Past Event details

‘Critical Perspectives on ‘Openness’ in Higher Education’

Friday, 18 November 2016

The notion of ‘openness’ is becoming increasingly important in higher education, particularly in contexts of digital education. The move towards openness in terms of educational access and process has challenges for established structures and assumptions about teaching, learning, understanding and knowing. However, it could be argued that these claims have been made at times uncritically. This session will feature three researchers who are looking at openness and social networking, featuring with critical and nuanced analyses of the open educational resources movement, the notion of open practices, and academic participation and belonging in social networks. The session will be interactive and will focus on implications for practice and future research.


Openness and praxis: Exploring the use of open educational practices for teaching in higher education

Catherine Cronin (National University of Ireland, Galway)

Abstract: Openness in education attracts considerable attention and debate. Much recent research has focused on MOOCs, open educational resources (OER), the use of social media in education, and concomitant issues related to privacy, data ownership, ethics, and equality. There has been little empirical research, however, on educators’ use of open educational practices (OEP). OEP is a broad descriptor that includes not only the creation, use and reuse of OER, but also open pedagogies and open sharing of teaching practices. This talk presents findings from my ongoing PhD research study exploring the digital and pedagogical strategies of a diverse group of university educators, focusing on whether, why and how they use OEP for teaching. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, four co-related dimensions were found to be shared by open educators in the study: balancing privacy and openness, developing digital literacies, valuing social learning and challenging traditional teaching role expectations. The use of OEP by educators is complex, personal, and contextual; it is also continuously negotiated. These findings suggest that research-informed policies and collaborative and critical approaches to openness are required to support staff, students, and learning in an increasingly complex higher education environment.


Catherine Cronin is an educator and PhD researcher at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Catherine’s main research areas are open education, formal/informal learning, digital and network literacies, and digital identity practices; she also has published research in the area of gender and technology. Her doctoral research is on the use of open educational practices in higher education. You can find Catherine on Twitter @catherinecronin, on her blog, and at


 Critical issues in contemporary open education research

Rob Farrow (Open University)

 This presentation will outline some key considerations for researchers working in the fields of open education, OER and MOOC.  Key lines of debate in the open education movement will be described and critically assessed.  A reflective overview of the award-winning OER Research Hub project will be used to frame several key considerations around the methodology and purpose of OER research (including 'impact' and 'open practices').  These will be compared with results from a 2016 OER Hub consultation with key stakeholders in the open education movement on research priorities for the sector.    The presentation will conclude with thoughts on the potential for openness to act as a disruptive force in higher education.

 Rob Farrow is Research Fellow in the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University (UK).  Rob is a philosopher and educational technologist who has worked on a range of open education research and infrastructure development projects including Open Learning Network, OER Research Hub, OER World Map, and the Global OER Graduate Network.  His work has been recognized with an Open Courseware Consortium ACE Award for Research Excellence (2014) and The Open University Engaging Research Award (2015)


. (Provisional title)

Exploring higher education professionals’ use of Twitter for learning: issues of participation.

Muireann O’Keeffe (Dublin City University)

Twitter has been celebrated as a tool for professional learning and has been adopted by many staff working in higher education to enhance learning and teaching practice. However many of the assertions about the benefits of Twitter for professional learning have been anecdotal proclamations rather than research-evidenced claims.

This presentation draws on findings from my EdD research, which explored how higher education professionals use Twitter for learning. A case study approach enabled in-depth exploration of how and why Twitter was used by professionals for learning about teaching related practices. The research found that participants used Twitter in different ways: some visited the Twitter to learn peripherally, while others participated at the centre of online-networked spaces.

These findings contradict commonly held views that open online spaces, such as Twitter, are inherently social. The research established that capacity to participate, feelings of confidence and vulnerability, and finding a sense of belonging online were contributing factors to participation or non-participation in such spaces.

These findings highlight the complexity of participating in online social spaces for learning. Thus, there are implications for those who advocate online social networks for learning. Critical thought and further discussion coupled with suitable supports are required if open online spaces are to be advocated and encouraged for learning in higher education contexts.


Muireann O’Keeffe is an educational researcher and academic developer at Dublin City University. She completed her EdD in September 2016 at the Institute of Education London, UCL, which explored higher education professionals’ use of Twitter for learning. Muireann is on Twitter @MuireannOK  


Network: Digital University
Date(s): Friday, 18 November 2016
Times: 11.00-16.00
Location: SRHE, 73 Collier Street,London N1 9BE
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Event Files
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Openness and praxis: Exploring the use of open educational practices for teaching in higher educatio
Catherine Cronin (National University of Ireland, Galway)
Exploring higher education professionals’ use of Twitter for learning: issues of participation.
Muireann O’Keeffe (Dublin City University)
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