A vehicle for educational change: Exploring faculty perspectives on adopting openness as a core design principle

There is a growing body of research that suggests the use of open educational resources (OER), and more specifically open textbooks, leads to a lower cost for students with generally no negative impact on their ability to attain the same learning outcomes (Hilton, 2016; Wiley, Williams, DeMarte, & Hilton, 2016). While studies on OER and open textbooks are growing in number, there is little known about programs designed with openness as a core design principle. Using a case study approach, this research explored the perceptions of faculty as they designed and delivered graduate level courses in an online MA program that had openness as a core value. In this program, openness has been adopted as a design principle, predicated on the philosophical stance that open practices lead to collaboration and the development of a digital mindset that values sharing and cultivates networked learning; as such, open practice informs decisions at both the program and course levels. At the program level, open spaces have been designed which allow students to focus on personalized areas of inquiry; at the course level, resource curation, and renewable assignments are used.
A qualitative investigation into faculty members’ perspectives was undertaken, with focus groups, interviews, and surveys being used to collect data. An inductive approach was used during data analysis, with themes emerging from the data. The preliminary findings revealed several tensions: reaching a common interpretation of openness, the challenges and benefits of openness within the context of an online learning community, and considerations for the development of safe learning environments. These findings inform the development of support structures for faculty and students as they work in the open, and provide insights into the benefits and challenges of designing and delivering open courses and programs.
Hilton III, J. (2016). Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Educational Technology Research and Development.
Wiley, D., Williams, L., DeMarte, D., & Hilton, J. (2016). The Tidewater Z-Degree and the INTRO Model for Sustaining OER Adoption. Education Policy Analysis Archive