Markus Deimann, FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany
Conference Theme: Innovation
Summary: This paper attempts to introduce a methodological perspective on current models of Open Education
Abstract: The growing availability of Open Online Resources offers new and innovative possibilities for learning and teaching. Examples are the Peer-to-Peer University for individual learners or the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) for large groups (and of course for individual learners). Whereas practical guidelines and recommendations are widely produced and disseminated by well-respected institutions such as UNESCO (“Mainstreaming Open Educational Practice”) or by individual experts (e.g., Stephen Downes with http://halfanhour.blogspot.com), there is a considerable gap concerning methods to investigate educational effects of Open Education (for an example of first attempts to investigate complex open online environments see Kop, Fournier, & Mak, 2011). Against this background, this paper outlines a methodological framework that is targeted at some of the core contexts of Open Education. The framework will be complied by referring to a theoretical approach that has not yet been applied to Open Education: Bildung (self-cultivation or self-realization) that has a long and elaborated history in German educational theory. Given the high complexity of Open Education, in particular the MOOCs (see Bell, 2011) it is argued that learning theories cannot provide adequate explanations to inform learning and change. Moreover, the complex learning environments that emerge by utilizing Open Educational Resources warrant qualitative methods to trace learning paths, to unfold challenges and benefits, and to determine specific outcomes. Such a method is called reconstructive social research (Bohnsack, 1999) and is based on Alfred Schütz's (1971) definition of scientific categories as "second degree constructs", which carry out a re-construction of those "first degree constructs" formed in people's social environment. In this sense, reconstructive social research is involved in a reconstruction of implicit stocks of knowledge and the rules of social behaviour. The reconstruction or explication of communicative rules sheds light on how processes of retrieving, aggregating, and sharing of knowledge take place within Open Education. Related to this approach is a strong emphasis on generating theories in contrast to testing existing theories. An exploration of the reconstructive method will be conducted in the context of the MOOC #change11 with an analysis of different medial artifacts such as blog postings or tweets of individual participants. Special attention will be given to the development of orientation within the complex and unfamiliar environment that ensures follow up with one's goals. This relates to the overarching challenge of dealing with indeterminateness and ambiguity that has been debated in the theory of Bildung over the last few years (Jörissen & Marotzki, 2008).