Project Approach

The approach taken to inform this project is based on educational action research in that it allows the research on the development of the module, and subsequent internationalisation, to be combined in a framework of public and reflective inquiry (Cousin, 2009). Cousin (2009) notes that action research can be used to explore processes and practices across a cluster of institutions and this fits well with the collaborative nature of the project. As a result a collaborative action research approach has been adopted in order to give all of the participants involved in the project an equal voice, and to interpret and understand their own participation in the process of development (Norton, 2009). Greenback (2007) comments that this approach can also include those not directly involved in the project/research enabling other interested parties, e.g. potential international partners or critical friends, to be involved. Therefore this approach will fit well with:

  • The development of a project blog where participants and other      interested parties will be encouraged to contribute their views,      experiences and relevant material.
  • The production of reflective logs that allow the project      participants to document their own self-reflective enquiry.
  • The development of the case study to pull together the journey of      collaborative development and internationalisation of the OER module and      provide interested parties across the HE sector to better understand the      challenges, benefits and successes of such collaborative undertakings.

There are challenges in employing a collaborative action research approach (Greenback, 2007; Rowley, 2004) in that it does rely on the commitment of fellow participants. However, the team involved in this project has collaborated and logged the development of the Global Dimensions in HE module since November 2011 and has been successfully involved in other collaborative OER initiatives. Greenback (2007) goes on to conclude that collaborative action research “offers the possibility of carrying out a more rigorous and systematic form of educational enquiry that facilitates reflection, reduces bias, and increases the validity of any findings”.

As mentioned above, the module development has been logged since November 2011 and it has been noted that there are implications in developing a postgraduate module involving a number of institutions, such as developing a shared understanding of the aims and objectives of the module and any issues concerning the credit bearing and validation of the module at the home institutions. However, the Project Director at Aston has experience of developing a joint international module as part of an EU-funded Socrates curriculum development project involving 6 EU HEIs (Smith et al., 2001). The Global Dimensions in HE module has utilised the lessons learned to ensure that the module has been developed utilising European Credit Transfer System principles and ensuring the re-usability of the module in different institutional contexts. Therefore this module can be used and further developed in collaboration with the existing partners or, in whole or in part, as a stand-alone OER that can be customised by the home institution. The module also facilitates the contribution of additional ‘units’ or learning objects by international HEIs and the module can be ‘flexed’ in order to adapt the credit rating of the module in the home institution.

The scope of the project will include dissemination of the OER module ‘Global Dimensions in HE’ in an international context. Through the action research methodology the ‘internationalisation’ of the module will be recorded in a variety of ways: project blog and website usage, email contacts, reflective logs, meeting notes and ‘mid-project’ review. The project will evidence the interaction and collaboration of all stakeholders, both UK and internationally based. The project will not cover issues of joint validation, although this may be commented upon. Because of the timeframe of the project the case study will not be able to cover the full integration of international HEIs in contributing to the further development and delivery of the module or whether interested HEIs have repurposed elements of the module for their own use. However, the project should be able to identify and gauge the level of interest shown by other HEIs.


Cousin, C. (2009) Researching Learning in Higher Education: An Introduction to Contemporary Methods and Approaches. Routledge.

Greenback, P. (2007) Utilising collaborative forms of educational action research: some reflections. Journal of Further and Higher Education. 31: 2, 97 – 108.

Norton, L. S. (2009) Action Research in Teaching and Learning: A practical guide to conducting pedagogical research in universities. Routledge.

Rowley, J., Ray, K., Proud, D., Banwell, L., Spink, S., Thomas, R. & Urquhar, C. (2004) Using action research to investigate the use of digital information resources in further education. Journal of Further and Higher Education. 28: 3, 235 – 246

Smith, J., Wheeler, A., Pybus, C., Puttonen, A., Loczy, D., Gooz, L. and Ruzicka, M. (2001) The Development of an International Module in Environmental Education. Proceedings of the Environmental Training in Engineering Education Conference.  University of Florence, 14 – 17 November 2001.


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