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OER: insights into a multilingual landscape

Although it is over a decade since the term OER was coined in the 2002 UNESCO’s Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education (Johnstone, 2005), there is still little consensus on the nature and the added value of OER in a language learning context. As Fred Mulder, UNESCO chair in OER, claims, “OER will need 20 to 30 years to reach its ultimate global realization” (Mulder, 2012). There is a growing interest into the shift from OER to Open Educational Practice (OEP) with the emphasis put on OER uptake in other learning contexts than those for which they have been originally designed, thus highlighting the dynamics that can occur in OER reuse (Conole, 2013; Weller, 2010).
In the CALL field, progress into understanding the potential of OER/OEP for language learning and teaching is made, through scientific events (Eurocall 2012 SIG on OER ) and joint publications (Beaven et al., 2013; Borthwick et al., 2013; Lane et al., 2013, Thomas & Evans, 2014).
The symposium addresses the question of multilingualism and OER, by discussing the place of linguistic pluralism in a fast developing OER landscape in which very few languages are dominant (Zourou, 2013). Less used languages due to fewer resources, human and material, compared to dominant languages, face new challenges when situated in the OER scene. More precisely we look at the following issues:
1. Which languages are represented in repositories of OER (ROER) and what kind of subjects do they cover?
2. How multilingual repositories cope with the management of OER in various languages? How is the management (upload, sharing, updates, monitoring) of these resources possible? How do language teachers and learners engage with OER in these repositories?
3. Is OER uptake a far-fetched idea or current practice? What kind of evidence does exist of OER uptake in a language learning/teaching context?

Three groups of researchers will tackle those issues. Linda Bradley, Sylvi Vigmo and Katerina Zourou will address the first question by presenting a desktop research on a) multilingual ROER and b) languages representation in ROER in general.
Tita Beaven will address the second question by referring to LORO, a specific repository of OER for language teachers, and look at how language teachers in particular engage with this repository.
Kate Borthwick will consider the third question from her point of view as manager of a repository of language teaching materials and the leader of several projects which have looked at how language teachers engage with OERs. Her project work includes working with teachers of less widely used languages working at HE level and in community settings.

A 10 minutes discussion with the audience will complete the symposium. Key ideas of the symposium will be instrumental in further collaboration of the three teams with stakeholders in the audience.

The symposium is an initiative of the European consortium LangOER (OER for less used languages ). This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Indicative bibliography
Beaven, A., Comas-Quinn, A., & Sawhill, B. (2013) (Eds). Case Studies of Openness in the Language Classroom. Retrieved from
Borthwick, K., and Gallagher-Brett, A. (2013) ‘Inspiration, ideas, encouragement’: teacher development and improved use of technology in language teaching through open educational practice, Computer Assisted Language Learning
Conole, G. 2013. Designing for learning in an Open World. Springer
Johnstone, Sally M. (2005). "Open Educational Resources Serve the World". Educause Quarterly 28 (3). Retrieved from

Lane, A., Comas-Quinn, A., Carter, J. (2013) (Eds) The potential of openness for engaging communities. Special issue of the Journal of Interactive Media in Education, December 2013.

Mulder, F. (2012). “OER will need 20 to 30 years to reach its ultimate global realization” Interview for the Open Education Europa portal, 25 October 2012.

Thomas, M., Evans, M. (2014) (Eds.) Open Educational Resources in Language Learning Special issue of ReCALL journal, 27 (2).
Weller, Martin (2010). Big and little OER. In: OpenED2010: Seventh Annual Open Education Conference, 2-4 November 2010, Barcelona, Spain.
Zourou, K. 2013. Open Education: multilingual, user driven and glocalised. In Redecker, C. (Ed.) Open Education 2030: Contribution to the JRC-IPTS Call for Vision Papers. Part I: lifelong learning. , pp. 31-35. IPTS: Seville.


Katerina Zourou    

Katerina is a Senior Researcher at the Sør-Trøndelag University College, Tronheim, Norway on network-based peer learning systems.
In the past she worked as post-doctoral researcher in the field of computer supported collaborative language learning at the University of Luxembourg (2008-2012) and at the University Stendhal Grenoble III (2006-2008).

Her research interests involve the role of computer tools in foreign language education as well as telecollaborative practices online.
She is the initiator and project leader of the European Commission funded projects LangOER (OER for less used languages), LS6(Language learning and social media: 6 key dialogues) and Web2LLP (Improving Internet strategies and maximizing social media presence of LLP projects).
Katerina is editor of books and journal special issues, as well as author of peer-reviewed articles and other scientific publications.

Sylvi Vigmo    
Department of Education, Communication and Learning
University of Gothenburg

In her research at the University of Gothenburg, Sylvi Vigmo takes a general interest in interaction, communication and learning in collaborative digital media settings. More specifically this means in-depth explorations of the use of languages in learners’ boundary crossings between contexts in which digital media are used as resources. Currently she is in involved in research on young people’s use of language in social network sites.

Kate Borthwick    
Modern Languages
University of Southampton
United Kingdom

Kate is a senior academic coordinator for elearning at the Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS), University of Southampton. She is an experienced developer of online learning materials and an e-tutor and currently coordinates LLAS activity in relation to the use of technology in language teaching and learning, initiating and managing projects, devising and delivering training, and organising and running events, notably the Centre’s annual elearning symposium. She manages the development and training for the LOC tool (an online authoring tool developed at LLAS), and also manages two online teaching and learning repositories hosted by LLAS (LanguageBox and HumBox). She has a research interest in open educational resources (OER) and managed all of the Centre’s recent projects exploring Open Educational Practice (The HumBox Project 2009-10; Community Café 2010-2011; FAVOR 2011-2012, and OpenLIVES 2011-2013). She speaks regularly on the topic of open practice in language education at conferences and other events. She has a background in teaching English to international students across the globe and at universities in the UK.

Linda Bradley    
Department of Applied IT
Chalmers University of Technology

Linda Bradley recently finished her Ph.D. within the area of web-based technology and learning at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Her research interests include investigating student collaboration, communication and intercultural learning in digital environments in language learning and specifically within English for Specific purposes (ESP) in higher education.

Tita Beaven    
Department of Languages
The Open University
United Kingdom

Tita Beaven is a lecturer in Spanish at the Open University, where she is also Head of the Department of Languages. Her research interests are in the area of open educational resources and practices.


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