A Framework for Academic Volunteers International: Dec 5-16, 2011

What are the provisions for OERu learners/students for whom English is not their first language?

Re: What are the provisions for OERu learners/students for whom English is not their first language?

by Wayne Mackintosh -
Number of replies: 0

Alannah Fitzgerald wrote,

I think the Stanford AI course with the OER component and Google fellows is a good example of valuable learning and teaching content being shared worldwide and translated by volunteers into other languages like Thai, German etc https://www.ai-class.com/overview

 I agree, the Standord AI course is an interesting model, however it is problematic for a number of reasons:

  1. The course relies on an all rights reserved textbook which students must purchase
  2. The majority of resources (videos, transcript notes etc.) are also all rights reserved which does not allow others to adapt and modify the materials.
  3. It is not clear what licensing arrangements are used for the translations. As the source materials are all rights reserved, I guessing that it is a custom license which assigns copyright of the translated works to the original copyright holders (and not the translators.) 
This model does not bode well for building sustainable volunteer communities and in the case of the OERu network, if we were to develop wrap-around courses based on these materials, we would expose ourselves to unnecessary risks of enclosure later down the track. The OERu model has the potential to expand to millions of learners -- when we get to these levels, the temptation to shut down or enclose core materials of the OERu network increases. 
An open question -- I wonder to what extent translation work on the Stanford AI course is driven by the motivation to be associated with an Ivy league institution versus a committment to the essential freedoms. In the early days of MIT OCW, we saw considerable growth in the OCWC which to some extent was motivated by the benefits of association.  The many of OCWC instutions have not really progressed with the mainstream integration of OER at their institutions other than a few course donations under non-free content licenses.
That said, the Standord AI course provides a few great examples of pedagogical apporaches which can scale to thousands of learners.  We will certainly be integrating these into the OERu model. 
As you've indicated -- the question of navigating closed resources in an open environment is complex.
The OER Foundation subscribes to a number of guidelines around licensing (see for example choosing The right license). This is based on solid experience in managing the risks of openness for sustainability.
This is not to say that the OERu cannot use open access materials which are all rights reserved - -but we need to assess the risks of doing this. With a core course like EAP which will have a significant impact on the business models of those running standard testing models in a closed environment -- it is not unreasonable to expect considerable kick-back form those with a vested interest in testing. My personal feeling is to prefer free cultural works approved licensing -- in the short term, this means it may take a little longer to get an operational EAP course, but in the long term we will then be guaranteed of a sustainable future for EAP.
I take your point about the potential of levaraging volunteer support for translation -- the localisation of open source software in different languages is a good example.
However, the formal education sector is very conservative and the uptake in translation and localisation activities is a considerably slower in the formal education sector. For example we run localisations of WikiEducator in French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Tamil and Hindi. Very few of these communities have reached the critical mass required for sustainable growth and community support. The inertia required to build sustainable communities is huge. I'm not saying that this can't be done, but in planning the AVI we are working from a realistic base in terms of what is doable.
We have 13 founding anchor partners who have each contributed the equivalent of a 0.2 Full-time equivalent plus donation of assembling two courses. This is an excellent start, but as you will appreciate capacity is limited and solving the challenge of achieving the critical mass for different language communities is unlikey to be resolved by the start of the 2012 OERu prototypes. On a positive note - -I hope to be proved wrong on this one. Perhaps we will find thousands of volunteers to help out!
Regarding your suggestion on developing an EAP course -- the OER Foundation is very supportive. I suggest we get started!