Meet the iTunes U Language Learner

Meet the iTunes U Language Learner

Have you ever wondered about those students who are learning foreign languages on iTunes? There are over 600 free language learning collections on iTunes. People are using them. What do you know about these students?

Earlier this year, I presented a paper at the e-Learning Symposium in Southampton University in the UK about the iTunes U language learner. I wanted to share the results with you. The findings show that most iTunes U learners have quite a different profile compared to university learners: from their age and gender to their occupation and motivations for accessing iTunes U language resources.

Before watching, think about who you think the iTunes U language learner is. Mostly male? Mostly female? How old? What do they do? Do they listen on mobile devices or on their home computers? Do they think they are learning by engaging with the language resources they download from iTunes U? And what implications do the answers to these questions have for the design and implementation of iTunes U resources from your own institution?

Now watch the presentation.

How do your answers to the questions above compare with the actual results? Feel free to comment on your impressions and implications for teaching and learning through iTunes U.

Fernando Rosell-AguilarFernando Rosell-Aguilar is a lecturer in Spanish and coordinator of iTunes U content for the Department of Languages at the Open University, UK.

Read more about open language learning on iTunes.

 

Shareworthy: COERLL’s Webinar Series

Shareworthy: COERLL’s Webinar Series

Your foreign language department will thank you for sharing COERLL’s Webinar Series, all about open educational resources (OER) for language learning. Here’s what we covered:

Finding Open Media for Foreign Language Instruction Learn how to search for and find high-quality authentic OER (multimedia, realia, interviews, etc.) for use in language teaching and learning.

 

The Practice of Using and Teaching with OER Explore the practice of implementing OER into teaching and learn specifically about integration of COERLL’s popular French curriculum, Francais interactif, into foreign language classrooms.

 

Focus on SpinTX: An Open Video Archive for Language Learning We unpack one of our most recent projects, SpinTX–a resource for bilingual Spanish speakers in Texas. Learn how to search and tag videos for features that match your interests, and create and share your favorite playlists.

 

The Mixxer Launches Spanish and English Language MOOCs

The Mixxer Launches Spanish and English Language MOOCs

In January, Todd Bryant shared his plans to begin developing online courses using his language exchange website, The Mixxer. (See MOOCs + Learning Networks = The Mixxer.)  He is happy to announce the first offerings from this project:

Free Language Learning MOOCs from The Mixxer

Todd curated a variety of open resources to build these courses. The English learning content came from BBC’s Big City Small World,Voice of America’s Learning English and grammar material through Purdue University’s OWL reference site.

For the Spanish lessons, he drew from Practica Español, a joint venture of Instituto Cervantes, EFE and Fundación de la Lengue Española. Other lessons came from Professor Barbara Kuczun Nelson’s “Spanish Language and Culture” site at Colby College. COERLL’s “Spanish Proficiency Exercises” and Bowdoin College’s “Spanish Grammar” site provide additional references and exercises.

Todd will be presenting these MOOCs at the 2013 New Media Consortium‘s summer conference on June 7. Congratulations to Todd for having his project selected as one of six “Big Ideas” for the Emerging Leaders Competition. We thank him for creating this open educational resource for the language learning public and wish him the best of luck!

5 Ways to Open Up Corpora for Language Learning

5 Ways to Open Up Corpora for Language Learning

Corpora developed by linguists to study languages are a promising source of authentic materials to employ in the development of OER for language learning. Recently, COERLL’s SpinTX Corpus-to-Classroom project launched a new open resource that seeks to make it easy to search and adapt materials from a video corpus.

The SpinTX video archive  provides a pedagogically-friendly web interface to search hundreds of videos from the Spanish in Texas Corpus. Each of the videos is accompanied by synchronized closed captions and a transcript that has been annotated with thematic, grammatical, functional and metalinguistic information. Educators using the site can also tag videos for features that match their interests, and share favorite videos in playlists.

A collaboration among educators, professional linguists, and technologists, the SpinTX project leverages different aspects of the “openness” movement including open research, open data, open source software, and open education. It is our hope that by opening up this corpus, and by sharing the strategies and tools we used to develop it, others may be able to replicate and build on our work in other contexts.

So, how do we make a corpus open and beneficial across communities? Here are 5 ways:

1. Create an open and accessible search interface

Minimize barriers to your content. Searching the SpinTX video archive requires no registration, passwords or fees. To maximize accessibility, think about your audience’s context and needs. The SpinTX video archive offers a corpus interface specifically for educators, and plans to to create a different interface for researchers.

2. Use open content licences

Add a Creative Commons license to your corpus materials. The SpinTX video archive uses a CC BY-NC-SA license that requires attribution but allows others to reuse the materials different contexts.

3. Make your data open and share content

Allow others to easily embed or download your content and data. The SpinTX video archive provides social sharing buttons for each video, as well as providing access to the source data (tagged transcripts) through Google Fusion Tables.

4. Embrace open source development

When possible, use and build upon open source tools. The SpinTX project was developed using a combination of open source software (e.g. TreeTagger, Drupal) and open APIs (e.g. YouTube Captioning API). Custom code developed for the project is openly shared through a GitHub repository.

5. Make project documentation open

Make it easy for others to replicate and build on your work. The SpinTX team is publishing its research protocols, development processes and methodologies, and other project documentation on the SpinTX Corpus-to-Classroom blog.

Openly sharing language corpora may have wide-ranging benefits for diverse communities of researchers, educators, language learners, and the public interest. The SpinTX team is interested in starting a conversation across these communities. Have you ever used a corpus before? What did you use it for? If you have never used a corpus, how do you find and use authentic videos in the classroom?  How can we make video corpora more accessible and useful for teachers and learners?

gilgRachael Gilg is the Project Manager and Lead Developer for COERLL’s Spanish in Texas Corpus project and the SpinTX Corpus-to-Classroom project. She has acted as project manager, designer, and developer on a diverse set of projects, including educational websites and online courses, video and interactive media, digital archives, and social/community websites.

Improving the Recipe for Effective Language Learning

Improving the Recipe for Effective Language Learning

Fernando Rubio checks back in with us after finishing his first year teaching a Spanish MOOC.

I ended my previous post inviting you to think about the role of MOOCs and the intersection between teaching and certification.

The conversation that has been going on since my last post has been just as polarized as it was before. MOOCs have recently been called a new form of colonialism because they are an attempt to address the demand for higher education by some of the top universities in the U.S. They have also been touted as a disruptive game changer if MOOC providers can create the right recipe that combines free access and credit. Let’s take a look at some offerings from MOOC providers.

Fremium Model

MOOC2Degree is a result of a number of universities teaming up with online course developers Academic Partnerships. Students receive the first course in an online degree program as a free MOOC in hopes that they will then pay tuition to complete the degree through regular online coursework. This is simply a version of the freemium model that we all know and love.

User-Centered Model

Outside the U.S., as part of the UK’s Open University, Futurelearn has thrown its hat in the ring by promising a for-credit MOOC-like experience without the drop-out rates and plagiarism problems of a MOOC. As they say, “it would be a shame to deliver that on a platform and infrastructure that was powered on another continent.” (Did anyone mention neocolonialism?)

Blended MOOCs

I am writing this blog post as I read the New York Times’ front page story on how San Jose State has “outsourced” to Udacity some of the mentoring for its basic math courses. The article includes this interesting quote from a higher education officer at the Gates Foundation: “2013 is about blending MOOCs into college courses where there is additional support, and students get credit.” This quote gives me the perfect segue into the point that I want to make today.

My main concern is still the same it was when I started teaching my MOOC — What can MOOCs teach us about learning and how can they create a more effective learning environment? And perhaps blending MOOCs into regular for credit (either online or face-to-face) courses is the way to take advantage of what the two formats can offer. My next challenge, for Fall ’13, is a blended course on Spanish Applied Linguistics that will combine 50% face-to-face instruction and 50% MOOC. For-credit students will participate in both formats and will hopefully benefit form the opportunity to interact with a large number of students who will be following the free and open MOOC component of the course. I will keep you posted!

In the meantime, please send your thoughts on developments in the world of MOOC language learning. 

Fernando RubioFernando Rubio is Co-director of the University of Utah’s Second Language Teaching and Research Center (L2TReC) and Associate Professor of Spanish Linguistics.  His research focuses on the acquisition of Spanish as a second language and on the intersection of language learning and technology.

Language Knowmads Wanted

Language Knowmads Wanted

We found a kindred thinker in education futurologist, John Moravec at the University of Minnesota — take a look at his vision for Society 3.0 (that’s us!). Moravec describes members of Society 3.0 as agents of:

  • change
  • globalization
  • innovation fueled by knowmads (“nomadic knowledge workers”)

Sound familiar? A key aspect of Society 3.0 involves online open access, crowd sourcing that promotes sharing, remixing, and capitalizing on new ideas. We know that much of this happens through online communities — where knowmads gather in virtual spaces to push ideas into reality.

Pages from COERLL-Newsletter-Spring-2013In COERLL’s Spring 2013 newsletter, we share what we’re doing to nurture Society 3.0’s language communities.

First, we’re launching eComma, a web application and resources for social reading — where groups of users annotate the same text together.

Also, COERLL’s SpinTX Corpus-to-Classroom Project aims to create a self-sustaining community of linguists, technologists, and Spanish language educations collaborating on a video-based website for teaching Spanish.

And check out the facebook language communities we moderate: COERLL, Francais interactif, Deutisch im Blick, Brazilpod, Spanish in Texas.

Finally, this. Us. Here. At Open Up, we want to connect with other language learning  knowmads looking for ways to accelerate change toward open education. So please get in touch with us with your ideas for sharing, remixing, and capitalizing on open language resources. Join the conversation!

For more about fostering language learning communities, see MOOCs + Learning Networks = The Mixxer by Todd Bryant.

Give Us Some Credit!

Give Us Some Credit!

It’s an exciting time. We’re seeing the next phase of open education happening: progress toward accreditation for open online learning. We thought we’d share the latest news in this welcome trend.

  • Academic Partnerships + MOOC2Degree  Academic Partnerships, representing online learning for some 40 U.S. universities, is launching the MOOC2Degree program. This online degree option is meant to attract students to full degree programs.
  • Coursera + UCB, UCI, Duke & U of Penn  Coursera and four top universities are piloting a system of awarding university credit equivalency for its online courses.
  • Udacity + San Jose State  MOOCs purveyor Udacity partnered with San Jose State University to offer academic credit for a few of its courses.
  • EdX + Stanford  Standford has teamed up with EdX in the effort to open up its online courses to a wider audience. It’s not clear what sort of credit learners receive, but courses are taught by Stanford professors (via interactive video) and include formative and summative assessments.
  • MOOCs + Georgia State  The university is working on granting credit for MOOCs coursework from other institutions.
  • COERLL + LARC  Right here on the language learning home front, COERLL is collaborating with sister language resource center LARC at San Diego State University to develop a badge system for professional development based on an open platform. In the works is a curriculum for COERLL’s Spanish Proficiency Training and Foreign Language Teaching Methods, both open educational resources.

What are you thoughts on awarding credit for open online learning? What should we be aware of as we go forward? For example, credited courses are rarely free — Coursera users  can expect to pay up to $200 for credit, for instance. But what is this compared to university tuitions?

To read more on the topic, see Why I Love and Hate My Spanish MOOC by Fernando Rubio.

Dialogue, Community, and the Creation of OER

Dialogue, Community, and the Creation of OER

Since COERLL began in August 2010, the biggest lesson we’ve learned is that open educational resources (OER) are the products of a community of end users. Just as Wikipedia is the result of its contributors, OERs result from educators and learners who collaborate for the greater good.  Having learned this lesson, we have shifted our emphasis to the creation and curation of a community of open educators.

The Role of Dialogue

Dialogue is the key to developing a community, including the COERLL community. To that end, we have taken multiple steps to foster dialogue with those interested in the benefits of open education for language learning. We have added Facebook sites to several of our OERs such as Français interactif, Deutsch im Blick, and Brazilpod.

We have begun this blog — Open Up to dialogue directly with language teachers and OER developers.

And finally, COERLL just finished co-hosting the annual meeting of the International Association of Dialogue Studies (IADA).  The conference explored the role of dialogue in the creation of communities of practice. According to Etienne Wenger, a learning theorist who popularized the concept, “communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”

Dialogue Conference Report

During the conference, speakers emphasized the role of dialogue in different types of human interaction, including the professional sphere, e.g.,  doctor-patient interaction, teacher-student interaction,  and reporter-editor interaction.  While the speakers came from different theoretical backgrounds — interaction analysis, conversation analysis, dialogue analysis, and ethnography of speaking–they shared a common goal: to understand the role of communication in communities of practice.

dialogue conference

As part of the conference program, COERLL hosted a panel discussion on the theme of “Curating OER Communities of Practice.”  Orlando Kelm, developer of Brazilpod, spoke about his efforts to curate a community of practice among the users of this popular Portuguese website.  The directors of SPinTX (Spanish in Texas), Jacqueline Toribio and Barbara Bullock, discussed the challenges of getting different communities to talk to each other.  For example, the SpinTX project facilitates a dialogue between Spanish language educators and the developers of the Spanish in Texas video corpus in order to build a pedagogically friendly interface for the videos. 

The bottom line is this: OERs are the product of their community. And dialogue is key to community-building.  So, please, help us build the COERLL community by dialoguing with us. Conference attendees, please feel free to add comments here about the event. Did the experience spark new ideas, new collaborations? Please share your experience. Together, we can build better OERs and a more open world.

“We’re Committed to Openness in Content Creation”

“We’re Committed to Openness in Content Creation”

From the editor: We had the opportunity to interview Scott Rapp, co-founder of the Instreamia language learning platform and the designer and instructor of a new first-year Spanish MOOC (4,762 students enrolled). Check back with Open Up to find out about Scott’s new Language Teaching MOOC for creating blended learning environments.

OU: How did you learn Spanish and what motivated you to create Instreamia?

SR:  My brother, Ryan, and I each spent two years abroad volunteering, Ryan went to Japan, and I went to Honduras. Learning Japanese and Spanish was a necessity.

Years later we were both working for Deloitte–Ryan in Japan and I in DC. We began discussing our strategies for learning languages, which was especially on Ryan’s mind as he had to do everything in Japanese, and he was also constantly being asked how he learned Japanese and recommendations for how they could learn English.

We decided that a well-indexed set of reference tools combined with natural language processing really took a lot of the tediousness out of learning a language. We gradually worked on building a product around RSS feeds and text-based sources when the “big idea” hit me like a ton of bricks: What if we could go beyond text-only sources, and focus our strategy on subtitled videos? Then we could integrate our powerful toolset into a video player! This led to other breakthrough innovations, like the dynamic exercises and adaptive learning with time-series depreciation that Instreamia includes today.

Originally called StudyStream, the Rapp brothers renamed their resource to Instreamia before rolling out their Spanish MOOC in January 2013.

OU: Why did you decide to make your courses open?

SR: Developing the Instreamia software, we wanted it to have a positive impact on the most people possible. We also recognized that many of the ideas for improvements and future developments would come from language learners and teachers, and that has proven true time and again. We still feel strongly that content development efforts by educators (including ourselves) are best made in Open Educational Resources. Our platform can’t work without excellent content, and obtaining and maintaining licensing for hundreds of videos, learning modules, dictionaries, and explanations would greatly undermine the scalability and versatility of our platform.

OU: But you are going to start charging a $99 registration fee? (Learn more.)

SR:  All the investment in Instreamia has been founders’ capital. Before quitting Deloitte, Ryan put away a substantial seed investment that he was able to live on for over a year while he began the development of Instreamia. I still work full-time, and work on Instreamia and the SpanishMOOC in my free time, and invest a portion of my salary to Instreamia.

We knew the time would come for us to change from an entirely free platform to having paid services or premium features. We want to stay true to our decision of making all the content free and open, and we will continue to publish all the materials we or any users create through Creative Commons.

OU: What were the factors behind the decision to charge the fee?

SR: During our initial offering of our Spanish MOOC, we realized the level of effort and commitment to our students (especially hand-grading assignments) could not be handled solely by volunteers. We were faced with a difficult decision: we could shut down the Spanish MOOC offering altogether, degrade the experience by excluding any teacher interaction, or … offer an improved course with paid TAs and graders, and charge a registration fee. We decided to add the fee, so we could offer a much improved learning experience.

OU: What are aspects of your courses that remain open?

SR: Our technology and code-base is not open-source. It’s proprietary and has a patent pending. But we’re committed to openness in content creation. Here’s how teachers, graders, and even advanced learners can contribute to each of our content categories:

  • Native-Content Subtitled Audio/Videos – These are either user-created (under CC), Instreamia-created (under CC), or they are used with permission from YouTube. Teachers can write text, record audio, and translate the transcript through Instreamia’s Video Editor.
  • Instructional Videos – These are videos we make available on our YouTube Channel (under CC). Any teacher can contribute by creating their own YouTube channel and embedding their videos on the Instreamia Lesson Creator.
  • Lessons – These are either user-created (under CC), or Instreamia-created (under CC). Teachers can write text, embed Instructional Videos, and create exercises based on the Native-Content library.
  • Grammar Explanations –  These are lessons with special indexing, so that teachers and graders can direct their students to them. For example, typing @gustar anywhere in a lesson or comment would create a link to the Gustar grammar explanation.
  • Dictionary Entries – Every word has audio pronunciation (Forvo, not CC), definitions (Princeton’s WordNet, free license), and multilingual relations, or translations (Instreamia, CC). When a user notices a word with an inaccurate or missing translation, he/she can edit it, so our users are making our translations better all the time.

As a community we can make and maintain content that frees us from using archaic textbooks. (See “Got Textbooks? From This Century?”) Together as a group of educators, we can provide a better learning experience without having to license content. This will make teaching languages more scalable and affordable, and it will allow for rapidly-evolving curricula.

OU: Do you have any questions for our readers?

SR: We have so much to say and to discuss, and we’d love to hear comments from you!

  • How would your classroom change if a computer were able to assign and grade homework based on each individual student’s needs?
  • What methods have you found to make students fall in love with the subject matter

Scott RappScott Rapp is professor of SpanishMOOC, an open initiative to teach Spanish to large groups of people online. He is also the co-founder of the adaptive language learning platform Instreamia, which enables blended teaching by dynamically creating interactive lessons based on native content.

5 Reasons You Should Pay Attention to Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling

5 Reasons You Should Pay Attention to Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling

As we contemplate open access and innovation, it is impossible to ignore the potential offered by ARIS (Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling System).  Designed and maintained by an amazing group of people, centered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, ARIS is not only a great tool, but a project that is gaining international notoriety. Here is my list of five reasons why the language learning community should pay attention.

1. Place-Based, Augmented Reality (AR) is Ideal for Many Areas of Language Learning

As language educators, we often discuss the value of study abroad, service learning, and community interaction as beneficial for language learning.  AR allows us to design interactive experiences, enhanced by mobile devices, to either create place-based interactions. The same way we might explore restaurants in a neighborhood using YELP, learners can explore (and hopefully expand) their surroundings via place-relevant resources. Check out our first project in this area, Mentira (with Chris Holden, UNM).

2. The NOTEBOOK

Real time, geo-tagged, user-created data that can be made available to others within a public or restricted space and turned into game elements … Wow! Students can collect and share their language learning experiences (e.g., conversations, images, videos) for any number of reasons.  Most recently we worked with a professor of colonial literature to make the themes in her course come alive on campus.  Nothing like giving Sor Juana a tour of campus!

3. Potential for Student and Teacher Design and Building

The ARIS editor is designed for non-programmers and has an extensive documentation system and active discussion group always willing to offer help.  This means your students can be up and running in a matter of a few hours. Design and creation have a great deal of potential as learning tools as well, which makes this feature great on multiple levels.

4. Innovative Funding Model

People contribute as they can to build different needed features, server space, etc. Also, the code is open to those wishing to work with it. ARIS success is a key model in terms of sustainable projects.

5. Free to Use

This is a key feature for many educational contexts.

Whenever I think about the ARIS project, I am always amazed at its sustainability and growth over the past five years.  Let’s keep thinking about ways to facilitate this type of innovation while keeping it free for users? What can we do to enhance the ARIS features most useful for language learning?

Julie M. Sykes (Ph.D., Minnesota) is an Assistant Professor of Hispanic Linguistics. Her research focuses on the use of digital games for language acquisition. Sykes’ recent projects include the design, implementation, and evaluation of Croquelandia (a synthetic immersive gaming environment for learning pragmatics) as well as the use of place-based, augmented reality mobile games (Mentira) to engage language learners in a variety of non-institutional contexts.