COERLL hosted an online “OER hangout” on June 3rd on the subject of the impact of open educational resources (OER) on teaching practices. With 32 people attending, four instructors shared their experiences creating openly licensed resources for teaching and learning languages:
- Julianne Hammink, Instructional Design & Development Coordinator at the Center for ESL at the University of Arizona who is developing OER for ESL
- David Thompson, Professor of Spanish at Luther College and author of a set of four problem-based units for Advanced Spanish
- Sonia Balasch, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics in the Department of Language and Literature at Eastern Mennonite University and co-author of Español y cultura en perspectiva
- Margherita Berti, Doctoral student in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching at the University of Arizona, and creator of Italian Open Education, which features 360° Virtual Reality videos.
Although the topic of the hangout was teaching practices, OER can have an impact before teaching has even begun. The panelists pointed out that developing OER made them think more about their course design, giving them more insight into their own instructional practices and goals.
One common factor of success that each panelist mentioned was community. OER can do the often difficult job of bringing different members of the campus community together, for example, librarians, digital humanitarians, and centers for teaching and learning. Each panelist mentioned having talked to their colleagues for advice at some point during the OER development process. After publishing her OER, Sonia heard from faculty at other institutions who were using her materials and she went on to mentor colleagues as they developed their own curricula, thus growing the community.
OER can broach topics that are more challenging, current, and relevant than in a traditional textbook. The panelists exposed their students to a variety of topics. For Sonia, it was social justice. For Margherita, it was virtual reality access to non-touristic locations that would show Italian culture from a more everyday perspective. For David, it was controversies in Spain, such as bullfighting.
This kind of subject matter has the potential to motivate students to think critically. David pointed out that “part of the goal… is to present students with messy or incomplete information that they must then combine and recombine in order to develop a reasonable solution… OER lends itself well to being… less curated or edited for a classroom context.” And this format gave his students the space to develop their collaborative skills.
David, Sonia, and Margherita have all published their materials, and Julianne is beginning to pilot her materials this semester. But their work is still evolving. At the end of each semester, Sonia asks her students in their evaluation if they have any changes to suggest, and then updates the materials accordingly. She said “the readings will be better, thanks to my students. We don’t have the final word on anything… that’s the idea.”
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Thank you to our four panelists and to everyone who attended! COERLL is planning more OER hangouts for the fall, where we will emphasize various topics in OER (including student-authored OER) and allow plenty of time for questions and discussion. Keep an eye on our social media and our mailing list for more information!