Technical talk

Just had a really good skype call with CETIS (John and Phil) about plans for the technical side of the project. They were interested to hear of two new features about to be installed on LanguageBox and HumBox:

  • a group function
  • a discussion forum

This will allow users to organise themselves into groups and to upload resources associated with these groups. This means we can have a FAVOR group and that tutors of certain languages can start their own interest groups on the site. The discussion forum will enable chat to go on around the resources on the site.

We asked John and Phil to give advice on how we can track our resources and associate metadata more closely with each individual resource. At the moment, the best way seems to be to encourage tutors/depositors to consider the issue when they create the resource or prepare it for upload – and include author/licence info. We will encourage our tutors to do this and build awareness of this into our checking processes once material is uploaded.

We intend to consider carefully how we can track usage of our resources. I have followed up a lot of HumBox users to collect case studies of usage of HB resources, and although this produces excellent data and some illuminating stories, it is time-consuming. We will seek and implement a range of tracking methods for this project and consider what technical solutions we might implement through our repositories. One thing we will follow up after this meeting is creating an embed code for the LanguageBox/HumBox preview screen.

Kate B


Update on recruiting part-time tutors

Hello world,

The project team have had a skype meeting to update each other on where we are with recruiting part-time tutors to work on the project. It was very pleasing for us all to report that there has been a lot of enthusiasm amongst language tutors across the 5 institutions for the project and for publishing and sharing their own resources, and so the team is rapidly expanding!

There was some interesting feedback on attitudes to sharing teaching resources: one team member reported that many tutors she had spoken to were reluctant to share their resources, precisely because they were part-time tutors. They felt that they had worked hard to create the materials, in languages which are perhaps not widely taught and for which there is a scarcity of materials, and so were not keen to ‘give them away.’  They also did not feel the same security as full-time tutors and saw their resources as their currency and an example of their expertise, so again, were reluctant to share.

This is an entirely understandable position, and our answer as a project team has been that OER can work positively in exactly these circumstances. Sharing through the FAVOR project does not mean having to give away everything you do – but it does encourage tutors to share a part of their work, which can showcase their knowledge and expertise. The LanguageBox also enables communities to build up around particular topics or themes, and so sharing resources is a way of making connections with other tutors in diverse geographical locations and sharing ideas. This has to be a good thing for languages which experience a scarcity of teaching resources because it increases the pool of materials available for adaptation and re-use.

It was also interesting to hear from another partner, that she had found the opposite opinion amongst part-time tutors that she approached. Her experience was that more experienced language specialists often choose to work on a part-time basis, and have done so for many years. They feel more established and have a large amount of teaching material available, so are relaxed about sharing it openly.

It is fascinating to observe the different motivations and experiences that tutors are feeding back to us and we will note it all as we go along, as it challenges us to always review how we articulate engagement with OERs, and the benefits and issues.

Kate B