Considering the Implications and Mechanisms of Scale within Open Education

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My dissertation is the culmination of a five-year critical investigation of the implications of scale within contemporary open education. My qualitative, critical, and tentative study is guided by the question: How do open educators perceive the mechanisms and implications of scale? It uses situational analysis theory-method package and a three-phase research process, including a qualitative online survey, collaborative map annotation, and focus groups. My study presents a multi-dimensional representation of open education’s complicated relationship with scale, both big and small. At a massive scale, open online course providers are increasingly delivering standardized content on data-gathering platforms built to control the learning experience to generate profit that bear no resemblance to these connectivist-inspired MOOCs imagined by open educators just over a decade ago. At the same time, open educators working at a much smaller scale are increasingly turning their attention towards emerging areas, including open educational practices and open policy. Using situational analysis social worlds/arena, relational, and positional mapmaking techniques, this study exposes the silences surrounding these apparently contradictory approaches to open education and elucidates a different approach to scale adopted by many open educators. It further finds that because open educators are often motivated by an intention to improve education, due to co-option, the games of scientific language and overwork, they are at risk of falling into the prescriptive patterns that they seek to transform. My study concludes that mitigating that risk will require open educators to articulate their tacit awareness of the holistic growth and prescriptive production mechanisms of scale and to clearly articulate their scale-related intentions. Moreover, it suggests that open educators seeking to re-pattern prescriptive production within educational systems must learn to embrace unpredictability and uncertainty as a means of minimizing educational disasters.
Open education, Situational analysis, massification, Educational technology
Elias, T. (2022). Considering the implications and mechanisms of scale within open education (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from