In 2014 the University of Cape Town (UCT) began developing the first of a series of MOOCs for a global audience. Four of these MOOCs, involving six educators, were studied as part of the Research on Open Educational Resources for Development (ROER4D) Impact Study project. This larger Impact Study project was undertaken internationally to understand open education resources (OER) in developing countries. Our study focuses on whether educators’ practices become ‘open’ after creating a MOOC. It addresses the questions: Why did UCT educators want to make MOOCs? Do educators’ practices become more open after making a MOOC, and in what ways?
The research uses an Activity Theory (Engeström 2001) heuristic to locate practices in realistic contexts and observe tensions between activity systems. Drawing on Beetham et al (2012) and Hodgkinson-Williams (2014) , an analytic framework of open educational practices (OEP) was developed comprising three dimensions of OEP: legal, pedagogical and financial. The research methodology is qualitative, using semi-structured interviews, data from MOOC discussion forums and some quantitative evidence. Six MOOC lead educators were interviewed at three intervals; before their MOOCs ran, immediately after their MOOCs first run, and ten months later. Transcripts were coded using OEP and Activity Theory concepts.
Our findings offer insights about the relationships between educators’ motivations for making MOOCs, their MOOC design tools, the open educational practices that can be identified and the contradictions they experienced in making MOOCs. Despite the challenges that educators faced they largely achieved their purposes of making MOOCs and manifested legal, pedagogical and financial dimensions of OEP. The impact on educators’ open practices was observed in several subsequent projects after the MOOCs. Tensions involved in making MOOCs, adopting OER and enacting of OEP point to how educators could be better supported in future to become more open.