Why Foreign Language Grad Programs Should Care About OER

Why Foreign Language Grad Programs Should Care About OER

Photo: English106

Discussions about the future of OER often seem to center on issues of promotion and tenure and on finding viable business models for  for large-scale projects. While these are certainly issues for which solutions need to be found, our desire to institutionalize and commodify OER must not crowd out consideration of the pedagogical opportunities that OER can provide to graduate programs.

Digital Humanities and CALL

We are in an age in which graduate programs are thinking about alternatives to the dissertation and Digital Humanists are calling for project-based scholarship for graduate students. Work on OER can facilitate this new kind of graduate training, creating a focus for discussions of content as well as curricular design, and providing hands-on experience in issues of CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) for a generation of teachers who will be expected to work increasingly in online and hybrid formats.

Creating a Knowledge Ecosystem

Rather than focusing exclusively on single-author articles and monographs, couldn’t graduate students also collaborate on materials for classroom use? Think of the vast array of materials that such an army of graduate students could produce, and the praise it might garner from legislators seeking to lower the cost of higher education. Think about the “knowledge ecosystem” that this small change could help create, and the ripple effects that a cohort so young could have over time. (See Making Collaboration Easier to watch Rich Baraniuk talk more about the knowledge ecosystem.)

What do you think? Could embracing Open Access and technological literacy as integral parts of graduate studies better prepare both the future professoriate and the growing number of alternative academics being produced by our graduate programs?

Jon perkinsJonathan Perkins is the Director of the Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center at the University of Kansas. His research interests include Computer Assisted Language Learning, instructional technology and faculty development.


  1. Great post, Jonathan. I personally think the field of foreign language education is at an interesting point in its history (at least here in the United States). There are many pedagogical, theoretical, and technological developments that are currently unfolding all at the same time. As you have correctly pointed out, all of these changes (e.g., the increase in OER creation and use among graduate students) should (and eventually will) affect the ways in which we train the future professoriate. When thinking about my own experience(s) as a graduate student teaching assistant, my fellow graduate students and I freely shared our activities/ideas in weekly TA meetings. In essence, we were sharing each other’s OERs and reusing them in our own classrooms while oftentimes making adjustments/improvements to the original activity whenever necessary. However, as you mention, much more emphasis should be placed on this kind of training/professional development in FL methods courses and in any CALL course required for TAs as I think once they graduate, many of them will be asked—at some point in their careers—to teach an online or hybrid course. The more experiences they have with OER creation and use in a hybrid or online format while in graduate school, the more successful they will be in their jobs later on.

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