Visitors and Residents approaches – crossing boundaries, bridging the gap

3209856136_111f60b925_mMapping Visitors and Residents approaches to the web as different ways of engaging online today was up for consideration in my last blogpost. I’m quite intrigued by the at once simplicity and complexity of the Visitors and Residents framework as it puts forward a possibility to explore and explain not only what we are doing on the web but also how and why and with whom we are engaging. At the same time this mapping gives possibilities for teaching digital and learning literacies that nurture and provide students with Residents approaches towards studies and learning in higher education. This ambition links the Visitors and Residents framework to the shift in learning modes from Learning 2.0 to Learning 3.0: these are digital and learning literacies that come from immersion into a present context and into a present culture.

The development of the Visitors and Residents framework is connected with the work of David White and Alison Le Cornu, but to be more precise the background for the extended framework, I mentioned in my last blogpost, is a research project, The Visitors and Residents project, presented in the Jisc Guide “Evaluating digital services: a visitors and residents approach” (2014) by David White, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Donna Lanclos, Erin M. Hood and Carrie Vass.

The Visitors and Residents project investigated:

  • if individual approaches shift according to learners’ educational stage starting with students in their last year of high school/secondary school and first year undergraduate college/university students and following three later educational stages through to an experienced academic stage
  • what motivates different types of engagement with the digital environment for learning
  • which sources learners turn to when they search for information and which sources learners choose to interact with online and offline as part of their learning process
  • the learners’ modes of engagement in both personal and institutional contexts
  • potential cultural differences between two countries, as learners from both the UK and the US participated in the project.
  • (Project background In: White et al (2014))

Open practices

From an educational point of view the project has assessed to what degree students and scholars are prepared for the open, networked and participatory practices the Resident web build on:  the practices of web 2.0 and social media and the possibilities of Learning 3.0. The research results show that in early educational stages students are not terribly well-prepared for participating in Residents modes in professional and institutional contexts. The concerns and the possibilities in relation to open practices in higher education are introduced by David White in this video drawing on the results from The Visitors and Residents project:

So to foster experiences with open practices, educators can choose to engage students online in communities of practice, while facilitating Resident modes of interaction within these online spaces/places. The benefits of this are according to The Visitors and Residents project that:

In this way both the teaching and the learning process become Resident in nature and students are challenged to develop their thinking and express their thoughts as part of an open discourse… (Stakeholder snapshots – resident mode In: White et al (2014))

It is also relevant to any discipline at the point where individuals feel it is important for their point of view to become part of the discourse around a given subject. In this way Resident practices can be an important part of students developing their ‘voice’ within their chosen field. (Stakeholder snapshots – resident mode In: White et al (2014))


As David White stresses, the Resident web is a space/place where we can be co-present, but it involves identity, reputation and credibility. So it also challenges what counts for valid knowledge when education engages students and educators in the Resident web and open practices. This issue of credibility is at stake in the results from the research project, too: it is not just a question of discourse but also a question of what knowledge is and how it can be acquired. In a manner of speaking students’ everyday practices, based on ‘we search and connect’, meet and clash with the traditional scholarly practices of how knowledge is acquired, tested, validated and shared in our culture. David White comments and reflects on these matters in the following video:

The informal learning of students’ everyday open practices on social media and the web seems to be difficult to transfer to the contexts of the mainly closed world of formal learning in higher education, as David White sums it up in the video. So the discussion on how to integrate students’ informal learning into formal learning in meaningful ways has moved from being an important issue at primary and secondary educational levels to be a relevant issue for higher education, too. Here the Visitors and Residents framework comes in as a way of mapping and reflecting on students’ informal and formal learning spaces/places and practices and as a starting point for meeting the open, networked and participatory practices of the Resident web in an institutional context. And so, a concluding comment from David White on the research project could be this:

Taking a more Resident approach to education is more than just a question of technology. It confronts under-lying conceptions of what it means to learn and what it means to know. (Visitors and Residents Part 2: Credibility (2014))

A double agenda

The research project on Visitors and Residents approaches has a double agenda, although the development of students’ digital and learning literacies appears to be the heart of the matter. Because the challenges and possibilities of a more Resident approach to education also meet the educators. So, while aiming at turning students into contributors, collaborators and co-creators within connected learning communities of practice, educational institutions should also encourage and embrace the increasing value of online currency that goes along with educators’ presence online. Educators’ open, networked, and participatory practices are a precondition for teaching and designing learning activities that foster digital and learning literacies by using open practices. Donna Lanclos and David White elaborate on this aspect of The Visitors and Residents project in their article “The Resident Web and Its Impact on the Academy” (2015). Here they challenge the understanding of what scholarship is:

In the industrialized, commodified model of intellectual labor that has come to dominate late 20th and early 21st century academia, the focus has historically been on producing units (articles, books, grants awarded, etc.) to be consumed rather than on forming the relationships and networks from which work can emerge. This now needs to be reconsidered as the Web influences the academy to re-position itself within a larger knowledge landscape in a more connected manner. The academy can no longer simply serve its own communities in the context of the networked Web, and it is under increasing cultural pressure to reach out and appear relevant. The web breaks us out of a product-centered publishing cycle and allows us to become part of an ongoing flow, in which knowledge is perpetually negotiated within networks. (Lanclos and White (2015))

Lanclos and White reflect on and work up their understanding of the Resident web in accordance with the concept of ‘Networked Participatory Scholarship’ defined by George Veletsianos and Royce Kimmons:

Networked Participatory Scholarship is the emergent practice of scholars’ use of participatory technologies and online social networks to share, reflect upon, critique, im-prove, validate and further their scholarship.(Veletsianos and Kimmons (2012:768))

And as students might resist the open practices of the Resident web in an institutional context, educators in higher education might resist institutional expectations of true openness and networked participatory scholarship, as I have touched on in a previous blogpost. So in many ways the double agenda in The Visitors and Residents project leaves students and educators alike to cross the borders and align with networked participatory scholarly practices and epistemological issues.

Crossing boundaries, bridging the gab

In my last blogpost I came up with a small list on what students need to know about open practices and how to participate on the Resident web. Some of my suggestions overlap the initiatives the research project recommends explicitly and implicitly. So to give a further idea of how to understand and anticipate the digital gap and the clash between informal learning and formal learning, students experience in higher education according to the research project, I would like to turn to Catherine Cronin. She addresses the challenges of being open in higher education in her keynote speech “Navigating the Marvellous: Openness in education” (2014) in the video below.  For a very short moment during the speech, the sound is not the best, but I think it is worthwhile to listen through the minute it takes, if you are interested in the process of opening up education.

Further reading:

Lanclos, Donna and David White (2015): The Resident Web and Its Impact on the Academy, Hybrid Pedagogy, October 8

Veletsianos, George and Royce Kimmons (2012): Networked Participatory Scholarship: Emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks In: Computers & Education 58 p. 766-774

White, David, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Donna Lanclos, Erin M. Hood and Carrie Vass: (2014): Evaluating digital services: a visitors and residents approach, Jisc

Photo: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by tanakawho on Flickr

Elna Mortensen




Visitors and Residents approaches – crossing boundaries, bridging the gap

True openness and open scholarship

Martin Weller’s book The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory (2014) was under scrutiny in my last blogpost. In his book Weller discusses two reasons why openness matters in education today:

  • opportunities: as development in technology and media has led to a shift from a pedagogy of scarcity to a pedagogy of openness, from scarcity of knowledge to plenty of knowledge and open pedagogies
  • function: as digital challenges have put the function and role of education and especially of higher education and its relationship to society into question (Weller 2014:9-15).

Weller addresses the impact these two reasons have on higher education today and focuses especially on the institutional level of openness in higher education, but he also turns to the individual level of openness looking at how individual educators and academics are adapting their own scholarly practices by adopting open and digital approaches. And when focusing on open scholarship, Weller sets off with a quote:

Veletsianos and Kimmons (2012) propose that open scholarship takes three forms:

(1) open access and open publishing, (2) open education, including open educational resources and open teaching, and (3) networked participation, concluding that open scholarship is a set of phenomena and practices surrounding scholars’ uses of digital and networked technologies underpinned by certain grounding assumptions regarding openness and democratization of knowledge creation and dissemination. (Weller 2014:136)

Weller narrows this definition down to three issues relating to open scholarship to delve into in his book:

  • networked participation: individual activity across various media and networks
  • online identity and how it relates to traditional academic practice
  • new possibilities in research practice like “Guerilla research.

Is there anything like true openness?

Martin Weller is but one discussing open scholarship these days. And in a blogpost Suzan Koseoglu takes a critical stance at the idea of true openness and opposes to the thought that openness is  only to be understood as the combination of ‘digital’, ‘networked’ and ‘open’.  Koseoglu addresses Steve Wheeler along with Veletsianos and Kimmons and comments that openness is inherent to education: openness and sharing are to be seen as general characteristics of education as such.


George Veletsianos: Open Scholarship: Social Media, Participation, and Online Networks

For me, open scholarship is a state of mind – it is a choise each educator needs to make as to how open they wish to be, along an entire spectrum of scholarly activities. Some educators are closed in the sharing of their content but are open to collaboration with other educators. But true openness is where content is shared freely, all work attributed fairly, and where educators also open themselves up for dialogue, collaboration and constructive criticism. (Steve Wheeler: Open scholarship.)

The quote also appears in Steve Wheeler: “Learning with ‘e’s”  (Wheeler 2015:147).

So the idea of ‘networked participation’ – which Veletsianos and Kimmons, Weller and Wheeler all agree on as a way to promote openness in all aspects of education and thus promoting open scholarship – is being questioned, but maybe not as much as a possibility to engage in dialogue, collaboration and constructive criticism as an idea connected with normative expectations of what it is to be an open educator and scholar today:  “Openness should be a worldview for an educator more than a technological possibility”, says Koseoglu. To her open scholarship doesn’t necessarily require access to technology and basic digital literacies as a prerequisite for practice. To Veletsianos and Kimmons, Weller and Wheeler they are inevitable.

Further reading:

Weller, Martin (2014): The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press

Wheeler, Steve (2015): Learning with ‘e’s. Educational theory and practice in the digital age. Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing Limited

Elna Mortensen

True openness and open scholarship

O as in Open

Open_windows_(8607844680) (1)What is education for and what is education about? There is no idea in discussing technology and its role in education, if we don’t confront and debate these core questions at first. The web won, some would say, and no doubt the promise for democratization, decentralization and personalization of education have played a part in the opening up of education. The web won to such an extent, that openness has been victorious and has become mainstream in education today. Martin Weller puts this statement at stake in his book The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory that came out last year. According to Weller there are two reasons why openness matters in education today:

  • opportunities: as development in technology and media has led to a shift from a pedagogy of scarcity to a pedagogy of openness, from scarcity of knowledge to plenty of knowledge and open pedagogies
  • function: as digital challenges have put the function and role of education and especially of higher education and its relationship to society into question (Weller 2014:9-15).

In his book Weller introduces a set of open education core concepts and their origins in order to show the complexity of open education within higher education. The concepts are:

open access education and its origin in The Open University and its focus on methods in open learning

open source software and its origin in the free software movement and its emphasis on rights and licences like for example Creative Commons (CC)

web 2.0 culture and its shift in using the internet from a broadcast model to a conversational model seconded by a culture of sharing and open practice (Weller 2014: 34-41).

Open education is a set of coalescing principles, Weller states, and the definition of openness and open education depends on which of the three backgrounds above people come from. The context and understanding of openness as in open education is in the eye of the beholder. So to Weller openness is an umbrella term, although he stresses, “… that web 2.0 provides the cultural context within which the openness becomes widely recognized and expected.” (Weller 2014: 42). And so the characteristics of web 2.0 tools, media and approaches as:

  • open
  • social
  • complex
  • participatory
  • distributed
  • networked
  • dynamic
  • mass scale (Conole and Alevizou 2010).

merge into Wellers summing up of general but coalescing principles for open education:

  • freedom to reuse
  • open access
  • free cost
  • easy use
  • digital, networked content
  • social, community based approaches
  • ethical arguments for openness
  • openness as an efficient model (Weller 2014: 42).

In his list Weller adopts and includes aspects of David Wiley’s “5R’s of Reuse” inspired by the open source movement, although Weller thinks Wiley’s definition of openness – Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute – is too strict. Wiley’s “5R’s of Reuse” can be seen and heard in his presentation of open education in my last blogpost, while Wiley’s original introduction to the “4 R’s of Reuse ” is to be found here. A reason for Weller to approach and lean against Wiley to some extent is, I think, because Weller sees the web 2.0 movement as significant for open education in two ways:

  • it decentralized much of the engagement with the web
  • it created a context where open and free were seen as mistakenly missing in online materials (Weller 2014:41).

This goes along well with Wiley’s emphasis on freedom to reuse and remix and on open licences.  They helped making openness common grounds, as Weller notices. So now that openness has become mainstream in education, it is important to ask the question Why does openness matter?, and as a result of the complex origins of the definitions of openness and open education the answer might be one or several of the causes listed below, Weller says:

education is a social good


increased profile


wider participation

unexpected outcomes


easy collaboration.

Open education and open scholarship

The impact of openness as a paradigm in higher education is to be found at both an institutional and an individual level. On an institutional level Weller examines the different aspects of openness in education and looks into open access publishing, Open Educational Resources (OER), MOOCs and the battle for the narrative of education at present and in the future.

But Weller also turns to the individual level of openness in higher education in his book and digs into how individual educators and academics are adapting their own scholarly practices by adopting open and digital approaches. In an earlier article written in collaboration with Terry Anderson, Weller and Anderson point to this challenge dealing with establishing open scholarship:

For the individual scholar, Boyer’s (1990) classification of scholarly activity provides a basis for identifying challenges faced by the advent of digital technology.

In Boyer’s definition of scholarship there are four components, each of which he suggests should be considered as of equal value by universities and government policy:

  • Discovery – the creation of new knowledge in a specific area or discipline.
  • Integration – is focused on interpretation and inter-disciplinary work.
  • Application – this is related to the concept of service, but Boyer makes a distinction between citizenship and scholarly types of service, and for the latter it needs to build on the scholar’s area of expertise.
  • Teaching – much of the interpretation of Boyer can be seen as an attempt to raise the profile of teaching.

For each of these elements we can see many new possibilities as set out by Weller (2011). An example in each of the four components might be the use of open data in research, the use of new publishing methods and networks to integrate work, the application of social media to public engagement, and the development and sharing of open education resources in teaching. (Weller and Anderson (2013)

In his book Martin Weller sets off from the classification of scholarship above and circles around three issues relating to open scholarship:

  • networked participation: individual activity across various media and networks
  • online identity and how it relates to traditional academic practice
  • new possibilities in research practice like “Guerilla research”.

Open practices, open scholarship and resilience

By participating in open practices open scholars can be seen as defining themselves both within their current discipline and institution and also acting in contrast to institutional values and traditional scholarly practices, Weller stresses:

Open scholars are thus in a rather schizophrenic position. They can occupy two different domains which may have competing values. For example, the open scholarship community places a precedent on immediacy, sharing small outputs and working through ideas in the open. The traditional disciplinary community places more value on considered larger output and not releasing these until late in the research process. (Weller 2014: 142)

Here institutional and individual levels intertwine and mutually challenge each other. To make room for open scholarship and to advocate for an alternative to disruption as the model for change in higher education, Martin Weller introduces the concept of resilience as a perspective and claims “…that it is not about wholesale change and debunking of a previous approach, but moving from one state to another.” (Weller 2014:187).

And so, in the light of openness becoming mainstream on the institutional level, too, the innovation that openness affords in higher education can be captured by resilience as a framework, Weller says in The Battle for Open. In the article I mentioned previously, Weller and Anderson define resilience in this way:

Building on Holling’s work, resilience is now often defined as ‘the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change, so as to retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks’ (e.g. Hopkins, 2009).

This definition places the emphasis on the capacity to retain function and identity, and this is particularly relevant to scholarship. If scholarship is viewed as a set of functions that are useful to society in general (taking Boyer’s four functions as an example), then the aim of digital resilience is to retain these core functions, but to allow them to be realised in new forms. This places a clear distinction between function and form. As Naughton (2009) stresses in terms of key factors about the impact of the internet:

“Don’t confuse existing forms with the functions that they enable. It’s the functions that matter. Forms may be transient, the product of historical or technological circumstances.” (Weller and Anderson 2013)

In terms of higher education practice then, resilience is about utilising technology to change practices where this is desirable, but to retain the underlying function and identity that the existing practices represent, if they are still deemed to be necessary. The practices themselves are not core to scholarship rather that they are the methods through which core functions are realised and these methods can and should change. (Weller and Anderson 2013)

To someone like me with a background in the Humanities and education the function and identity of higher education is anchored in practices that are focusing on developing critical thinking, communicative, aesthetic-creative and historical skills, knowledge and consciousness as well as fostering ethical, social and cultural understanding. And they are currently essential to the development of digital or web literacies as skills, knowledge and understanding needed by both learners and scholars today, so here resilience is involved. In addition, the ability to identify and interpret perspectives as well as the ability to change perspective and handle diverse, often contrasting perspectives needs to be at the heart of practices to understand individuals, cultures, institutions and traditions. To me this is crucial in higher education and in education in general in a mediatized, globalized, individualized and urbanized world. This is what education is for and this is what education is about.

This blogpost has been edited on 25. November 2015 to update David Wiley’s “5R’s of Reuse”, and on 4. December 2015 to remove a dead link to a Martin Weller webinar on The Battle for Open.

Further reading:

Conole, Gráinne & Alevizou, Panagiota (2010): A literature review of the use of Web 2.0 tools in Higher Education, A report commissioned by the Higher Education Academy, The Open University

Weller, Martin (2014): The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press

Weller, Martin  & Anderson, Terry (2013): Digital resilience in higher education. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 16(1), 53

Photo by Angelo DeSantis on Wikimedia Commons

Elna Mortensen

O as in Open