Higher Education

, Volume 74, Issue 4, pp 599–615 | Cite as

Learning challenges in higher education: an analysis of contradictions within Open Educational Practice

  • Heli KaatrakoskiEmail author
  • Allison Littlejohn
  • Nina Hood


Open education, including the use of open educational resources (OER) and the adoption of open education practice, has the potential to challenge educators to change their practice in fundamental ways. This paper forms part of a larger study focusing on higher education educators’ learning from and through their engagement with OER. The first part of the study was a quantitative survey investigating educators’ learning behaviour when they learned to use OER in their practice. The second part of the study explored qualitatively how educators engaged with OER and how they conceptualised their learning. Data were gathered through interviews with 30 higher education educators. This paper reports the analysis of these interviews. The analysis draws on the theory of self-regulated learning and cultural–historical activity theory to explore the challenges adult education practitioners encounter when changing their practice. The study tests the application of a framework that traces the discursive manifestations of contradictions, exploring how this framework can be used to examine different aspects of self-regulated learning as educators learn how to use OER. We have identified three distinct tensions in higher education educators’ practice: tensions between the emerging needs of the individual (as he or she adopts new forms of practice) and organisational policies; between the transfer of responsibilities from educators to students as new practice is embedded and institutional accountability; and between cost efficiency and learning objectives. The framework for the discursive manifestations of contradictions was a useful tool used to surface these apparent tensions.


Higher education educators Open educational resources Self-regulated learning Manifestations of contradictions Change in practice 



This study was conducted as part of the Erasmus+ExplOERer Project, funded by the European Commission.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heli Kaatrakoski
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Allison Littlejohn
    • 2
  • Nina Hood
    • 3
  1. 1.CRADLE, Institute of Behavioural SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Institute of Educational TechnologyThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK
  3. 3.Faculty of EducationUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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