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Identity and engagement in networked Open Educational Practice

Identité et engagement dans des pratiques éducatives ouvertes en réseau
Katerina Zourou


Les ressources éducatives libres (REL) sont au cœur du mouvement mondial de l'éducation ouverte (Open Education), qui préconise un meilleur accès à des ressources ouvertes et favorise les opportunités de formation/apprentissage qu'elles offrent. Afin d'exploiter le potentiel des REL, la recherche actuelle met l'accent sur les pratiques éducatives ouvertes (Open Educational Practice), en tant qu'utilisation (ou réutilisation) de ressources ouvertes dans des contextes d'enseignement-apprentissage.

Cet article explore le rôle joué par des réseaux sociaux dans le déploiement de la pratique ouverte et l'impact de ces pratiques sur les identités professionnelles. Il met l'accent sur l'engagement des utilisateurs dans les pratiques ouvertes médiées par les technologies numériques et les médias sociaux ainsi que sur la manière dont cet engagement affecte la compréhension de sa propre identité professionnelle. On entend par "pratiques ouvertes" celles qui impliquent l'usage des REL et non pas toute pratique dans un espace ouvert, telle que celles médiées par les médias sociaux. De plus, la désignation "engagement des utilisateurs" (user engagement) concerne à la fois les pratiques opérées individuellement (resituer, élargir, ajuster/adapter les REL existantes (dans) à de nouveaux contextes d'apprentissage, etc.) mais aussi collectivement (interaction entre pairs autour des ressources, etc.). Enfin, l'expression "pratique éducative ouverte en réseau" correspond aux pratiques éducatives ouvertes médiées par les technologies numériques et par les médias sociaux, car il s'avère à l'heure actuelle impossible de séparer les réseaux sociaux des technologies d'Internet.

Une enquête a été menée auprès de 18 experts sur les ressources ouvertes dédiées à l'apprentissage des langues, dans le but de mieux comprendre les processus et les formes d'implication(s) des utilisateurs dans les pratiques ouvertes, le rôle que peuvent jouer les technologies numériques et sociales et l'impact de ces pratiques sur les identités professionnelles qui émergent de l'implication (ou au contraire de la non-implication) dans les pratiques ouvertes en question. En outre, cette contribution relie les résultats obtenus à l'enquête mentionnée ci-dessus à la littérature relative sur l'ouverture de soi à l'autre, à la production et au partage de connaissances par plusieurs types d'utilisateurs engagés dans les réseaux sociaux en lien avec les pratiques ouvertes ainsi qu'aux dynamiques de construction identitaire au sein de l'éducation ouverte.

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We would like to thank the experts who agreed to reply to the survey (names in no particular order–they do not coincide with the numbering in the survey): Gosia Kurek, Linda Bradley, Sylvi Vigmo, Kate Borthwick, Tita Beaven, Anna Comas-Quinn, Teresa MacKinnon, Alannah Fitzgerald, Shona Whyte, Carl Blyth, Cristobal Cobo, Sarah Pasfield-Neophytou, Barbara Sawhill, Ed Dixon, Fred Riley, Christian Ollivier, Ana Beaven and Ania Skowron. The analysis of expert views is the responsibility of the author and not the experts themselves. This study is part of the European co-funded project LangOER (Learning and Teaching Less Used Languages through Open Educational Resources,, work package 6 (OER and challenges for language learning). This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

An Open Educator is by nature a networked educator

(M. Weller, in Nascimbeni & Burgos, 2016)

1. Introduction

1It is over a decade since the term Open Educational Resources (OER) was coined at the 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education, with a growing interest shown by several types of stakeholders (practitioners, researchers, policy makers, public and private players). In this paper, we adopt the UNESCO definition endorsed in the Paris OER Declaration (UNESCO, 2012: 1), according to which OER is defined as: "teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions." Access to freely licensed resources is key to openness in education. Recently though research has started focusing on what happens to resources after they are made openly accessible, giving rise to a conceptual shift from OER, as mere content, to OEP, as content created, adapted and repurposed by users (Ehlers, 2011; Beetham et al., 2012; Farrow, 2015).

2This paper focuses on user engagement in open practice mediated through digital and social technologies, and ways in which it affects understandings of professional identity. "Open practice" will be understood as practice with OER (defined above) and not as practice in open spaces in general, as is the case with social media practice by professionals (Veletsianos, 2013; Kimmons & Veletsianos, 2015; Weller, 2011). Despite the great interest of these studies, this paper places OER at its centre, as OER creation and (re-)use may be considered as the most engaging, publicly articulated (boyd, 2004) activity due to commitment to content creation and repurposing. Furthermore, the umbrella term "user engagement" will be used to encompass types of practice situated at the individual level (repurpose, expand, adjust existing OER in new learning contexts, etc.) and at the collective level (peer interaction around resources, etc.). Finally, the term "networked open educational practice" is understood as OEP afforded by digital and social technologies, as it is almost impossible to separate social networks from the Internet technologies existing before them (cf. Berners-Lee, 2009; Jenkins et al., 2013).

3User engagement is a core concept in OEP. For McKerlich, Ives and McGreal (2013), user empowerment, emotional engagement and intrinsic motivation are cornerstones in enabling open practice. For Dalsgraad and Thestrup (2015), user engagement constitutes one of the three pedagogical dimensions of openness, together with transparency and communication. For the authors, OER should be situated in a broader context of pedagogical change, where openness triggers the development of genuine educational practices that interact with society; engagement is thus understood not in the strict sense of individual or peer engagement but as the connection of openness in education with society at large. In both studies by McKerlich et al. and Dalsgraad et al., emphasis is laid on the collective rather than the individual strand of user engagement, a feature that appears also in Wild's study (Wild, 2012) which is perhaps the one that best conceptualizes levels of engagement. These levels are: Piecemeal, Strategic and Embedded (ie optimal), and follow three "realisation steps": Understanding, Need and Reflection (Figure 1).

Figure 1–The OER Engagement Ladder (Wild, 2012: 4).

Figure 1–The OER Engagement Ladder (Wild, 2012: 4).

4Although levels of no/low and medium engagement are situated at individual level, the highest level of engagement is placed at the collective level, since for someone to reach this level "[t]here has been a major shift in a teacher's perception of who should benefit, from the initial focus on self-benefit [low level engagement] and the benefit to one's own students [medium level engagement], to benefits to the entire community [high level engagement]" (Wild, 2012: 30, our emphasis). For Wild, manifestations of this level pertain to re-use and re-sharing of resources, to the encouragement of colleagues to use OER and to advocacy of open practice. What is worth highlighting is that user engagement not only relates to OER appropriation (re-use of resources shared by others and sharing of one's resources) but more importantly it dynamically encompasses collective action at community level (cf. "advocacy") a concept that will be discussed in the next section with regard to social networks.

5The paper is structured as follows. Section 2 introduces the literature review on user engagement in social networked open practice (2.1) and on identity (2.2). Section 3 covers the context of investigation. The scope of this study and the methodology adopted are introduced in section 4. In section 5 user engagement is analyzed through the lens of three key themes (openness, user participation and network effects) and connects to the discussion on the shaping of user identities and implications for personal and professional development. The limitations of our study and a synthesis of findings are presented in section 6.

2. Literature review

2.1. Social networked open practice

6A lot has been written about the originality of social media–whether they are radically different from previous incarnations of the Internet or just a (natural) continuation of some Internet features that have developed over time (Jenkins et al., 2013). Avoiding any oversimplification, it seems that three key features, summarized by O'Reilly and his colleagues as user participation, openness and network effects (Musser et al., 2007), can be recognized as those on which social networks as a technological and ideological platform have been built (for a review of these terms see Zourou, 2012). We briefly define these terms around which the data analysis is structured.

7First, user participation is a key construct, because, as O'Reilly and his colleagues claim, "the key to web 2.0 is not just user participation, it is participation leading to reuse" (Musser et al., 2007: 30). Second, openness, is mainly defined by the horizontal structures of social networks and more generally the conceptual change of knowledge sharing and production using an open, participatory method. Third, network effects, "occur when a product or service becomes more valuable as the number of people using it increases" (Musser et al., 2007: 14). Some examples are public sharing, commenting, tagging through user-defined tags (folksonomies), the much simpler group creation and customization of social network sites (eg Ning, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora groups) than groups up until the 2000s and especially the technological enhancement of networking through features like friending, liking and recommendation systems.

8Linking these three key features to user engagement in open practice, Wild's understanding of community as the highest manifestation of engagement (see previous section), echoes several studies for which a "community" most often built on a social network, is a key enabler of open practice (Ferguson & Buckingham Shum, 2012; Rolfe, 2012). Some scholars move a step further in adopting Wenger's concept of Community of Practice (CoP) (Wenger, 1998) to highlight co-creation of knowledge and construction of a collective identity in the open. For instance, Lane, McAndrew and Santos (2009) clearly link social networking to the creation and maintenance of a CoP of users engaged in OEP and draw on collaboration practices among users in offline and online networks. Community engagement through networked technologies is also considered a high achievement in open education by Tuomi (2013), who claims that this has the potential of moving education from trans-generational vertical socialization towards peer-based horizontal social learning (Tuomi, 2013: 14). This idea echoes a general social networking trend, which is content distribution in horizontal ways and with the power of remixing various digital raw resources in new forms of expression.

9Finally, the study that best links open practices in CoP supported by social networks is by Okada et al. (2012). The study draws on the Colearn project, an experimental project based on peer interaction and collaboration among users in remote locations and engaged in shared OEP through digital and social networked technologies. Okada et al.'s study comprises all building blocks of user engagement in networked OEP, namely the collective dimension of knowledge building and sharing, the power of social networks to harness user-generated practices embodied in communities of practice, and active engagement in the life of the community. More recently, social network based CoP are considered crucial in community building within Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), (Kellogg, Booth & Oliver, 2014).

10However, due to the heterogeneity of contexts in which the concept of CoP is being operationalized, it is highly probable that the term is understood differently across contexts. In a 2016 study by Blyth and Dalola conducted on a social network (Facebook) as enabler of open practice in the language learning field, the authors claim that "participation does not necessarily lead to a sense of shared identity as typically entailed by the term 'community'" in Wenger's concept of CoP. Blyth and Dalola opt for Paul Gee's concept of "affinity space" that emphasizes the value of openness instead of connections by a sense of belonging or membership, as prevails in Wenger's concept. Schreurs et al. (2014) underscore the variety and nuances of group formations in which open practices are embodied and opt for the term "social configurations" to designate them.

Along the same lines, Conole rightly argues that the notion of tightly knit CoP is giving way to a spectrum of communities from individualistic spaces through loosely bound and often transitory collectives, through to more established and clearly defined communities. (…) Boundaries of professional and personal identity are eroding.

11In the next section, the literature review expands to include implications for identity shaping in light of this "erosion" of clear-cut community boundaries.

2.2. Identity considerations

12To define identity, we adopt Ellison's (2013: 2) view of "[i]dentity [as] a construct that encompasses the way we think about ourselves and our role in larger social environments; identity is enacted through social interactions with others and our relationships with them." In all studies discussed hereafter social networks are addressed, either exclusively or along with other digital communication tools.

13Hughes and McKenna (2012) analyse the impact of open practice on professional identity, authorship and a sense of belonging to a CoP. Participants in the study were a group of academics in the UK for whom "developing, licensing and releasing OERs represents a form of 'identity work'" and who back this up by saying that

[t]hrough writing and sharing open resources and claiming authorship of their teaching texts and materials, these academics are situating their work, establishing a teaching identity and articulating aspects of a practice that are often hidden (Hughes & McKenna, 2012: 6-7).

14Social media were included in the project configuration, participants took part in collective activities such as workshops, webinars, seminars, social networking, meetings and informal discussions, through which production of open resources was situated in a broader social context of peer learning opportunities within their institution and beyond.

15Another study worth mentioning in this context is by Perryman and Coughlan (2013). Seeking to increase impact of OEP beyond Higher Education (HE), the authors put forward a new role for academics, "the public-facing open scholar [which] involves academics working with online communities outside HE to source OER to meet the specific needs of those communities" (Perryman & Coughlan, 2013: 1). These types of practice are not without implications in shaping one's identity, especially when it comes to self-disclosure, degree of openness of practices, ownership of digital content (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012), and content sharing in the open.

16Furthermore, building on the idea that identity is a multilayered, dynamic concept, Weller (2014) claims that the multiplicity of identities is key in understanding tensions emerging around identity, as professionals operating in the open have a loyalty to their discipline, but they also work within social norms in the open community. These tensions reflect, for Weller, tensions in the education sector as a whole, fuelled by open and digital technologies for learning and teaching. In the author's terms,

the use and sharing of teaching content through OERs and MOOCs is fundamental to the identity of educators. Understanding how openness relates to identity and how it is being shaped by online practice (...) will determine the shape of open education (Weller, 2014: 143).

17He also addresses identities of educational institutions by claiming that "[i]ncreasingly, we can see that openness helps shape the identity not just of a particular university, but of higher education in general and its relationship to society" (Weller, 2014: 25). These issues will be further discussed in light of the data analysis.

3. Context of investigation

18Within the framework of the European project LangOER (Learning and Teaching Less Used Languages through Open Educational Resources), a cluster of activities is dedicated to the role of OER/OEP to enhance language interaction and peer support. Within this cluster, I conducted a survey on open educational language resources and practices by collecting viewpoints by various experts on the matter.

1918 scholars working at the crossroads of OER and Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), agreed to take part in the survey. All respondents to the survey had been involved in at least one OER-related activity (project, publication, round table discussion, etc.) with varying degrees of expertise. These scholars will be designated as experts in the remainder of the paper. They were sent an exclusively open-ended questionnaire (see Annex) and all replies were gathered between June and August 2014. Data were anonymized, with letters replacing names (E1 for Expert 1, and so on). For clarity, the number of the question concerned is shown in brackets. All extracts are verbatim.

20A first study entitled "Social networking affordances for open educational language practice" has been released on this data set (Zourou, 2016). Surprisingly, although the research scope was primarily aimed at analyzing viewpoints on openness in language teaching and learning, at the data gathering stage it emerged that the respondents also expressed a wide variety of views regarding user participation, community building and identity construction. Some concepts, such as "communities of practice," "community building" or "engagement" were recurrent across respondents, even though there was no specific question addressing these concepts. The wealth of data that emerged led to the release of this new, independent paper which contributes to the literature on OEP by highlighting the connection of user engagement and identity. This clarification also serves to justify the possible mismatch between the items of the survey (see Annex) and the data analysed in this study.

4. Scope and methodology

21The aim of this study is to explore the understandings of the role that digital and social technologies play in user engagement in open practice. In doing so the paper also addresses issues on identity revolving around OEP. This encompasses the role that social networks can play in shaping user identities (both learner and teacher identities) that emerge through participation in digital communities of users who share open resources and practices. The paper addresses two questions:

  • What forms of user engagement in open practice emerge from expert discourse and what is the perceived role of social networks in this respect?

  • How does engagement in open practice affect understandings of identity?

22The methodology adopted aims to bring to the surface the relationships, expressed as similarities and divergences, which emerge in expert discourse generated by the survey (see Annex). The paper adopts content analysis as an analytical, interpretative approach to understanding subjective realities (Mostyn, 1985; Mayring, 2000). To better structure the analysis, we borrow Lima and Lamy's (2013) approach which clusters the discursive elements around the three key social media features (user participation, openness and network effects) depicted in section 2.1. The study gives insights into expert views, firstly by categorizing expert views around the three features, and secondly by giving insights into the value of each viewpoint by juxtaposing peers' discourse.

5. Data analysis

23The analysis addresses user engagement in networked OEP (5.1) and its implications for identity (5.2).

5.1. User engagement in networked OEP

24The three key features of social media (user participation, openness and network effects, cf. section 2.1) serve as a structure for the analysis of user engagement in open practice mediated by social networks.

5.1.1. User participation

25By defining user participation as "participation leading to reuse," Musser et al. (2007: 30), lay emphasis on the social and perpetual dimensions of the process. For the authors, this can technically happen through increased discoverability of resources, emphasis on open licensing and the provision of mechanisms for aggregation and remix of resources. Interestingly, the concept of reuse is central in two different fields (social media, for Musser et al.; open practice, for Beetham, 2012, cf. section 1) but with a very similar understanding: that of user participation through social media for the former, and that of repurposing resources to cater for new learning and teaching needs for the latter. This echoes what Farrow (2015) calls the "plasticity" of openly licensed resources that leads into reflection on the iterative and collaborative nature of knowledge production. Opinions on this are presented below.

The value (of OER) will rely on the possibilities of reviewing, improving their use and that part is more closely related to the support provided by a facilitator or language enabler (native speaker, educator, etc.) (E1, q2).

OER can afford interaction by inclusion/sharing in a social context (such as G+) and being integrated in work of telecollaborative exchanges etc. Sharing possibilities should include comments/ratings etc. (Ε10, q 5).

Shift the focus to developing digital open educational practices and the uptake of authentic resources that have been openly licensed, to enable language teachers and learners to become OER creators and remixers (E11, q13).

  • 1 The respondent refers to Wiley's principles of openness, which at the time of the interview were fo (...)

I believe that OER make sense only when the rule of 4R's1 is involved so it should be not only about using or reusing the OER but also about revising and remixing them. Only then we can talk about user engagement with OER (E17, q 14).

26All respondents value OER reuse as a natural component of user participation, pointing to the dynamic (E10, E17) and social (E1, E10, E11) dimensions. They also explicitly refer to OER remix as one of the most emblematic reuse practices (E11, E17). Several studies on OER remix acknowledge these features. To mention just a few, Coughlan et al. (2013) analyse the remixing and reuse of OER by teams in two different countries and reflect on the novel forms of creative collaboration that emerged. In another study, Mallinson and Krull (2015) analyse the remix practices of two OER courses into a new OER course and analyse the potential and pitfalls of this endeavour with regard to ownership, pedagogy and sustainability. In all opinions expressed in this study, respondents almost exclusively mentioned positive dimensions of OER remix. However, for a more nuanced illustration of the potential and challenges of OER remix, Amiel (2013) delivers a critical analysis in which he raises concerns related to licensing, attribution, context and technical standards, and which completes the positive picture depicted by the respondents.

5.1.2. Openness

27Openness is mainly defined by the horizontal structures of social networks and more generally by the conceptual change of knowledge sharing and production using an open, participatory method. Three types of communities are depicted by experts: teacher communities, learner communities and communities involving both teachers and learners (see Zourou, 2016). In the data analysed, experts often refer to "communities of practice", but it is not clear whether they refer specifically to Wenger's definition (Wenger, 1998) or use the term in a broader sense. The same applies to the frequently used term "community," as there was no standard definition proposed by the survey. Caution should be exercised, as these terms do not refer to a definition common to all respondents.

What will be marginalized are static repositories which lack the social, community-based component (E4, q15).

Building a sense of community involvement and presence is crucial to [social networked OEP] and technology has to be future proof not just tied to certain networks which may become obsolete (E10, q 12).

How do we discover good resources and wade through the sheer amount on the web? Sharing within a community of practice would help (i.e. using a particular website or repository) (E2, q8).

28These extracts highlight social configurations that can enhance OEP ("the social, community-based component"). What the experts also argue for is the extrovert character of exchanges, expanded through social networks ("sharing," "(online) presence"). More egalitarian approaches to knowledge building and sharing are possible, where different types of users commit to a common purpose. In the extracts below, both teachers and learners are regarded as players able to contribute equally in OEP:

In the future, I see OER serving as triggers for greater interaction in multiple learning communities: teacher communities and student communities. In other words, social networks (or what I am calling communities of practice) are the places where learning takes place. Students and teachers must show each other how to scaffold interaction with flexible OER (E18, q12).

29The open and public character of exchanges that the respondents put forward will be juxtaposed to other experts' views on repercussions on digital identities in section 5.2.

5.1.3. Network effects

30O'Reilly's understanding of network effects ("a product or service becomes more valuable as the number of people using it increases," Musser et al., 2007: 14) coincides with some viewpoints regarding the value of social networks in an OEP context:

I think OER have a chance for expansion in especially networks with massive numbers of users because of the open-access to the content that all participants have on the network E9 (q7).

One of the main issues I see OER helping us to overcome is constant reinvention of the wheel. If a site simply consists of 5,000 uploads of a similar worksheet teaching the past tense, it is of little help to anyone - the people who spent time making things that already existed, the people who spend time looking through the uploads to find an appropriate one, etc. Resources need to be usefully curated and clustered via tagging etc. and developed into multiple iterations by a crowd (E13, q 14).

31In both extracts, the viral processes of social network sharing, affording "massive numbers of users" or "a crowd" to be reached, echo O'Reilly's concept of network effects, especially as the value of OER increases through "expansion" (E9) and social network based content curation, aggregation ("tagging") and remix (E13).

5.2. Identity conceptualizations

32Engagement in networked OEP affects user identities in several ways. For one expert,

[s]ocial networks can probably help with motivation, keeping people on task and on track, and highlighting resources and learning opportunities. They can also be a huge distraction. Some learners want to keep their social selves and student selves separate; this is barely possible nowadays, but a brake for some learners and teachers (E7, q6).

33This echoes the claim by Alevizou et al. (2010: 53) that

in terms of [open] content, the discussion of the self-referential nature of participation and self-representation is mobilized by the tensions between (…) the idea of broadcasting and sharing as part of digital identity.

34In the extract below the expert challenges easy conceptualizations of engagement in networked, publicly available OEP:

one idea I heard floated in an area of this type was for teachers to be able to rate and rank each other's resources. This I am not in favour of, as I think there is too much potential for users to become disengaged. Many colleagues still feel an enormous amount of pressure or sensitivity in relation to critique of their teaching or teaching materials - anyone who is truly invested in their teaching cannot help but be emotionally invested. A low rating on a teaching material may devastate the contributor, and it may not even be their fault (e.g. a resource intended for an upper primary class cannot be expected to work well in a tertiary environment, etc.). This sort of system does not encourage sharing but serves to make people nervous about doing so. The two concerns I think people have about sharing educational resources are 1) fear of criticism and 2) fear of not being acknowledged. As we all know, developing materials takes a long time and is often a thankless task (E13, q8).

35Goffman's concept of "facework" and impression management (1959), further extended to open, social networked practices by Selwyn (2009) and Alevizou et al. (2010), is of particular interest to OEP and connects to the Hughes and McKenna (2012) and Perryman and Coughlan (2013) studies discussed in section 2.2. For the extract above, public display of one's identity may be incompatible with academic practice. Impact on professional identities of users engaged in OEP has been addressed by Dron and Anderson (2014) among others. For these authors open sharing of content, especially in the Higher Education sector, challenges traditional models of institutional ownership of content, which of course affects the way academics perceive their role and identity in a globalized, open education context. Seen from this perspective, engagement in OEP communities is far from being a natural act. As Dron and Anderson (2014: 158-159) claim, "when one moves beyond the familiar camaraderie of the group to the open network, effective management of one's identity becomes critically important."

36The fact that sharing does not come naturally to users is recalled in the extract that follows:

it needs to be remembered that a lot of sharing and reusing is happening within certain groups of interest. In a way, all the subscribers to given content (eg the followers of a particular website/service) form a group of interest or, in other words, a community of inquiry. (…) Personally I'm a member of a few special interest Facebook groups based on the idea of sharing (eg [name of a closed group]) (E4, q7).

37The idea of networking and sharing open content among members of "certain groups of interest" ("certain" understood as "restricted") or "special interest groups" matches with patterns of OER release identified by Littlejohn et al. (2014) in their meta-analysis of nationally funded OER projects in the UK. The authors identified two main types of communities where sharing occurs: within bounded communities, where people have tight links with colleagues and learners, and open networks, with more dispersed groups of (often unknown) users. Results indicate that open networks serve to flatten the former hierarchical relationship within a Higher Education institution, a shift that is in line with open approaches to knowledge building.


this erosion of community boundaries requires new kinds of trust to be generated, in looser networks. This loss of existing community norms, along with nervousness about the technical and legal processes of release and concerns about OER quality, continues to undermine the potential for change (Littlejohn et al. 2014: 66).

39The extract above (E4) is in line with the analysis of Littlejohn et al. regarding the implications of staying within or moving to the next step, going beyond comfort zones when engaging in open practice. A very similar approach is adopted by Cronin (2014: 410) who emphasizes the need for learners (here: professionals) to practice and experiment with different ways of enacting their identities, and

adopt subject positions through different social technologies and media. These opportunities can only be supported by academic staff who are themselves engaged in digital practices and questioning their own relationships with knowledge.

40Dooly (2017, this issue), in a qualitative account on identity construction in social media, analyzes identities that Nora, a language learner, performs, and other potential identities that do not come into play due to institutional constraints. The enactment of identities (and the non-appearance of others) merits a more in-depth exploration also in the context of open professional practice.

6. Concluding remarks

6.1. Limitations of the study

41There are two limitations to the approach undertaken in our paper. Firstly, the study relies on an expert discourse analysis and lacks field data on OEP. Expert discourse serves as an explanatory lens for OEP, which despite the expertise of interviewees remains highly subjective. Second, the study is short of insights into the variety of social configurations that may occur in user engagement with open practice (cf. 2.1). Although the term "community" is reiterated in expert discourse, it is unclear how it is defined by each interviewee, what kind of possible social configurations for OEP exist, and, more importantly, which of them are considered by the experts to be critical for the expansion of OEP. This lack of data is explained by the fact that social configurations were not part of the key survey questions (cf. 3). Rather than a static representation matching types of configurations with forms of practice, an investigation of the dynamics of social configurations affording OEP would be highly valuable, as a contribution to existing literature on this topic (cf. Schreurs et al., 2014).

6.2. Conclusion

42The study analysed expert views on user engagement in networked OEP as means to overcome identified barriers to OEP expansion, and its implications for identity construction. Several observations can be made in conclusion. Firstly, identity issues were raised by experts although they were not directly addressed by the survey. This clearly calls for more research efforts with the aim of exploring identity conceptualizations emerging from OEP in a more systematic and targeted way. Secondly, the view of OEP as a shared, collective endeavour across digital networks is highlighted by the many occurrences of the terms "community" and "community of practice" as means of user engagement in OEP although terms are used differently across contexts (cf.2.1). This highlights the collective dimension in the achievement of increased engagement in OEP. Regarding social networks, the study reported evidence on their function as triggers of user interaction (5.1.1-5.1.3), but this is counterbalanced by issues regarding ownership, visibility across networks and their implications for identity construction (5.2).

43Seen more broadly, this tension documented in OEP, which resonates with previous studies on this topic, can be situated within education itself. Among professionals, the value of openness is understood differently and it triggers different types of practice, not always open. A parallel can be drawn with tensions in the higher education field (Weller, 2014), where the value of openness (materialized among others through open accreditation systems and open access to OER and MOOCs) can initiate tensions both within the institution (different mindsets regarding openness; institutional reputation) and in its relation to the surrounding world. Moving beyond one's comfort zone and usual practice when operating in the open is a complex topic that is worth exploring systematically.

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Questionnaire OEP in a language learning/teaching context: focus on interaction

Please refer to​2903#annexe

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1 The respondent refers to Wiley's principles of openness, which at the time of the interview were four, and were recently updated to five (the 5 Rs, Wiley, 2014).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1–The OER Engagement Ladder (Wild, 2012: 4).
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Katerina Zourou, « Identity and engagement in networked Open Educational Practice »Alsic [En ligne], Vol. 20, n° 1 | 2017, mis en ligne le 12 mai 2017, consulté le 05 juin 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Katerina Zourou

Katerina Zourou, Ph.D., is head of Web2Learn in Greece. She is interested in language learning/teaching from an open perspective (open educational resources and practices) and from the point of view of collaboration (collective learning) and networking (social media). She acts as project leader or partner in transnational projects such as E-lang, supported by CELV/Council of Europe, and others, financed by the European Commission, such as LangOeR, ExplOERer, Web2LLP, M-Lang and MobiLL.
Affiliation: Web2Learn, Thessaloniki, Greece.

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