University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 16.12.2017 Barriers to Open E-Learning in Public Administrations (Stoffregen)

Start date: Dec 16, 2017 12:00 PM

End date: Dec 16, 2017 03:00 PM

Location: Mattilanniemi, Agora auditorio 2

Julia Stoffregen picture: A. Marx
M.Sc. Julia Stoffregen defends her doctoral dissertation in Computer Science "Barriers to Open E-Learning in Public Administrations". Opponent Dr. Markus Deimann (Lübeck University of Applied Sciences) and custos Research Professor Jan Pawlowski (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.

Open Educational Resources (OER) is a new trend which is about to be presented in the public sector. However, the use of OER in knowledge and learning practices appears to challenge public employees. Several barriers in the form of technical, socio-cultural and organizational impede the uptake and use of these digital learning resources.

This dissertation has elaborated on these challenges and found among others, that there is a low interest in OERs, given their impact on face-to-face exchanges and related social interactions among colleagues in a public administration. In particular, elderly employees, who have low confidence in using new technology, such as OER authoring tools, prefer personal contact and are wary of documenting their knowledge in OER formats.

So solve these and related challenges, the dissertation has aimed at developing a barrier framework which helps eliciting and solving the challenges. Moreover, the main result of the research is a theoretically engrained concept that elicity  trajectories and incidents of change, such as improvements in the barrier. Thus, they can be traced back and assessed for future interventions.

In practice, public employees benefit of the research results. For example, a blended OER creation strategy can be designed that responds to concerns of personal contact. One solution is that elderly public employees team up with other employees (maybe trainees) and meet and talk about their experiences on the job. The younger employee can then document the exchanges in an OER format and assess the report together with the elderly employee. In this way, social interaction together with OER-enhanced knowledge exchange can be realized.

In summary, the dissertation has produced theoretically engrained models of barriers to OERs in the public sector. The in-depth research has allowed the use and validation of the models in the research context. Yet, the research on barrier change is at its infancy stage. The outcomes of the dissertation provide a basis for further inquiry into the trajectories and future explanatory research on the barriers to OERs and their trajectories in special cultural contexts.


The use of Open Educational Resources (OERs) is promising as a complementary resource to traditional e-learning courses. Digital learning resources can be accessed on demand and can be developed by a wide range of employees. Thus, OERs may be suitable as a response to the changing demands of workplace learning. Despite its potential, the uptake of OER is slow. Previous research has found numerous barriers to the use and sharing of OERs, ranging from cultural to technical and organizational challenges. Research has reported barrier concepts, which elaborate on the kinds and meanings of challenges in the educational and private sector domain. Yet, it remains unclear as to why and how barriers evolve and differ across contexts. One dedicated example is the public sector, where the need to innovate processes of knowledge management and learning is high. Besides limited budgets that restrict investment in employees’ training, the ageing workforce has increased the need to find a suitable solution to document and transfer knowledge. So far, OERs are not well known in this sector. Similarly, the kinds of barriers to OERs in this specific bureaucratic context have not been elaborated from research or theoretical perspectives.

This dissertation aims at closing this research gap by elaborating on the range of barriers across European public administrations as well as answering the questions of why and how barriers evolve in a particular space and time. As a result, the thesis presents a unique theoretical perspective on barriers to OERs and their trajectories in the public sector. The dissertation provides a punctuated and adapted structural socio-technical change model which can be used to analyse how and why barriers unfold beyond public sector research. Besides the theoretical contributions, the thesis provides a contextualized barrier frame that can guide OER platform developers in assessing socio-cultural barriers and requirements that are typical to open e-learning practices in public administrations. During the field research, the thesis further provided design principles, in addition to OER guidelines, for employees in the public sector.

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Julia Stoffregen
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