This weekend, the 2014 American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Conference begins in beautiful Portland, OR. Center Director Carl Blyth will co-host a panel with Joshua Thoms of Utah State University, which will focus on Open Educational Resources in the Foreign Language context. Steven Thorne of Portland State University, Fernando Rubio of the University of Utah, and Amy Rossomondo from the University of Kansas will join in on the panel presentations and offer up perspectives about the affordances of openness, the benefits and challenges of using OER in foreign language programs, and even demonstrate comparisons of student interactions in technology enhanced language learning MOOCs.
The “unofficial motto” of the 2014 AAAL Conference is “change.” And, while much of that motto reflects a shifting of the conference format, it seems to be a particularly relevant theme to frame not only the larger exploration of the role of OER in foreign language education, but also the conversation about investigating the effect of OER in foreign language teaching and learning. OER is often seen as something of a disruptive technology in the context of education; the perception of its value and potential impact varies widely among faculty, administrators, and students. While understanding these impressions certainly plays an important part in assessing the value of OER and learning more about its function in various educational contexts, there is an equally important role for an evidence-based approach to both shore up and dismantle particular claims.
Here at COERLL, we just wrapped up the spring issue of our bi-annual newsletter entitled “Research for an Open World.” In it, we focus on the idea that organizations like COERLL have a real opportunity to advance a research agenda by taking advantage of various data capture and analytics tools available to us – like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights. While the software largely provide demographic data and lend insight on general characteristics of the users of particular online resources we make available, we know that unpacking and analyzing these data is a small, but significant first step in developing a more complete picture of how teachers and learners utilize our resources and the impact they may have.
In the coming weeks, we look forward to talking more about the AAAL discussion – especially taking a closer look at some of the panel participant’s empirical research projects that investigate the effects of OER on foreign language learning and teaching. In the meantime, we invite you to take a look at the Spring 2014 newsletter and also check out a one-page handout we made – Open Educational Resources: The Basics – for last week’s Open Education Week Celebration.