Photo credit: flickr user gotcredit.com
Here at COERLL, we encourage teachers to use Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Educational Practices (OEP) in their classes. One way to begin using OER and OEP is to search for and use pedagogical materials (lessons, activities, and courses) that other teachers have posted online in OER repositories. To help navigate through the many options, we’ve gone through all of the OER repositories we know of to see what the benefits are of each one, and how much language content is available. This is a summary of what we found, we hope after you read this you will want to either search on some of these sites, or upload your own materials for sharing! And please let us know in the comments if you know of other repositories not included here!
Criteria for evaluating repositories
This criteria was loosely based on Atenas and Havemann’s key OER repository themes of searching, sharing, reusing, and collaborating, set out in their 2013 article ‘Quality Assurance in the Open: An Evaluation of OER Repositories’, which can be found online here.1
- availability of language content – does the repository have at least some content for language learning, and is it easy to find?
- tools for vetting – does the platform provide for peer reviews or some other vetting/editorial process to assure teachers access to quality content?
- ease of remixing – does the platform encourage teachers to edit materials and personalize them for their students?
- licensing information – are licenses clearly marked? do licenses allow for fair attribution, sharing, and remixing of content? are Creative Commons licenses encouraged?
- metadata quality – does metadata facilitate searches using different criteria (e.g. languages, proficiency level, etc.)?
- any other qualities that create an engaging and creative space for sharing materials and ideas,such as tools to help teachers communicate and interact with each other
Repositories with language materials
A well respected and mature (started in 1997) repository for lessons and activities. There are lots of options for collaboration and communication, so that it’s not just a repository but a community around sharing resources.
- Lots of language content
- Peer reviews are available for many of the entries and Merlot’s editorial board selects their favorites
- Teachers can discuss the materials with each other in a comments section.
- Easy to create a learning exercise around the materials.
- Licensing information is clearly marked (not all content is Creative Commons licensed)
- The longevity of the platform has allowed the best materials to emerge over time – here’s a list of some award winning ones
The best part about this textbook repository is the elaborate rating system and emphasis on peer reviews and the vetting process.
- There is a detailed list of criteria to guide users in reviewing materials.
- Licensing information is clearly marked.
- Some COERLL textbooks have just been added to the language page!
OER Commons is a large repository for any kind of materials (lessons, activities, textbooks, etc.). It has tools in place for thorough evaluation, remixing, creation, and licensing.
- About 700 language materials and language support for resources and metadata
- Users can evaluate materials based on Common Core standards and an extensive rubric. There is also a general rating available (out of 5 stars).
- The system guides users in choosing a Creative Commons license upon upload
- The lesson builder allows teachers to create new materials or reuse existing.
Full courses available from Carnegie Mellon, for teachers looking for structured and complete courses.
- Chinese, Spanish, French, Arabic
- Plentiful guides and resources for teachers.
- Licensed with a CC-BY-NC-ND license.
- Users can add content but can’t remove or revise content from a course.
- Free for instructors and independent learners, $50 for enrolled students.
- Compatible with LMS.
- Statistics about student use help teachers track progress and help Carnegie Mellon research education theories.
Professionally laid out materials are easy to find and edit in this library of courses from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
- 3 levels each of Spanish, French, and Sign Language
- All materials are in google docs which makes them easy to modify.
- All content is clearly marked as Creative Commons licensed.
The website for the 16 national Language Resource Centers (of which COERLL is one), where you can search a list of over 800 classroom and professional development materials.
- Language content only (there are materials for LCTLs too)
- Lots of criteria to help users narrow searches down
- Materials have been vetted by language specialists
Curriki does a good job of emphasizing community, and its wide range of review options helps users to sift through a lot of activities and other content.
- 2765 entries under “World Language” content, but not all are for language teaching
- Review options are plentiful: Members can give ratings and reviews, Curriki reviews some content based on Technical Completeness, Content Accuracy, and Appropriate Pedagogy, and there are collections curated by Curriki (no curated language collections yet though)
- There is a separate community for teachers to discuss how to use materials.
- Choosing a license is a prerequisite for uploading materials
- Users can align materials with standards.
TES is a repository where teachers share activities. Some activities cost a small fee but the World Languages section and the remixing tools make this site worth looking through.
- American Sign Language, Ancient Greek, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, etc.
- Teachers can review materials
- All content is labeled with a license, either Creative Commons or the TES teaching resource license
- Their related site, Blendspace, encourages remixing and is easily accessible from TES
- Share My Lesson allows users to build a lesson plan around TES materials
MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) makes course materials from MIT classes available for the public.
- A good range of languages represented.
- All instructor created materials share a CC BY NC SA license
- Course materials includes any combination of syllabus, calendar, list of readings, assignments, online/related resources, study materials, instructor insights, and sometimes even course videos.
- Though the instructor created materials are free and openly licensed, some of the course materials referenced are not free or open.
Wikibooks and Wikiversity
Wikibooks and Wikiversity are both run by Wikimedia. There are currently a lot of incomplete materials there but with the ease of editing, options to add auxiliary materials, and discussion tools, these platforms could be a rich resource.
- Many languages (mostly reference grammars) on Wikibooks, some on Wikiversity
- Discussion tabs encourage community and collaboration
- There’s an option to add exercises on Wikibooks
- Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
LORO is all language content! It contains mostly activities rather than whole textbooks or collections. It’s supported by The Univesity of Southhampton and the Open University.
- Exclusively for languages
- Users can comment on or “like” materials
- All content is CC licensed.
Repositories with fewer language options but with a unique angle on OER
Some other repositories are set up well but have little or no language offerings. I’d like to mention them anyways as examples of all the ways a repository can encourage sharing and collaboration.
- Portland State University Open Text offers a carefully curated set of textbooks with a growing number of language books
- BC Campus Open Ed has all the right tools for building a community of collaboration around the available CC licensed textbooks, including detailed criteria for peer review and resources for adopting and modifying texts.
- The Orange Grove is the state of Florida’s repository. One of its best features is its detailed metadata which makes it easy to search for content.
- Gooru offers CC licensed collections of materials, and many other features such as games and tools for remixing content and measuring student progress.
- OpenStax CNX offers fully vetted, modularized textbooks, and an option for sharing activities and lessons.
- The Sofia Project is a smaller repository, but it’s interesting to look through because of the large amount of auxiliary materials, like syllabi, rubrics, schedules, assignments, projects, exams, and even sample student assignments.
- The Global Text Project is a grassroots approach to textbooks and encourages teachers to adopt books and work with their students to make them better.
- The Saylor Foundation provides well organized and complete CC licensed courses with a lot of auxiliary material, and peer review and feedback are encouraged.
- Storyweaver is not quite a repository but it offers a good model for collaborative language work… anyone can upload storybooks in any language (41 languages represented so far), and members of the community can comment on stories, share on social media, translate them or edit them for different levels of readers.
- Open Yale
- Open Education Consortium Course Search
- Open Learn
- Andover Fulcrum
- BC Campus’ SOL*R
- Open SUNY Textbooks
- YouTube Education page
- Apple Books textbooks section (more foreign language books under the Reference > Foreign Languages section)
- iTunes U
Areas for improvement
- Tagging: Some repositories appear to have more language content than they do because content in a foreign language is tagged under the same category as content for teaching foreign languages. So for example, a Portuguese lesson about biology for Portuguese speakers could be in the same category as a Portuguese learning lesson for English speakers.
- Use cases: Most repositories don’t specifically encourage a teacher who uploads a resource to explain how they used the the resource in their classroom. This information could help other teachers save time and give them new ideas about teaching methods.
- Remixing: Editing materials is a key aspect of OER, but some sites do not encourage it. Some repositories do encourage edits in their platforms, but the resulting new material is not usable outside of the platform.
- Popular tools: Some of the most widely used platforms (for example, YouTube) offer free resources for education, but don’t always provide important tools: peer review options, search terms compatible with educational criteria, and open licenses.
1Atenas, Javiera and Havemann, Leo (2013) ‘Quality Assurance in the Open: An Evaluation of OER Repositories.’ INNOQUAL – International Journal for Innovation and Quality in Learning , 1 (2). pp. 22-34.