COERLL @ SOCALLT

COERLL @ SOCALLT

We had a notable presence at this year’s SOCALLT conference (South Central Association for Language Learning Technology). Language educators from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico gathered to talk all things edu-tech. So we took this opportunity to unveil some of COERLL’s new or updated open online language learning resources and get some f2f feedback.

COERLL Presentations on New or Improved OER
  • Web developer Rachael Gilg and corpus developer Arthur Wendorf gave a hands-on workshop for the new SpinTX beta release site of the Spanish in Texas corpus.
  • COERLL director Carl Blyth gave a workshop demonstrating eComma, a web application and resources for social reading — groups of users annotating the same text together. He also gave a talk on called, “The Literary in the  Everyday: An OER for Creating Literacy Activities” — priming the public for this upcoming open resource.
  • Karen Kelton and Nancy Guilloteau (of Francais interactif fame) gave a talk and demonstration of their new French OER — Enhancing French Skills.

Attendees were surprised and excited that all of our materials were open — available for the public to use, remix and share. People were curious about how we manage to create our menu of language learning resources — our answer to this is that open materials are created in community: in communities of dedicated language educators and scholars, students, technologists, programmers, web developers and end users who all have a stake in the game. Created for the people, by the people.

For those of you who were with us at SOCALLT, let us know what new idea, practice or tool you are excited about trying out in your teaching. What inspired you?

If you’re coming to the IALLT conference in June, please come see us at our SpinTX and eComma presentations. And we’ll be in Hawaii at the CALICO conference, so come by our booth and check out our presentations!

 

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.

“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.

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.

10 French Resources for Students Anywhere

10 French Resources for Students Anywhere

When I first started teaching French, I certainly could not have envisioned that all my classes would be held online, that my students might be in Hong Kong, deployed in Afghanistan, or figure-skating outside of Paris — all actively pursuing their Associate degrees from Northern Virginia Community College. But this is the case.

What my students have in common are their computers and tablets, microphones and mobile devices. Our landscape is radically different because we have Skype, our Learning Management System (LMS) with its discussion board and external links, and more recently, a free and open communication tool called Google Hangout! Now we can chat and share screens and assignments in real time or later on. For reference material, we start with Google and all kinds of Wikimedia, in addition to our college library website.

This is the open world I always hoped for — to bring education to the many and to make a dent in the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.” And never in this world has it been more necessary.

Since 2000, I have been an editor of the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT). A pioneer in the Open Educational Resource (OER) movement,  MERLOT constitutes a one-stop site for educators who need to design a robust learning environment for their students.

Today, I want to share a few of my top tools for studying French with MERLOT. My students use and like these resources. The materials are easy to find and free, as an OER should be:

Laura’s Top 10 French Resources (Les Incontournables)

To access the following sites, click on the links or go to www.merlot.org and enter the boldfaced titles in the search field.

  1. Francais interactifWhen my students need a concise example of language in context, Tex’s French Grammarjust one component of Francais Interactif, provides brief and humorous dialogues to illustrate structure points, bref. Complements what students learn in my course. Includes an excellently moderated Facebook page which my students visit for extra credit. Students from around the globe interact and share great video and music.
  2. LangMedia Foreign Language Media ArchiveDirect access to culture and language through short student-produced videos with target language transcripts, realia, and language by country index. Editor’s Choice Winner!
  3. COERLL: Interactive multimedia learning materials in a variety of languages including LCTLS, many with five-star peer reviews in MERLOT. User-friendly and impeccably designed.
  4. REALIA Project: Language faculty provide target language realia online for educational use by instructors and students. Every picture tells a story leading to target language instruction.
  5. Today’s Front Pages: Target language newspapers with a pdf to the front page and links to the online version. Great for all levels and languages.
  6. Lexiquefle: Quick and easy target language vocabulary modules from Thierry Perrot. Online students get to hear a different accent than mine!
  7. Forvo: The largest pronunciation guide in the world. Users verify the pronunciation of words they are learning.
  8. BonPatron: A grammar corrector that finds spelling errors and grammar mistakes in French.
    BonPatron
  9. ISL Collective Fiches FLE Gratuites: Quick access to French worksheets for students who like to learn that way.
  10. French Listening Resources: From Jennie Wagner, because you cannot get enough listening texts when you study online.

What kinds of resources do you think are essential to making your online class a more complete learning environment for your students? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

LauraLaura Franklin teaches French online at the Extended Learning Institute, Northern Virginia Community College. She is one of the original Co-Editors of MERLOT World Languages. For information on becoming a MERLOT World Languages Peer Reviewer, contact Laura at lfranklin@nvcc.edu.

To read more about teaching languages using free OER, see Why I Love and Hate My Spanish MOOC by Fernando Rubio.

Why I Love and Hate My Spanish MOOC

Why I Love and Hate My Spanish MOOC

The first steps of innovation are always messy. Think of the cellphone. If you are my age you probably remember the first brick phones: large and heavy as bricks and expensive as gold bars. Fast-forward a couple of decades and you find a mini version of those bricks in every pocket. Who would have thought? Now they can decide political campaigns and organize grass roots movements. And most of us only occasionally use them to make phone calls.

We need to get over the hype that this first wave of MOOCs is generating and also refrain from making apocalyptic predictions about the impact of MOOCs on higher education. (See MOOCs Revolution Hits the Universities?)

Until we work out the kinks and clunkiness of the first MOOCs, we should all pause and ponder how MOOCs can help the education enterprise. (See The Wall Street Journal Feb. 4, 2013 article, Crash Sinks Course on Online Teaching.)

I’m in my fourth week of teaching a Spanish MOOC for the first time. Here are some insights I’ve gleaned from my experience so far:

  1. The number of students currently enrolled in my course is approximately equivalent to the total number I have taught in the previous 10 years. And they come from every corner of the world. Never in my wildest dreams could I have expected to have such a large and diverse audience in this course. This is good.
  2. Since all the material is delivered online, the ability to use course analytics will allow me to see how students interact with the course — how they learn. Although I can also do that in a traditional course, the size and format of a MOOC makes the process a lot more accurate and efficient. This is very good.
  3. Students who participate in MOOCs are not students in the institutional sense of the word. They don’t have the motivation of a grade or a degree, or the sense of urgency that comes from having paid for a course. They come in at any point, use what they want and ignore what they don’t. This makes it very difficult to design and run a course (particularly a language course). We are used to dealing with teaching that results in learning and certification; a MOOC is a form of teaching that only results in learning (at least for now). This is a challenge.

I plan to come back to Open up regularly to give you all updates on how things are proceeding. In the meantime, it would be useful to think about the role of MOOCs and the intersection between teaching and certification.

Here’s an insightful blog post on the topic by Cathy Davidson (Hastac.org): What Can MOOCs Teach Us About 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.

Hillary Clinton’s Legacy for Open Education

Hillary Clinton’s Legacy for Open Education

Just days before ending her term as U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the Open Book Project, an initiative to expand access to free, high-quality open educational resources.

The first Open Book Project will focus on Arabic-language open educational resources (OER) and the translation of existing OER into Arabic. They plan to disseminate the resources free of charge through a partnership with the Arab League.

On the larger backdrop of open education, the initiative:

  • offers training and support to governments, educators, and students to put existing resources to use and develop their own, and
  • raises awareness of the potential of open educational resources and promotes uptake of online learning materials.

We in the OER language learning community will be eager to see how the initiative develops in the area of collaboration and creating a sustainable model that can be duplicated for other languages and areas of the world. The U.S. government brings technical expertise to the table and the Arab league countries bring content expertise. This is a model for global education.

If we agree that sustainability of open education depends on finding reciprocal relationships — mutual benefit — between those involved, what projects can we dream of that would feature international collaborators? What does U.S. higher education have to offer the developing world and what do they have to give U.S. higher ed?

Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.
— Form Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

MOOCs Revolution Hits the Universities?

MOOCs Revolution Hits the Universities?

I usually enjoy reading the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, especially when he writes about the social impact of technological change. But his January 26, 2013 editorial entitled “Revolution Hits the Universities” struck a nerve.  The editorial was a gushing account of how MOOCs will revolutionize higher education by making the best educational content available to the global public for a fraction of the cost of a regular bricks-and-mortar course.  So, where is the problem? Well, it was the last paragraph that gave me pause:

I can see a day soon where you’ll create your own college degree by taking the best online courses from the best professors from around the world — some computing from Stanford, some entrepreneurship from Wharton, some ethics from Brandeis, some literature from Edinburgh — paying only the nominal fee for the certificates of completion. It will change teaching, learning and the pathway to employment.

Therefore, according to Friedman, one of the consequences of MOOCs is the further concentration of power in elite institutions such as Stanford, Wharton, Brandeis, and Edinburgh. So much for democratizing global education!

It turns out that I was not the only reader who objected to Friedman’s vision. Here is an excerpt of a comment posted by a New York Times reader (“dpen” from Boston) who eloquently articulated my worries:

If MOOCs succeed in the way that Friedman envisions, it is likely to mean the end of academia as a viable career path for most people. If a handful of the most elite universities can successfully teach billions, then what need is there for the thousands of ordinary universities out there that currently employ the bulk of faculty. At most, there would be a need for an army of poorly paid graders and on-line discussion facilitators (to respond to the thousands of comments the professor will never read). … Teaching has so far been a craft, and now it is entering the era of mass production.

Revolutions are nothing if not unpredictable. They unleash all kinds of unintended consequences. And MOOCs are grand educational experiments. We must admit that no one knows what the outcome will be. So, let’s avoid hyperbolic predictions. They scare people.

Carl BlythCarl Blyth is Director of COERLL and Associate Professor of French, UT Austin.  His research includes CMC,  cross-cultural and intercultural pragmatics, interactional sociolinguistics, and pedagogical grammar.  He is project director of eComma, an open-source annotation application to facilitate more “social” forms of reading.

 

MOOCs + Learning Networks = The Mixxer

MOOCs + Learning Networks = The Mixxer

At first glance, a survey of the most popular MOOCs seems to offer little to those in the foreign languages.  The format most closely resembles a large university lecture course and seems to be a poor fit for language courses, which ideally are small to allow maximum production and feedback from the instructor as well as personal interaction with peers in the target language.

However,  you might not realize the original MOOC, now often called a cMOOC, created by George Siemens and Stephen Downes focused on having students create their own learning networks of practice and reflection.  As a result, the format of a cMOOC included a web of rss feeds from blogs, link aggregators, and Twitter created and consumed by the instructors and learners.

Instead of looking at what’s missing, let’s think of the possibilities.

What if language learning MOOCs offered ways to foster online learning networks? Think of the advantages in connecting language learners with native speakers for mutual exchanges. Language exchanges are well established in our discipline, and by combining these exchanges with the content and structure of a traditional course, we can provide our students with a richer experience. And informal learners familiar with learning networks but who don’t have access to traditional coursework could receive structured language education.

This is the goal for The Mixxer, a website I created for connecting language learners and teachers for exchanges via Skype. This semester I plan to add to the networking site two short MOOCs — English as a foreign language and Spanish. I’m working on creating lessons to address the core skills using open educational resources from COERLLConnexions, and BBC Languages. The lessons will include activities for learners to complete with their language partners that build upon the content. The Mixxer already has functions for learners to connect with a language partner, but to further facilitate this I’m adding regular open events whereby native English and Spanish speakers who signed up for either course will be matched and connected to each other via Skype.

I am just starting on the lessons and am anxious for links to more open content, preferably like those from COERLL that have a structured sequence of content and exercises.  If you know any other open resources or have ideas for EFL or Spanish lessons, I’d very much appreciate a comment below.

Todd Bryant (@MixxerSite or @bryantt) is the liaison to the foreign language departments for the Academic Technology group at Dickinson College and an adjunct instructor of German. Todd created The Mixxer to help connect language students with native speakers. His interests include the immersive effect of games in service of foreign language learning, such as the use of World of Warcraft to teach German.