Authors Creation Process
The first round of analysis indicated that the four authors had different incentives and goals related to a strong sense of agency. From the interviews, the three phases in self-regulated learning could be identified; forethought phase, performance phase and self-reflection phase (Zimmerman 2000). They had divergent self-regulatory processes or beliefs, such as goal setting, strategy use, and self-evaluation, but their personal initiative, endurance, and adoptive skills made them self-regulated scholars.
A variety of creation processes were applied—from being based on blogs, including dialogue with peers, to collaborative creation with peers or collaborative creation among students, with decreased scaffolding by the author. However, all authors expressed a sense of the creation process being an experience drawing on socio-cultural theories and putting ideas into action through ‘learning by designing’ that enhanced their knowledge and their ability to apply it in realistic settings, as described by Karunanayaka and Naidu (2018).
In order to better understand the authors’ experiences and motives, two theoretical lenses were combined in this study: the six knowledge typologies related to open educational practices (Hood and Littlejohn 2017) and the four manifestations of contradictions identified by Engeström and Sannino (2011).
Contradictions in Open Textbook Practices
It is evident that in the cases of contradictions related to theoretical/conceptual knowledge, the contradictions were weak (most often coded as dilemmas) and thus did not refer to agonised mental stages but to aspects of socially shared beliefs (Engeström and Sannino 2011).
The contradictions related to practical/experiential knowledge related to OEP were more severe. OEP is also known as being disruptive, leading to changes in the higher education teaching traditions and success requires expertise, time, commitment and institutional support (e.g. Camilleri et al. 2014). The authors were very aware of this and they recognised the importance of an institutional framework for quality assurance and technical support from the B.C. Open Textbook project.
The contradictions involved in the authors’ self-regulative knowledge were weak; almost entirely on the dilemma level. These contradictions were related to the evaluation of their own actions and is expected to be an effect of the fact that the authors were rather experienced. More serious are contradictions identified in relation to community-based activities. This was also the knowledge typology related to the most critical conflicts. The authors had concerns related to open textbooks’ continually being in flux and having a multitude of versions and authors, as previously argued by Camilleri et al. (2014). The authors discussed peer reviews of open textbooks as snapshots of the quality of the books, indicating that this has been discussed as problematic before (McAndrew and Farrow 2013).
They were also worried about the black boxing of learning analytics, which may be used to track the individual use of open textbooks. Learning analytics, which use the data produced during teaching and learning with digital formats, provide a way to understand and to improve learning and the learning environment (Van Leeuwen et al. 2015). This kind of formative analysis can be conceptualised as analytics for learning; however, learning analytics may also be used in ways that can be regarded as the analytics of learning. This way of using learning analytics can be seen as being intrusive or violating student privacy. In addition, some providers of learning analytics tools are commercial, and this may add to the ethical dilemma (Pardo and Siemens 2014). Säljö (2012) discussed the phenomenon of digital tools’ black boxing processing capacities because users often have little knowledge about its technical design or the programming that goes into it. On the other hand, he asked: “How far in terms of white boxing do we need to go? These questions are difficult to answer since understanding is relative to the task one wants to perform” (p. 14).
The issues raised about socio-cultural knowledge for specific workplace settings were mostly structural and related to resources and time. The authors were interested in using learning analytics to improve their teaching. Two of the four authors had tried to do so, but none could identify ways to use it for improving their teaching or the quality of the open textbook. The authors were very much aware of the risks related to the misuse of learning analytics and data ownership. They articulated their concerns for the students. Their views are in line with the results of the latest research by scholars such as Chatti et al. (2017) on the need for more research on open learning analytics.
Self-regulated Learning in Open Textbook Practices
The data support the findings by Hood and Littlejohn (2017) that authors possess multiple types of knowledge and move fluidly between the knowledge typologies. The authors found the technological aspects of the creation process straightforward and argued that the B.C. Open Textbook Project assisted with all the help they needed. The data included only a few indications of conceptual/theoretical learning, which for example can be about the legal frameworks, the quality assessment and hosting of OER. This reflects the fact that the authors are advanced open education practitioners (Hood and Littlejohn 2017) and that the interviewer was steering the discussion in the direction of a more complex understanding of OEP.
The knowledge Type 4, self-regulative knowledge, appeared rather frequently. It is the metacognitive and reflective skills that learners use to monitor and evaluate their own actions and to make sense of their knowledge. Hood and Littlejohn (2017) argue that self-regulative knowledge enables authors to shift their engagement with OER from a supplementary component of their practice to an integral element of practice, and thus support the authors’ understanding of and reflection on the value of the open textbook for teachers and learners.
The knowledge type 5 and 6, socio-cultural knowledge (community-based and workplace-based) were also rather common indicating that authors found the socio-cultural approach important, not only as a supporting network but as a community of colleagues, peers and students sharing the same interests. The OT may be seen both as a matter of fact and as a matter of concern; a critical attitude that Latour (2005) suggested for academia—one that neither takes the fairy-position nor the fact-position. The authors in this study regarded their OT as a matter of both facts and concern that is giving raise to questions, challenges and new ways of thinking.
The authors were very enthusiastic when they reflected on their pedagogical achievements. They found the discussion of access in open education too limited and wanted to highlight the pedagogical benefits of openness for empowering students (Kanwar et al. 2010) and allowing them to be a part of the knowledge creation process (Freire 2000). The issue of participation, rather than access, links to the theory of expansive learning, which is about learning something that does not yet exist (Engeström and Sannino 2010). Thus, in line with the expansive learning theory, the open textbook projects allowed the actors to construct new content that was interwoven with the acquisition of the requisite knowledge.
One of the authors points in a quote to the fact that open textbooks can include multiple modes of communication and meaning making. This kind of multimodality looks beyond the written text as a holy grail and Kress (2009) argues that this is the normal state of human communication.
The data also support the idea of open practices being a social culture (in this case involving students and peers) creating relational agency and collective and distributed knowledge (Edwards 2010) as well as satisfaction for teaching staff in an otherwise solitary profession (Iiyoshi and Kumar 2008).
Conclusions and Practical Implications
This study shows how teachers may enact agency by aligning the open textbooks with their instructional needs and involving students and peers in the use and remix of open textbooks, which gives empowerment beyond access to educational material for free.
From this study it even became evident that open textbooks may be tools for enabling teachers to self-regulate their learning through the creation process. The authors of open textbooks in this study had personal initiative, endurance, and adoptive skills. Further, the authors had a strong belief that open textbooks can also be tools for students’ self-regulated learning, as exemplified with collaborative approaches, which is closely related to their performance (Zimmerman 2000).
Based on the analysis of manifested contradictions, the study indicates that there are both weak and strong contradictions in open textbook practices. One example is issues related to the stability of an open textbook (that an author loses control of the book) versus adaptation (that the book can be found in many different versions). Another example is the problem of data ownership; that “students and teachers remain largely unconscious of the extent and implications of their daily production of digital data traces and trails” (Selwyn 2015, p. 71), which challenge the established traditions in higher education. The issue of learning analytics is particularly important to focus on in future studies since it is a disruption to higher education (Selwyn 2015).
The combination of the two theoretical lenses was beneficial for analysing the empowerment of teachers and students, as well as the tensions within higher education related to the introduction of open textbooks and the threats to students posed by learning analytics. The use of CHAT for analysing the inner power of contradictions, and not only defining their appearance, and at the same time to be able to generalise the results makes CHAT unique (Kaptelinin and Nardi 2006). However, it has to be borne in mind that these findings are based on a very small number of open textbooks’ authors and that they not necessarily represent a general view on open textbooks.
The research community needs to expose the implications of involving students and peers in the creation of open textbooks for social justice and democracy, and that this will automatically generate distributed knowledge, relational agency and empowerment which is the most important result of this study.