Category Archives: MOOCs

International Conference on Bilingualism in Education

A talk on OER: insights into a multilingual landscape was given by Marit Bijlsma (Fryske Akademy), at the international conference Bilingualism in Education, which took place at Bangor University, North Wales, on 10-12th June 2016.

The event attracted around 150 international researchers and practitioners within bilingual and multilingual education.

The main goals of this conference were:

  • To increase the understanding of bilingualism world-wide, as regards both the individual and the community;
  • To build research capacity on bilingualism by developing a vibrant ‘laboratory’ for the study of bilingualism in action which aims to serve as a platform for interactions between bilingualism experts and junior researchers;
  • To develop strong bidirectional links with practitioners and policy makers concerned with bilingualism, so as to ground research and theory in the needs of those users and ensure dissemination of research findings;
  • To develop new collaborations.

The event covered a broad spectrum of themes of interest for the LangOER project to relate to and to exchange knowledge on and, in particular, the topic of ‘Understanding students’ attitudes towards post-compulsory study in minoritized languages’.

”It is widely acknowledged that the establishment of school-based educational provision in minoritized languages has been a key factor in language revitalisation in a range of primarily European contexts, where institutional recognition and support have been secured by the relevant minority. In the Welsh context, and elsewhere, the production of new speakers has arisen primarily as a consequence of the growth in the number of school-aged pupils studying through the medium of Welsh”

Andrew James Davies, Prifysgol Aberystwyth

The presentation focused on the following key aspects.

  • Language use and attitudes in a minority language community: The case of Wales. Language use and language attitudes have been longstanding and contentious issues within the field of minority language policy. In order for individuals to succeed in becoming bilingual, they have to receive input through both languages, Often, a lack of infrastructure bears the burden of successful minority language transmission. (Dr Mirain Rhys, WISERD).
  • Do Immigrant Minority Students Succeed in CLIL? Over the last few decades, processes of globalization and immigration have turned educational programmes and policies developed to cater to majority language or regional minority language groups into complex language planning issues. The growing influx of immigrant minority (IM) language speakers in both minority and majority multilingual education has laid bare the limitations of (some of) these programmes to provide relevant and appropriate education for all children in the 21st century. (Thomas Somers, Universidad Auntónoma de Madrid)
  • Trilingual Education in Friesland. Currently, Frisian is mainly taught through ‘weak models’ with ‘limited enrichment’. However, more than 100 primary schools (out of 450) apply a bilingual model, and another 75 schools apply the concept of ‘Trilingual Education’ with both Frisian and Eng-lish as a medium of instruction. The number of trilingual schools has increased, and schools are working step-by-step towards a fully developed, tailor made application of the CLIL approach, using school television programs from ‘Omrop Fryslân’ and digital teaching tools. (Alex Riemersma, NHL & Stenden universities of applied sciences).
  • Teaching mathematics in a Basque-medium pre-primary classroom: interaction resources and problem solving techniques. Early Childhood Education in the Basque Autonomous Community in Spain, in a multilingual education context in which 50% of students complete the curriculum in their L2, Basque. The presentation focused on the explanatory and problem solving expressions used by the teacher to the pupils that serve the dual purpose of teaching both the linguistic and the mathematical content. (Julia Barnes, Arantza Ozaeta, Matilde Sainz, Mondragon Unibertsitatea – HUHEZI).
  • Minority Language Families in Diaspora: Catalans in New York City. Educating multilingual children is an adventure ideally shared by teachers and parents. In order to encourage families to embark on, and persist in, the multilingual challenge, teachers benefit from a deep understanding of why parents decide to transmit which of their languages or not, and how they manage. Mixed and migrant families offer a particularly interesting case, since typically parents are forced to make conscious choices regarding their language repertoire. They can also illuminate the dynamics concerning societal multilingualism, where choices might be more environmentally mediated. (Eva J. Daussa, University of Groningen).

Author: Marit Bijlsma (Fryske Akademy)

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LangOER Conference: ‘Open Education: Promoting Diversity for European Languages’

From 26 to 27 September 2016, the LangOER project, in cooperation with EdReNe, the Educational Repositories Network, will hold its final conference titled ‘Open Education: Promoting Diversity for European Languages’ in Brussels, Belgium.

The conference will kick off in the European Day of languages aiming to bring together policy makers concerned with language learning and teaching, pedagogical use of ICT, and social integration and inclusion, experts in open education and digital content repositories, educational researchers and teachers. Participants will have the chance to discuss the importance of linguistic diversity in Europe and the support of OER in fostering minority languages.

During the first day, workshops and roundtables will address strategies on how OER and OER for Less Used Languages could be integrated in policy agendas, how funding can be identified and what activities can be developed at Pan-European level. In addition, tailored workshops will be organized on the role of teachers and the importance of bottom-up and community building strategies for the OER uptake.

On the second day, sessions will be focused on good practices like MOOCs for language learning and future actions for the enhancement of OER and OEP in European and global level. At the finale of the conference, the LangOER prizes will be announced and the role and involvement of teachers in the project will be presented with some experiences and practices.

The conference ‘Open Education: Promoting Diversity for European Languages’ is the closing event of LangOER project that aims at contributing to the promotion of learning and teaching of less used European languages by linking them to the global challenges of Open Education.

If you are interested to know more

Follow the conference live on social media #LangOERconf

LangOER website –
EdReNe website –

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Teacher Training in the Netherlands: Raising Awareness on OER and OEP use

In the Netherlands, teachers do have access to high quality online educational materials, often provided for by the publishing sector, additional to the purchased educational materials in printed form by the school. These online educational materials however, are not open. Teachers in general are however enthusiastic about the online teaching materials which are purchased by the school, as they are of high quality and can be used on their Digibords. In the Netherlands, a clear challenge thus exist in raising awareness of the benefits of Open Educational Resources (OER) and the concept of Open Educational practice (OEP) as an alternative or complementary to the online materials purchased by the schools, which are not open.

The Mercator Research Centre, part of the Fryske Akademy and coördinator of the langOER project, adressed this by organising training session in the Netherlands, which was hands-on centred and allowed the participants to work towards a common goal. We choose to set-up a training structure to work in a collaborative form towards an endproduct: a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for Frisian, as a form of OEP. Teachers were asked to join a working group for the MOOC. Either working on the: lessonplan, addressing the target audience or working on the didactical approach of the MOOC. In this way the participants received a hand-on experience of the concept of open education and truly open educational practice and it’s added value to the eductaion sector and the wider community. The added value of a MOOC for the Frisian language, was an important motivation for the teachers as well (predominantly teaching the Frisian language or teaching some  subjects in Frisian) to learn on OER and OEP. One of the first topics in the first training session for example was: Wat to know about copyright and creative commons licensing before creating a MOOC? (organized by Lisette Kalshoven, Creative Commons Netherlands / Kennisland). Expertise was also delivered by the University of Groningen, which worked towards a MOOC for Dutch, with over 30.000 subscribers. More information can be found here.

DSC_0050 first session introduction

Thus,  working towards a Frisian MOOC to raise awareness of the benefits of OER and OEP for teachers was beneficial. Next to that, this approach had several positive side effects as well:

– Working towards a MOOC for the Frisian language gives a substantial contribution in working on raising awareness for the Frisian language as mentioned, an important motivation of the teachers to attend the training:

  • 2nd or 3rd generation Frisian emigrants living in Australia, New Zealand or for example the Unites States (US) and Canada could decide to learn the mothertongue of their ancestors;
  • Students from abroad attending the NHL ( University of Applied Sciences in Leeuwarden, Province of Friesland) or are following the Master Multilingualism in Leeuwarden at the University Campus Fryslân, could learn the official second language of the Province of Fryslân;
  • Immigrants in Fryslân can get acquinted with the Frisian language and culture;
  • Toerist interested in the Frisian language can follow the MOOC, to for example no the basics on getting around in the province and using the language during their stay in Friesland.
  • all over Europe, especially students in English and Dutch could learn more on the Frisian language, which belongs to the same language family as English and is very close to old English. Students from the University of Warsaw where they can study Dutch, were very interested in learning more on the second official language in the Netherlands, namely Frisian.

DSC_0074working groups

Concluding, as a result of the teacher training in the Netherlands, teachers became aware of the added value of OER and OEP and are more likely to use OER in the future, eventhough they have access to high quality online material. Next to that, Creative Commons licinsing and copyright issues in relation to using online material was an eye-opener for the participants. Often when they for example look for images, to use in the class room, they were not fully aware of what to know about copyright and creative commons licensing. In that respect the training had high impact. Using a bottum-up and open approach towards creating a MOOC, proved to be a succesfull approach in engaging teachers in learning on OER and OEP. For the MOOC itself it proved to be beneficial as well. The MOOC is very much tailored towards the target groups; takes into account the student perspectives; took into account the various ideas about the didicatical approach; and the materials and structure of the first lessonplan of the MOOC was reviewed by practicioners in the field. This initiative received considerable attention by other institution in the North of the Netherlands (University of Applied Sciences (NHL, Leeuwarden), University of Groningen and the Afûk) and the aim to work further in finishing other lessonplans for the Frisian MOOC as well.


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Why do OER matter for less used languages?

Katerina Zourou, Ph.D., LangOER project manager

Throughout the project lifetime (January 2014-December 2016) the LangOER team will produce evidence-based studies on the value of OER for less used languages for several target groups (learners, and teachers, educational experts and researchers, policy makers at national and international levels). Looking for evidence in OER is a complex issue, with the OER Research Hub probably being the only initiative striving to provide evidence on OER.

This short overview is based on a small sample of existing studies on the value of OER from a multilingual/multicultural perspective and provides a grounding for forthcoming studies. It exemplifies barriers that can only be overcome by broader participation with Open Educational Practice (OEP) and stronger engagement at policy level.

  • Shortage of freely accessible resources in less used languages (and social connectivity as a response)

There is a need for less used languages to openly license existing resources as a means to engage with users wishing to improve their knowledge about given languages/cultures. Keeping resources as copyrighted material not only impedes re-use and repurposing of materials in new learning contexts but also prevents users from taking ownership of them and engaging with their development and improvement. A study by Ulrich Tiedau (2013) on Dutch language OER developed in the UK emphasizes the importance of community-driven OEP as a trigger for OER expansion.

  •  Reluctance to use OER in languages other than the native language

A recent study (Clements & Pawlowski, 2012) confirms that hindrances to the use and re-use of OER are among others linguistic in nature. 35% would rather use material produced in their own country and 21% say a main barrier is resources in English only (p.9).

  •  OER as means to face cultural/linguistic hegemony

Due to the limited number of speakers of less used languages by comparison with the number of speakers of “bigger” languages, the capacity to produce, maintain and update resources is not the same. Adoption of OER/OEP is much more pressing for less used languages and on a global scale their lack threatens linguistic and cultural diversity. Two studies support this idea, both situated in the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) field. Although OER and MOOC are not comparable, we can draw similarities with the perceived threat of cultural/linguistic hegemony by more represented languages. A short paper by Altbach (2014) asks ‘who controls knowledge” in MOOCs and highlights the fact that the number of students from foreign countries registering on a course is much higher than the number of native speakers. The author questions the pedagogical and other values that a course brings, and their suitability for any registered user in the world. In addition, a blog post (though not grounded on evidence) by Katherine Forestier entitled “China’s new MOOCs could be a double-edged sword“ ) shares insights on this issue from a policy perspective. The author claims that the arrival of MOOCs has been greeted nervously by many university leaders in China, with some concerned about ‘foreign ideas’ being imported via MOOCs, and that this move has resulted in Chinese MOOCs in response to English-language ones.

The main page of the consortium of French-language MOOCS (or FLOTs, for Formations en Ligne Ouvertes à Tous)states that “the development of French-language MOOCs alongside English-language MOOCs is even more important for teaching in regions that are historically French-speaking, particularly in Africa”.

Another example is OCW Universia, formed by all the Spanish, Portuguese and Latina American Universities which have opted to join the OCW project. The OCW Universia website states that partners belong “under the cultural and geographical affinity of the Spanish American space. It thus has a stronger representation on the world Consortium”.

Growth of OER in less used languages comes not only by enhancing the production of OER in these languages, but also through an effort to cross-fertilize approaches, methods and practices. What is needed is to create bridges between stakeholders and communities of more and less knowledgeable peers and to strengthen cooperation between stakeholders of leading languages and those of less used ones, so that more voices are expressed, resources are more contextualized and rooted to cultural/linguistic contexts. Engagement with end users is also useful, with some crowdsourcing examples already in place (Paskevicius, 2012). After all, multilingualism/multiculturalism is a trademark of openness, exploration and wide horizons.


Altbach, P. 2014 MOOCs as Neocolonialism: Who Controls Knowledge? International Higher Education, number 75, Spring 2014, p. 5-7.

Clements, K., & Pawlowski, J. M. (2012). User-oriented quality for OER: understanding teachers’ view on re-use, quality, and trust. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning , 28(1), p. 4-14.

Forestier, K. 2013. China’s new MOOCs could be a double-edged sword. University World News. Published November 1, 2013, last access June 30, 2014

Paskevicius, M. 2012. Adding language subtitles on Khan Academy VideosPublished March 2, 2012, last access June 30, 2014

Tiedau, U. 2013. Open Educational Practices in a Lesser-Taught Language Community. Journal of E-Learning and Knowledge Society,(January 2013), 47–57. Retrieved from

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