Our presentation at this year’s AAAL conference highlighted several findings from a survey distributed to 155 university-level language program directors (LPDs). The study provides a snapshot of the progress of open education in the field of language learning in the United States. In one section of the survey, we asked LPDs questions about whether or not they had considered the library as a resource to support development and use of open educational resources (OER) in their foreign language (FL) programs. Seventy-three percent of respondents indicated that they had not considered the university library as a resource. This particular finding underscores the need for increased collaboration between LPDs and their institution’s library/librarians. This unique cross-disciplinary relationship will be key to the ongoing proliferation and incorporation of OER materials and tools in FL education.
University libraries are, at their very core, diverse knowledge ecosystems that provide a wide range of services and materials to the university at large. With respect to FL education, librarians can be vital partners in the process of encouraging FL faculty to incorporate OER in their courses. These information professionals excel in areas of evaluation, location, and organization, and each of these topics represents an area critical to the widespread adoption of OER. We have only scratched the surface of the potential of OER and the benefits of collaboration between librarians and the disciplines. Some interesting examples are out there: UMass Amherst Libraries; Open Textbook Library (University of Minnesota); PDX Open (Portland State University); and Open Course Library (Washington Community & Technical College). However, as you see in these examples, foreign languages are underrepresented. The bright side of this is that we are at a moment of exciting opportunity and potential.
Successful libraries are always evaluating the services they provide and asking what they can do to better serve their constituents—students, faculty, and staff, and in our current environment a crucial part of the answer to that question for all of these user groups is “embrace open!” This is a common thread within the OER movement in that it is, at some level, about improving the learning experience for students. We all know about the economic reasons for embracing OER, but the benefits of OER go far beyond the economics. Open educational resources can add authenticity and vitality to the foreign language classroom and create an environment where both students and faculty are more engaged participants.
Becky Thoms is the Scholarly Communication and Copyright Librarian at Merrill-Cazier Library at Utah State University. She manages USU’s Institutional Repository and provides education and outreach services related to intellectual property, scholarly communication, and all things open.
Joshua J. Thoms is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Applied Linguistics at Utah State University. His research interests include the role of classroom discourse in L2 learning and teaching, computer-mediated language learning, and issues related to foreign language textbooks/materials.