University of Tasmania
Final Thesis - STAGG.pdf (6.23 MB)

The ecology of open educational practices in Australian higher education: a practitioner-focused mixed methods study

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posted on 2024-06-11, 03:41 authored by Adrian Stagg

Research concentrating on open education often focuses on the processes of production and storage for open educational resources (OER), methods of learning design and instruction (open-enabled pedagogies), barriers and enablers to practice, or the resulting outcomes for students such as cost savings or achievement. Practitioner-focused research tends toward narrow scope and circumstance and is usually concerned with bounded activities that do not holistically capture the practitioner-in-environment, or explore the localised effects of environment on practice.
Engagement with open educational practices (OEP) is predicated on a complex web of inter-connected, and inter-dependant factors and situating the practitioner in an environment of practice – henceforth the Ecology of Open Practice – provides an opportunity to deeply explore the influences (both positive and negative) that affect individual and institutional manifestations of OEP.
This research uses a mixed methods approach, administering a quantitative survey and applying initial analysis to qualitative semi-structured interviews with key staff at three case study sites. The resulting thick description from active practitioners, coupled with institutional history, policy, and procedure documentation, learning and teaching practices, and partnerships provides a case site narrative through which the Ecology of Open Educational Practice emerges. The resulting ecological framework provides a rationale for localised practice, and identifies both opportunities and challenges for each site.
Commonality emerged across the case sites, particularly relating to practitioner values as underpinning practice, the degree to which practitioners exhibited open fluency, the mediating effects of support for OEP, the role of policy, and the state of the national higher education landscape as it affects local learning and teaching. The major themes were mapped against Bronfenbrenner’s Ecology of Human Development (1979) to provide a framework for each site.
The approach employed by this research is a transferable framework for understanding OEP, and its strength lies in unearthing contextual factors. The research is situated in the Australia higher education context, yet nothing impedes implementation in other settings or countries. Bronfenbrenner’s work has not previously been applied to OEP, but the outcomes of this research articulate and illustrate its use as a framework for deep inquiry.
Arising from this research is a reinforcement of the inter-connectedness of institutional and national influences on OEP, and the limitations of siloed, isolated initiatives to support OEP. Policy implementation without communication or embedded support, institutional strategy that causes values-based dissonance for practitioners, learning and teaching support mechanisms demarcated – and disconnected - by organisational unit lines, and government?mandated performance-based funding models inconsistent with the values of higher education all emerged as influences present at the institution, yet ineffective and inefficient due to a lack of coherency across institutional teams and stakeholders. Open educational practices – situated within the Ecology – require an acknowledgement of a wider stakeholder base as the effects, support for, and outcomes of OEP permeate the institution. Ultimately, this research takes the stance that OEP in higher education is ‘everyone’s business’, and provides a framework for authentic engagement with long-term activities to build flourishing ecologies of open practice.



  • PhD Thesis


xiv, 343 pages


School of Education


University of Tasmania

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