016, we were able to identify and retrieve 178,304 tweets, profile information from 23,061 users, and associated metadata. We believe this represents the most extensive dataset of historical open education tweets to date. A significant advantage of examining social media posts relative to other sources is that social media aggregates the perspectives of a diverse range of individuals including administrators, faculty, researchers, and so forth. The retrieved data were analyzed using descriptive and qualitative analysis techniques to gain a deeper understanding of the discourse surrounding openness.
Our findings show that the diversity of participants contributing to the open discourse has varied somewhat over time. However, this discourse has predominantly revolved around open resources. Despite this, there are signs that an increase in interest around pedagogy, teaching, and learning is emerging, which we believe is an important aspect of openness supporting innovation in education. Via guided discussion questions, we hope to engage participants in critically exploring the dominant discourses within the open movement and examining the reasons as to why an emphasis upon open content continues to be more prominent in the open community than open practices.