Towards a framework for cross-boundary collaborative open learning for cross-institutional academic development

This phenomenographic study, explores the collaborative open learning experience of academic staff and open learners in cross-institutional academic development settings, and adds to what is known in these settings. It provides new insights for academic developers and course designers about the benefits of crossing boundaries (i.e. open learning) in an academic development context and proposes an alternative model to traditional academic Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It engages academic staff in experiencing novel approaches to learning and teaching and developing as practitioners through engagement in academic CPD that stretches beyond institutional boundaries, characterised by diversity and based on collaboration and openness. Data collection was conducted using a collective case study approach to gain insights into the collective lived collaborative open learning experience in two authentic cross-institutional academic development settings with collaborative learning features designed in. At least one of the institutions involved in each course was based in the United Kingdom. Twenty two individual phenomenographic interviews were conducted and coded. The findings illustrate that collaborative open learning was experienced as two dynamic immersive and selective patterns. Boundary crossing as captured in  the categories of description and their qualitatively different variations, shaped that experience and related to modes of participation; time, place and space; culture and language as well as diverse professional contexts. Facilitator support and the elasticity of the design also positively shaped this experience. The community aspect influenced study participants’ experience at individual and course level and illuminated new opportunities for academic development practice based on cross-boundary community-led approaches. The findings synthesised in the phenomenographic  outcome space, depicting the logical relationships of the eleven categories of description in this study, organised in structural factors, illustrate how these contributed and shaped the lived experience, together with a critical discussion of these with the literature, aided the creation of the openly licensed cross-boundary collaborative open learning framework for cross-institutional academic development, the final output of this study. A design tool developed from the results is included  that aims to inform academic developers and other course designers who may be considering and planning to model and implement such approaches in their own practice.

Keywords: Academic development, collaborative open learning, boundary crossing, cross-institutional professional development, open education, social media, framework for cross-boundary collaborative open learning

Institution: Edinburgh Napier University, Faculty of Health. Life and Social Sciences (moved to School of Nursing, Midwifery & Social Care in April 2016)

Supervisory team:
Director of Studies: Dr Karen Aitchison (until April 2014) then Dr Sandra Cairncross
PhD Supervisor (1): Prof. Keith Smyth
PhD Superviror (2): Tom McEwan, from April 2014 to July 2015

Starting date: 14 January 2013
Thesis submitted: 5th May 2017

Viva: 8 September 2017
External examiner: Prof. Linda Drew
Internal examiner: Prof. Kay Sambell

Outcome: PhD awarded, the Edinburgh Napier University institutional committee approved the thesis on the 4 October 2017
Graduation: 26 October 2017


With Sallly (Prof. Sally Brown) who was awarded an honorary doctorate in the same ceremony. A very special day.

This is a link to the thesis in the Edinburgh Napier University repository

Nerantzi, C. (2017) Towards a framework for cross-boundary collaborative open learning for cross-institutional academic development. (PhD thesis) Edinburgh: Edinburgh Napier University. Available at:

The framework I developed and related publication

Fixed phd image_NEW

Nerantzi, C. (2018) The design of an empirical cross-boundary collaborative open learning framework for cross-institutional academic development, In: Open Praxis, Vol. 10, No. 4, October-December 2018, pp. 325-342, DOI:

Dissemination activities can be accessed here.

blog posts linked to my research can be accessed here.

my useful Diigo links collection linked to this research as well as here
my for open academic practice

This page has the following sub pages.

4 thoughts on “PhD

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