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Communicating, learning and the in-between: a study of the impact of open-access, informal online learning environments

By Giselle Ferreira

Abstract

1. The broad aim of this project has been to contribute understandings of the uses of computer-mediated communication in 'informal' (not leading to certification) yet institutionally-hosted online spaces. The project consisted of an investigation into engagement with communication and discussion tools provided by OpenLearn, the Open University's Open Content Initiative (http://www.open.ac.uk/openlearn).\ud \ud 2. The research focused on a selection of examples of asynchronous and synchronous communication situations within OpenLearn, including a selection of forums from the LearningSpace (http://openlearn.open.ac.uk) and various instances of synchronous communication using FM (FlashMeeting) that took place within the context of two pilot studies organised by the researcher in coordination with discipline-based colleagues. \ud \ud 3. Whilst the research was based on an action research orientation, the approach was predominantly exploratory and ethnographic methods (observation and participant observation) were used, complemented with semi-structured interviews, as appropriate. Thematic analysis was used within a grounded theory approach. \ud \ud 4. The study suggests 5 themes as core elements of engagement in CMC within an OER context: 'validation�; 'privacy�; 'trust�; 'purposefulness�; 'leadership'. The themes are mutually-dependent and each warrants more detailed investigation, and relevant topics are discussed.\ud \ud 5. In short, the study provides a contribution to enquiries on the impact of OERs in that it brings to light, from within a sample of learning situations across the 'informal�/�formal' space, a number of boundary issues concerning curriculum and, in particular, pedagogy. It suggests that a major aspect of the impact of OERs is that their availability is not only creating new challenges but also uncovering previously veiled tensions and questions regarding identity and boundaries.\ud \ud 6. A number of outputs have been generated, including two new projects that capitalise on understandings facilitated during the pilots carried out within the remit of this study

Publisher: HEA via COLMSCT, OpenCETL
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:oro.open.ac.uk:23922
Provided by: Open Research Online

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