BOLDD: At the Speed of Language

BOLDD: At the Speed of Language

It’s the current speed and ubiquity of growth of online language learning at the beginning levels that has brought together an open community of designers, teachers, teacher trainers, and scholars, calling ourselves the BOLDD (Basic Online Language Design & Delivery) Collaboratory. We experiment and interact, sometimes face-to-face, but more often using the very social media and electronic tools of our emergent, open access economy.

On the top page of the BOLDD wiki you can see the who, what, where, for whom, how, and why of this collaboratory. Whoever has the link can view our work and any member can accord full editorial access and status to newcomers. We welcome lurking, but ask that visitors contribute to and share with the collective.

Some of us have designed whole programs for the institutions we teach at, for instance, I’ve created a four-course suite for beginning-intermediate French for VCU. Some have created a course or two, some are freelance, some focus on teacher preparation, some are in the planning stages.

How one collaborates and what one shares depend upon the individual. What individuals produce runs the gamut, from entirely open access to grant funded to institutional to proprietary materials and courses. Whatever BOLDD produces collaboratively, however, is OER and open to anyone.

Much of our collaboration thus far has been to identity and organize ourselves and to start sharing our knowledge and resources at regional and national conferences. In 2012 we presented at CALICO , FLAVA , ACTFL , and the University of Pennsylvania Symposium 2012. The Google Presentations we co-created for each venue are attached to the wiki.

Kathryn_workshopThis year, subgroups of our collective will hold workshops at NECTFL, SCOLT, CALICO, FLAVA and, hopefully, at ACTFL again. Subgroups are, likewise, beginning to work on a position paper for ACTFL on the adaptations of the ACTFL Standards for the entirely online environment that will underscore their foundational place, all the while accounting for the specificities (and range thereof) of the environment for learners, teachers, content and media.

The field is pretty much the Wild, Wild West — with the good, the bad, and the ugly and a bit of the fast and the furious thrown in. We look to thinkers like social media theorist Clay Shirky to contemplate the workings of collaborative social media for our learners as well as for ourselves and our institutions. (See Use Your Cognitive Surplus to Improve Foreign Language Education by Carl Blyth.)

The products, practices and perspectives for individual deliverables as well as what we create for BOLDD are part of a radical new economy that we don’t entirely have a handle on! The ‘value’ attributed to online learning circulates and has different, ofttimes conflicting, meaning for administrators, designers, teachers, learners and other stakeholders (communities, families, governments). Several of us, in fact, are checking out a Spanish MOOC, thanks to the suggestion of Marlene Johnshoy of CARLA. Marlene invited all BOLDD educators considering aspects of this learning platform to participate in the Spanish MOOC. She obtained permission from the instructor, Scott Rapp, asking if we “teacher-lurkers” could participate.  Then she set up a discussion board for us to chat about our experiences  “lurked.”

Questions we are asking ourselves and you:

  • What percentage of basic (first and second year) language classes do you see being delivered entirely online in 5 years? 10 years?  
  • Do you think it will affect the overall percentage of  foreign language students at the post secondary level (see: MLA 2009 survey that shows in 1965 16.5% of college students took a foreign language v. only 8.6% in 2009)? 

Please join the conversation and the ride!

KathrynKathryn Murphy-Judy, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, School of World Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University), teaches French and global media literacies and works in technology enhanced language learning (TELL). She has designed and delivered online French for first and second year and founded the BOLDD Collaboratory to share via social media good design and teaching practices in online language courses.

To read more about innovative collaboration in language education, check out ACTFL Innovates: Think Outside the Book by Tom Welch.


  1. Hi Kathryn,

    Thanks for getting BOLDD off the ground and bringing it to the attention of FL teachers. BOLDD and ACTFL Innovate (see previous post by Tom Welch) are both examples of the growing grassroots movement called Open Education. I especially liked the following line from your post: “We experiment and interact, sometimes face-to-face, but more often using the very social media and electronic tools of our emergent, open access economy.” As FL teachers, we can’t implement Internet communication technologies in our classrooms if we don’t use them ourselves! And that is why we have started this blog, Open Up. We are trying to practice what we preach. See you at Calico!

    • Kathryn Murphy-Judy says

      I totally agree with you, Carl. I have found repeatedly that one of the biggest impediments to teachers’ being able to implement communication technologies is our ‘teacherly’ self-image. We see ourselves as always having to be ‘in the know’. Where we don’t feel in control, we simply don’t dare go.
      Yet, two things about such avoidance:
      1. There is NO mastery of communication technologies: the rate of accelerating change is real (exponential according to some); no one will ever get a ‘handle’ on these wily devices. As a learning community, partnering with our students to explore new techs and new media, we can all move forward together.
      2. Risk taking has been touted as a positive factor in language learning: so what behavior are teachers modeling when they won’t ‘dare’ introduce 21st century, innovative, communication devices and strategies? Hmmm. . . .

  2. With all the energy of Open Up bloggers and BOLDD collective partners, the world is actually paying attention to the new landscape that Kathryn Murphy-Judy so aptly describes here. Google Docs, blogs and wikis are helping language educators steer this ship. I like the “Fast and Furious” metaphor, Kathryn, because it is really not far off the mark!

    • Kathryn Murphy-Judy says

      There is a lot of sharing and forward thinking/doing here at NECTFL 2013 (Baltimore, MD, March 7-10), where I’m glad I’ve had a chance to chat with you, Laura.
      Last night I watched the video of the surfer who caught the 100 ft. wave off Portugal recently: THAT is an apt metaphor for the tech ‘wave’ in FLE. If we don’t ride it, well….


  1. […] She and 30 other designer/developers of basic online language learning participate in the BOLDD Collaboratory. What I learnt from this interview Kathryn makes many interesting comments about how technology […]

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