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Community Building and User Engagement: developing the potential of LORO

Teaser

Aims of the project: This project aimed to continue engaging Open University LORO users and raising awareness of the benefits of open educational resources (OER) for teaching and learning. It further intended to engage active users in dissemination activities within and beyond The Open University, and to explore links with other language institutions within the UK and beyond to promote and share practice around LORO and OER for languages. The project also aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of LORO in changing teaching practice amongst Open University users.

Introduction

LORO is a repository of high quality open educational language teaching resources that was produced by the Department of Languages at The Open University. Having created the repository, it was clear that there was a need to engage the languages community in accessing and making use of the materials stored on it. This Fellowship project supported the work that was required to do this and enabled a range of activities to take place that encouraged people within the community to share, open up their practices and collaborate with one another.

Process

A wide range of activities were undertaken as part of this project, to enable it to meet its aims and objectives. They included:

  • Providing face-to-face and online workshops throughout the course of the project.

  • Training a number of Grundtvig assistants to enable them to support the administration of LORO.

  • Taking part in the ‘Collaborative Writing and Peer Review’ scholarship project funded by The Open University, sharing information on the LORO project, collaborating with other participants and developing open educational resources (OER).

  • Taking part in the ‘Performing Languages’ project funded through the Grundtvig strand of the Lifelong Learning Programme, working with amateur theatre groups in France, Spain and Italy and language teachers at the Open University, and producing OER as a result of this experience.

  • Organising two conferences.

  • Collecting quantitative data through usage polls, Google Analytics and eprints, and on the quantity of resources produced by specific projects.

  • Collecting qualitative data through focus groups with language Associate Lecturers on their use of LORO and using ‘narrative frames’ to collect teachers’ experiences of using LORO.

  • Commissioning and overseeing technical improvements to LORO in response to the evidence available, to make it more user-friendly.

    Outputs

    This Fellowship project resulted in a variety of different outputs including:

  • Comas-Quinn, A, Beaven, M, Pleines, C, Pulker, H and de los Arcos, B (2011). Languages Open Resources Online (LORO): fostering a culture of collaboration and sharing. The EuroCALL Review (18)

  • Comas-Quinn, A (2011). Recursos educativos abiertos para la enseñanza de lenguas, I Encuentro para Profesores de Centros Universitarios y de Centros Formadores de ELE, Marcoele, 13 (an international journal for teachers of Spanish as a second language).

  • Slides for most presentations and workshops are in my account in slideshare.

  • Newsletters (aimed at LORO users in the Department of Languages) are in LORO (example http://loro.open.ac.uk/2939/).

  • LORO blog at http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/LORO/

  • Outputs and recordings of all sessions for the 23 March 2011 event ‘Does it make a difference? Researching and evaluating the impact of repositories and OERs on teaching and learning’ are at http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/5023.

  • A special issue of the Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society on the theme of ‘Open Resources, Open Practices and Open Communication’, arising from the ‘Learning by sharing’ conference, joint guest edited with Ana Beaven (University of Bologna), to be published in 2013.

  • An open access e-book arising from the ‘Learning by sharing’ conference, co-edited with Ana Beaven (University of Bologna) and Barbara Sawhill (Oberlin College, USA), to be published in 2013. This aims to publish a series of case studies providing examples of practical applications of open resources, open practices and open communication to the language classroom.

  • The LORO project was Highly Commended in the Learning Contexts category of the OPAL awards for quality and innovation through Open Educational Practices.

    Outcomes and conclusions

    This Fellowship project set out to engage the languages community in using LORO to access open educational resources for language teaching. It also set out to encourage them to open up their teaching practices through collaborating with each other. The evidence produced during its course shows that LORO has been an unqualified success in reaching users both at The Open University and beyond. It shows that:

    Three quarters of language teachers at The Open University use LORO to find resources for their teaching.

One third of Open University language teachers use LORO to access resources unrelated to their teaching.

In addition to using LORO for their teaching, teachers also use LORO to find inspiration and ideas, standardise their practice and ensure comparability of the student experience.

Users of LORO perceive that its use gives them more confidence in their own practice, time to develop other aspects of their practices, the possibility of receiving feedback on shared resources and that it improves the quality of the teaching materials available. A championing role is important in engaging users and stimulating the creation of a discipline-based community project. This enables the cascading of experience which is essential in stimulating a change in practice.

Re-use of resources is a fundamental part of language teacher’s professional practice. The next step is to embed the understanding of open educational practices into professional development activities. An effective way of doing this would be to involve teachers in activities that include developing OER and adopting open educational practices (OEP), to enhance understanding, skills and knowledge.

One final conclusion is that OER and OEP work best when integrated into projects rather than being the objective of a project. This enables dissemination of the understanding of why the OER/OEP route was chosen to be built into the project design, thereby enhancing the impact of the messages around openness.

Links

More information on this project can be found at http://www8.open.ac.uk/score/fellows/anna-comas-quinn

Case study by Anna Comas-Quinn, published online at https://web.archive.org/web/20130707160236/http://www.open.ac.uk/score/community-building-and-user-engagement-developing-potential-loro-0 under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Anna Comas-Quinn, Community Building and User Engagement: developing the potential of LORO, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.