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Impact of reappropriation of open educational resources on distance and online language teaching

Hélène Pulker

Résumés

Le rôle des ressources éducatives libres (REL) dans l’avenir de la formation en ligne et à distance est un sujet de recherche depuis déjà quelque temps. Dans les 15-20 dernières années, la recherche scientifique a porté son attention sur la conception, la réutilisation et le partage des REL sans se préoccuper pour autant des pratiques liées aux REL. A ce jour, il est difficile d’avancer précisément si l’utilisation des REL a un effet quelconque sur les pratiques d’enseignement, notamment dans le contexte de la formation à distance. Cet article présente les résultats d’une étude doctorale qui visait à examiner les activités poursuivies par des enseignants de langues étrangères en ligne et à distance lors de l’adaptation de REL spécifiquement conçues pour l’enseignement des langues étrangères en ligne. Les données ont été récoltées et analysées suivant la méthode constructiviste de la théorie ancrée par le biais de 17 entretiens en ligne. Selon cette méthode, les cinq catégories conceptuelles qui ont émergé de l’analyse ne reposent sur aucun cadre théorique préalable. L’article présente le processus de réutilisation en cinq temps qui est ressorti de l’analyse des données, avec une attention particulière à la deuxième et à la quatrième étape du processus, à savoir la réappropriation et l’auto-apprentissage. Cet article met l’accent sur l’importance de la réutilisation des REL dans le contexte de l’apprentissage des langues étrangères en ligne et à distance et soulève la question de savoir si la réappropriation peut mener à des changements dans les pratiques d’enseignement en ligne.

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Introduction

1Open Education Resources (OER) as the future of online and distance teaching and learning has been a topic of discussion by scholars for some time. While some agree on their potential to transform education (Tuomi, 2013; Kozinska et al., 2010; D’Antoni, 2009; Dinevski, 2008), others are more critical and raise doubts about OER’s long-term sustainability or their impact on education (Almeida, 2017; Knox, 2013). Furthermore, despite the promise of OER, research indicates that they present challenges and have not fulfilled expectations (Duncan, 2009; Bond et al., 2008). However, the research has mainly focused on the creation and sharing of OER for teaching and learning, and open education scholars are now calling for more research into open practices rather than OER itself (Cronin, 2018; Mishra, 2017; Weller et al., 2017) in order to find evidence of OER reuse and evaluate its impact on teaching and learning practices.

2This paper presents the five-step reuse process that emerged from a doctoral study which aimed to investigate the activities online and distance language teachers engage with when they reuse OER, with a view to providing evidence of reuse and understanding whether these activities have any effect on online teaching practices. It discusses the reasons why teachers reappropriate materials specifically designed for distance language teaching and the process of reflection that takes place while reappropriating. Finally, it raises some questions with regard to learning and professional development that occur (or perhaps not) during the adaptation and repurposing of resources. This paper stresses the significance reuse of OER has for language teaching practices in the context of distance education.

Open Education as freedom to use

3For some proponents of the OER movement, ‘openness’ is not merely a question of giving content for free but a question of freedom to use. Wiley (2013) argues that limiting ‘open’ to ‘free’ misses the point of the OER movement. For him openness goes beyond distributing free content, instead it means free access combined with free permissions or rights. Wiley (2007 and 2014) developed the 5Rs framework to clarify the key rights that open content licenses grant users:

  • Retain - the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)

  • Reuse - the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)

  • Revise - the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)

  • Remix - the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)

  • Redistribute - the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

4In this framework, users are free to carry out these five activities without having to ask or pay for permissions. Content is ‘open’ to the extent that a license (usually a Creative Commons license) provides users with free permissions to exercise the five rights. In this view, OER provide educators with free content and legal permissions to engage in continuous and incremental adaptation and new creations taking ownership of their materials in a manner not previously possible. Wiley (2017a) insists that free content combined with the five rights is the only way for teachers and learners to realise the OER potential. Such views also tie in with the term ‘open pedagogy’ which has emerged recently to describe the remixing of licensed teaching materials to create improved materials and new knowledge. With open pedagogy, teachers and learners are able to interact more easily, share their work, and collaborate in connected learning environments (Hegarty, 2015). Wiley (2013) emphasised the link between OER and open pedagogy and, by creating a new phrase, ‘OER-enabled pedagogy’ (Wiley, 2017b) encourages practitioners and researchers to talk about how the 5R activities facilitate new kinds of teaching and learning in general. He agrees with DeRosa and Jhangiani (2017) that this concept of open pedagogy shares common traits with other pedagogies, for example the constructivist pedagogy. He recognises that knowledge consumption and knowledge creation are not separate but parallel processes, as knowledge is co-constructed, contextualised, cumulative and iterative. In this sense, open licenses allow for the remixing and revision of OER, and also lead to a particular way of thinking about teaching and learning. Remixing and reversioning of resources enable teachers to make the shift from an instructional mindset, that of ‘how am I going to teach this particular point?’ to ‘how do I create or modify instructional resources to serve my pedagogical goals?’ (DeRosa and Jhangiani, 2017).

What do we know about OER reuse?

Factors inhibiting the reuse of OER

5Studies on teachers’ engagement with OER, for example Hatakka (2009) have identified a number of inhibiting factors with regards to reuse by teachers, mainly the lack of incentives and rewards, poor understanding of CC licenses, a lack of understanding of the resources, issues of quality and trust and technical challenges.

6In order to clarify which factors are essential or influential for OER adoption, Cox and Trotter (2017) developed the OER adoption pyramid. The pyramid suggests that, ultimately, only teachers who go through all levels (access, permission, awareness, capacity, availability and volition) can engage in OER activity. If the teacher enjoys the first five factors, then volition (the sixth factor) becomes the key factor that will determine whether teachers use OER or not. The decision is shaped by the teacher’s individual values, social context and institutional culture.

7Research on materials development for language teaching has long established that teachers want to have ownership of their materials (Tomlinson, 2011). Hatakka (2009) reports that teachers want to exercise their creativity and use their personal ideas to develop their materials. Using and sharing online materials present other challenges for teachers. The potential of liberal access and modification on the basis that anybody can be a contributor and a user can be problematic. Given the reach of the internet, teachers sometimes feel a sense of loss of control of their resources to people they do not know and are unlikely to meet. Teachers are generally found to be reluctant to have their materials repurposed in ways they are unaware of. It takes time for an academic community to build a cooperative sense of trust and confidence (Comas-Quinn, et al, 2011).

8Furthermore, creators and users have many different views of what a resource should be and how it should be designed. Research in OER for online language teaching (Pulker, 2013) shows that some teachers will look for good quality visuals, others for materials they can easily use and adapt, and another group might consider quality to mean something that is directly relevant to their teaching objectives. Wiley and Gurrell (2009) reinforce the point that quality is only meaningful in a ‘context-laden encounter’ (p. 19) between a specific user and a specific resource, and does not have a meaning otherwise. Instead, they suggest that in order for the field to progress, users must overcome the traditional expectations related to the quality of resources and should refer to ‘utility’ of resources instead.

Problems with researching OER

9The lack of evidence of OER reuse that emerges from the literature is contradictory. On the one hand, a large body of literature claims that OER reuse has not reached expectations. Studies such as Comas-Quinn et al. (2013), Browne et al. (2010), Bond et al. (2008), Duncan (2009) indicate that teachers rarely contribute their own resources or re-upload the resources they have used and modified. Their findings suggest that, overall, teachers do not tend to share in public places the resources they have either created themselves from scratch or those they have created based on other resources found in repositories. It seems therefore that there is reuse, but because the activities that are taking place as a consequence of reuse are not shared in public spaces, these reuse activities remain invisible. As the metaphor of the iceberg (White and Manton, 2011) suggests, teachers’ activities and materials are normally used in the privacy of their classrooms, and it could then be concluded that the activities of reuse and repurposing may also be taking place in the privacy of the classrooms. So, as teachers keep their resources closed, which means that they do not engage in the ‘sharing’ or ‘redistributing’ activities, it is difficult to evaluate how much reuse is taking place, and therefore this would explain why there is scant literature on evidence of reuse.

10However, contrary to findings on OER reuse, Weller et al.’s (2016) analysis uncovered a comparatively high level of reuse amongst all types of users. During the study, the research team noted that people adapt resources frequently but interpret reuse in a variety of ways. For some users, adaptation means finding some inspiration for creating their own materials. For others, adaptation is a more direct ‘reversioning’ of the original resource, assembling elements from different resources to create a more relevant one. And for a third group, adaptation may be taking an existing resource and placing it in a different context within a teacher’s own material. The resource is not modified, but the manner in which it is used is altered. So why is there a discrepancy between Weller et al.’s (2016) findings and the commonly reported lack of reuse? It could be argued that looking at how many resources are shared and redistributed is not a good way of judging how much reuse is happening. Perhaps the problem should be looked at in a different way, in other words, not whether reuse is visible or not, but what is happening during reuse.

11It may be that Weller et al.’s (2016) findings suggest there is a continuum of adaptation in practice, ranging from adapting ideas for users’ own materials to full ‘reversioning’ of content. The lack of reuse that has been reported so far, therefore, could be less a case of invisible reuse, and more a case of varied adaptation. Research questions on OER reuse should therefore shift from ‘how much reuse there is’, to ‘what is reuse for’ and ‘what teaching practitioners gain from engaging in reuse’. With this in mind, for the purpose of the doctoral research, the term ‘reuse’ was defined as:

12‘any types of reworking activities that secondary users engage with when they work with resources that have been produced by primary creators, such as modifying, adapting, remixing, translating, repurposing, personalising or re-reversioning. It does not include redistribution and sharing as these activities are not a direct result of working with the resource itself’.

Where was the study conducted and what were its aims?

13The Centre for Modern Languages at the Open University was set up in 1991 to respond to an overwhelming demand for distance language courses, with the first OU course offered in 1995. At the time of the research, the languages programme within the Department of Languages comprised six languages (Chinese, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish) plus English for Academic and Business Purposes, with 282 part-time teachers (referred to as Associate Lecturers) supporting approximately 9,000 language students in the UK and worldwide. Traditionally, OU distance learning courses were based on printed and audiovisual materials, supported by face-to-face and telephone tuition. Due to rapid technological advances in the last 20 years, course materials and tutorial support have increasingly been developed and delivered through online media.

  • 1 Copyright 1997 - 2015 Blackboard Inc. All Rights Reserved

14Since the early 2000s, tutorials have been delivered via real-time audiographic conferencing tools, which allow for synchronous voice communication via the internet. Over the years, such tools have developed and their functionality and connectivity have improved. At the time of data collection, synchronous online tutorials were delivered via a web-based video conferencing tool using the Blackboard Collaborate1 platform (called OULive). It included a range of functionalities such as audio, video, participation window, breakout rooms, interactive whiteboard and text chat. Audiographic and video conferencing offers a way of overcoming the distance between students and giving them the opportunity to practise their oral skills and communicate easily with their tutor and with other learners in the target language (Hampel, 2003). Learners use online rooms to communicate orally, share content, and work collaboratively.

15As a result of the shift from face-to-face to multimodal teaching environments, the role of the OU language tutor has changed significantly (Vetter, 2004; Lamy and Hampel, 2007). Tutors have had to become more proficient with the technology and training programmes have been designed to support ongoing professional development. Empirical research in languages at the OU led to the development of a pyramid of skills (Hampel and Stickler, 2005) as recognition that language teachers need to go through a gradual building of competences as they progress through the transition from face-to-face to online teaching. However, tutors continuously point out that, what is most needed to overcome the challenges presented by the new tools, is practice (Hauck et al., 2016).

16In 2009, the then Department of Languages benefited from JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee) funding to create a repository of digital resources for synchronous online language teaching, LORO (Languages Open Resources Online). The main aim of the repository was to enable all OU language tutors to access online teaching resources developed by the Department of Languages academic teams, across all languages and all levels. The creation of ready-made resources accessible from one central place also aimed to support training and teaching with the new conferencing tool. Although primarily created for OU language tutors, the resources were made freely accessible worldwide, and contributions from all users were encouraged.

17LORO resources consisted of a variety of small items, for example, photos, drawings, PowerPoint presentations, grammar exercises, interactive activities and games, all to facilitate speaking practice online. Resources were designed to address specific OU language courses’ learning outcomes; they were licensed under the Creative Commons, and they could be accessed, used, adapted, modified, repurposed, remixed and redistributed anywhere by any users.

18Furthermore, LORO resources were designed on the socio-constructivist principles of the communicative and task-based approaches (Ellis, 2003; Nunan, 2004; Bourguignon, 2006), established collaborative teaching methodologies for second language teaching, advocated by many in the computer-assisted language learning research community (Warschauer, 1996; Hampel, 2006; Kern, 2006; Mangenot et Nissen, 2006). Resources were created to ground learning activities in authentic and real-world contexts and to take into account the changing role of the online language teacher (Vetter, 2004; Comas-Quinn, 2011). Socio-constructivism approach to learning design stimulates and encourages students to engage. Through learning activities, students are encouraged to question and explore how the language works. The approach means that there is a shift from the ‘expert’ teacher transferring their knowledge, to students taking ownership and becoming more dynamic with their learning (Bada, 2015). Successful online communication in language teaching contexts depends on understanding the multiple roles of the online facilitator (Racette et al., 2017), but it is also to do with task design. Hauck and Hampel (2005) and Duensing et al. (2006) found that the task has considerable influence on the interaction between students and between students and teacher, and therefore, careful task design is important for the success of the communicative language classroom. Hampel (2006) claims that task design, based on second language acquisition and sociocultural theories, originally developed for traditional classroom contexts, can be transferred to online settings as long as the factors specific to the materiality of the resources and to the affordances of the tools available are factored in when designing and implementing tasks for an online lesson. Appropriate tasks enable students to create their materials individually or in group, and therefore online tasks can create a setting for language learning that is genuinely interactive and student-centred (Hampel, 2006). Mangenot and Nissen (2006) found that collaborative online tasks foster student’s autonomy and reduce tutor’s intervention. The focus in the LORO resources has been given to aspects that need to be taken into account to support interaction and collaboration: using the affordances of multimodal technologies, addressing social and affective factors, encouraging learner autonomy and designing tasks appropriate to the online environment.

19The repository was partly populated with peer-reviewed resources, created by the Department of Languages materials’ course developers, and partly with resources created by its users. This principle aligns with the dual approach recommended by Downes (2007) that provides a measure of reputational credibility, marking a separation between a ‘branding’ approach and an approach exclusively focused on community sharing, where the resources can be regarded as useful without having to be exemplary.

20Training for the usage of the repository and reuse of ready-made resources was provided. LORO champions were recruited and trained to deliver staff development sessions and support during the implementation phase of the repository and the transfer to the new conferencing tool. Comas-Quinn et al. (2013) showed that, despite some initial resistance, benefits of the repository were gradually perceived and reuse of resources increased in the three years following the creation of the repository. At the time, they also indicated that LORO fostered the development of a community of online language teachers enabling online novice teachers to learn from the more expert through downloading resources and using the new conferencing tool.

21The study aimed to investigate the activities that language teachers engage with while selecting and adapting OER for synchronous online language tutorials. It also sought to explore what language teachers learn about their own practices and beliefs while they adapt materials that have been created by other language practitioners. Finally, the study aimed to establish whether language teachers change their online practices as a result of OER reuse.

Methodology

22To address the research aims, a qualitative study was employed following Charmaz’s (2014) constructivist grounded theory methods. Data were collected by means of an initial online questionnaire sent to the 282 part-time language teachers employed in the Department of Languages at the OU at the time, followed by 17 individual semi-structured interviews.

23The 17 participants possessed a range of experiences and came from diverse backgrounds. They were employed to deliver online and face-to-face tutorials and to support students with their distance learning materials and assessment across the UK, and worldwide. They taught French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Exploring Languages and Cultures and English for business or academic purposes across all undergraduate levels from beginners to level 3 (A1 to C1 levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for the language modules) via an audio-video conferencing tool to deliver the synchronous online tutorials. There was a mix of male and female teachers, aged from late-twenties to mid-sixties. Some were English native speakers and some were natives (and originate) from the countries of which they teach the language. At the time of the research, OU language teachers used the OULive audio-video conferencing system to prepare and deliver synchronous online tutorials. The interviews were conducted in an OULive online room, identical to the one in which teachers conducted their online tutorials, illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The interviews online room

Figure 1: The interviews online room

24The interview questions were based on Charmaz’s (2014) guidelines and organised in three phases.

25Phase 1: General conversation on the transition to online teaching and the introduction of the LORO repository: The interviews began with open questions on the shift between face-to-face to online teaching and reflections on the training for the use of the repository.

26Phase 2: Examples of adapted resources and reflections on OER reuse and teaching methodologies: Participants showed a number of resources they had adapted for their own purposes and used in online tutorials. This phase stimulated reflections on aspects of teaching that had changed as a result of adapting resources.

27Phase 3: Wrap-up and discussion about attitudes towards reuse of OER: Research participants were given the opportunity to reflect on their views and attitudes towards using and adapting colleagues’ materials and the effect of reuse on their teaching approaches.

28Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed following a 3-phase coding and the constant comparative method. Consistent with a constructivist grounded theory approach, conceptual categories for the analysis of data were allowed to emerge, rather than initially driven by a theoretical framework.

Findings

The five-step model of reuse

29The findings that emerged from the analysis are illustrated in Figure 2. Three types of users were identified: OER passive users, OER active adopters and OER innovative re-designers. All types of users engage in a five-step process that include: finding inspiration from colleagues’ resources, reappropriating those resources, reflecting on practices, learning and developing as an online and distance language teacher, and sharing in closed spaces the newly created resources. All five steps that teachers engage with during the reuse process aim to satisfy and improve students’ needs and learning experience.

Figure 2: The five-step model of reuse

Figure 2: The five-step model of reuse

30The way teachers engage in the process depends on what type of users they are. Each type of users displays different attitudes towards the technology, reuse and adaptation of resources and sharing. They have different practices and beliefs with regard to online teaching and their students’ needs. This paper focuses on the effect of reappropriation on teaching practices, so only steps 2 and 4 will be described in detail.

Reappropriating

31The study showed that all respondents modified the resources they reused, in some way. This finding is not surprising since the participants were specifically chosen because they were secondary users of resources. The study consisted in interviewing teachers who were actively using and adapting resources to investigate the nature and extent of reuse. The nature of adaptations and modifications varied significantly. Adapting resources is something that respondents qualified as a ‘personal thing’, which meant that they needed to make the resources their own, to reappropriate them. One research participant said:

“[…] I do like to feel very comfortable with my materials. It also means that it is my voice that’s speaking and not somebody else’s voice and I am teaching it in a way that I understand and I am not trying to teach it from somebody else’s perspective and somebody else’s understanding of the module materials […].”

32Regardless of the type of adaptations, participants said that they adapted resources to suit their teaching methodologies and to meet their students’ needs’. One participant summarised this as follows:

“[…] I did not do their activity. I used the picture and actually I put a twist on it. So, it is time saving because you don’t have to research so much and it gives you the head start of an activity. But then, you still have…. I like to modify, just tweaking the activity to my style of teaching and also to the type of students I have.”

33The different types of reappropriations as they emerged from the analysis are sorted into four groups and are illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Reappropriating

Figure 3: Reappropriating

34All research participants modified the look and/or the composition of resources they used. They did so in a number of ways, from merely editing the resource (altering the background colour of the slides, correcting mistakes, highlighting or colour-coding some word, or improving graphics and images), to adding text (scaffolding), changing the activity altogether or repurposing (recreating new resources). Figure 4 is an example of how two resources have been edited.

Figure 4: Editing a resource for a French Beginners’ online tutorial

Figure 4: Editing a resource for a French Beginners’ online tutorial

Original resource 1

Adapted resource 1

35In this tutorial activity, students are asked to talk about what they do in their free time. The Original resource 1 contains three questions in the target language in blue, three images of leisure activities (with green ticks and red crosses next to them) and six possible answers in red. In this example, the Adapted resource 1 includes the same images with the same ticks and crosses, the same questions in blue and the same six possible answers. However, some changes have been made: a title in black containing the grammar point that is practised in the tutorial and a reference to the module book have been added; the six possible answers have been colour-coded (the affirmative sentences in green and the negative sentences in red to match the colours of the ticks and crosses) and numbers 1-3 and letters A-C have been added next to the affirmative and negative possible answers. The author of this adaptation explained that the Original resource 1 was fine but lacked in clarity for students, in particular those with learning difficulties. Therefore, she felt that she had to add a colour to the background to improve legibility for dyslexic students and to colour-code the affirmative and negative sentences to help students identify the patterns in those two types of sentences. Finally, she added a reference to the module textbook, on top of the screen, as she explained that it was often easy to assume that students knew exactly how to make a connection between the tutorials and the distance-learning materials. She pointed out that, in her experience, students mostly did not know how to make the link. In this example, the changes and additions clearly aimed to support students with producing simple spoken French. The additions are guiding students precisely to the appropriate structures to ensure that students with the greatest difficulties in spoken French could still participate. In appearance, the Adapted resource 1 looks different, but the activity seems to be the same. However, the minor edits may have a significant effect on the way the tutorial is conducted and on the students’ participation.

Learning and developing

36The fourth step, ‘Learning and developing’ (Figure 5) is made up of a cluster of codes related to what happens as a consequence of the reflection that occurs during the reuse and adaptation of materials created by other teachers (step 2). Research participants declared that, as they learn and develop, they tend to rely heavily on their own experiences, to work closely with peers and to experiment new practices with their students.

Figure 5: Learning and developing

Figure 5: Learning and developing

37Participants claimed that reusing materials created by other teachers helped them to understand a number of aspects of online language teaching.

38Some implied that they realised students’ needs were different when learning online. For example, some indicated that they appreciated some of the complexities of beginners’ learning online by looking at how colleagues had developed their materials. Almost all remarked that they understood there was a need for high-quality materials online. Some participants clearly stated that looking at their colleagues’ materials helped them develop resources that were more student-centred, or pitched at a more appropriate level. One said she was trying to create slides that were more interactive. Almost all respondents observed that their own materials had improved as a result of using others’.

39Most respondents noted that they had learned different ways of teaching. One respondent declared that she had altered her approach to teaching a specific grammar point as a result of reflecting on some ready-made materials for the teaching of the partitive articles in French. This is illustrated in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Example of adaptation that demonstrates a change in teaching approach

Figure 6: Example of adaptation that demonstrates a change in teaching approach

Original resource 8

Adapted resource 8

40In this example, students were asked to say what they would like to eat for breakfast, using the sentence in blue and items from the fridge from the Original resource 8. In the Adapted resource 8, the image has been kept, but the vocabulary for the food items shown has been provided. The author of the adapted resource explained that she had practised the vocabulary in a previous activity during the tutorial and she wanted to move on to practising how to say ‘some’ in French. She used image of the original resource, but changed the question and added vocabulary prompts. Through this example, the participant demonstrated that adapting a resource has led her to change her approach to teaching a particular learning objective in French. She explained that for years she had taught the partitive articles through gap-fill types of exercises and she would never have thought of using an image to encourage students to practise that grammar point orally. On the surface, the resource itself has not been changed much, but the teacher seems to have undertaken a number of reflective steps and considered several aspects of her teaching before she made the changes and before she chose to use the resource with further students. This example illustrates learning from a combination of reusing ready-made materials and learning from experience and feedback from students. Once the teacher found the evidence that the new teaching approach was working, then she adopted it.

Discussion

41The study shows that teachers reappropriate materials as they use and adapt them. Regardless of the types of adaptation all teachers modify OER to suit their teaching styles, methodologies and beliefs and their students’ needs as they aim to gain ownership of their teaching materials. However, the degree to which resources are reappropriated depends on the type of users. Overall, OER passive users do not use or adapt extensively, while OER active adopters frequently use and adapt materials produced by other colleagues. Active adopters might edit slides, add instructions or change activities. OER innovative re-designers take ideas from resources and recreate new ones, keeping the same model, making technical adjustments. OER passive users find that adapting resources takes time, particularly if images need replacing. OER innovative re-designers like to use resources from ‘trusted’ colleagues, as they find that a ready-made activity that can easily be used and repurposed is time-saving. The study shows that, overall, the more IT-savvy OER users are, the more they find that adapting is time-saving, and the more repurposing and recreating is occuring. Through examples of adapted resources, OER passive users show that they prefer to adapt materials they have either used successfully in face-to-face contexts or been given by trusted colleagues, rather than digital materials from the repository. Some examples of adapted resources show that a clear difference appears in the style of resources (and, one can assume, in the teaching style) between OER passive users and innovative re-designers. OER passive users’ resources appear more traditional, structured and linear. Their resources contain more text and are less visual. OER active adopters and innovative re-designers prefer to appropriate the materials to make them more interactive and more student-centred, which often required technical adaptations.

42Overall, the study shows that teachers will use OER when they see a direct benefit for their students’ learning. They reappropriate resources (in whichever way) to support students’ needs and improve their learning experience. In this respect, the concept of OER-enabled pedagogy developed by Wiley seems embedded in teachers’ practices as they create new resources in order to improve their teaching. However, if the resources are merely mediating artefacts, and if teachers reappropriate them to suit their already well established teaching approaches, and if instructional design and its appropriation to local contexts is not free from cultural meanings and, thus, cannot be approached as an automatic procedure, a question is raised: how can OER be claimed for their potential to transform education?

43All research participants declared that they were learning through reuse and adaptation. They demonstrated that adapting resources led them to reflect on their materials and teaching approaches. It is difficult, however, to find strong evidence of changes in practices.

44In some cases, there is evidence that using and adapting OER has led to improved materials: most respondents mentioned that, as a result of adapting colleagues’ materials, they have made their own more student-centred, more interactive, more visually attractive, clearer, and overall more suitable for online teaching.

45Although most participants clearly believed that looking at colleagues’ materials had enabled them to think about different ways of teaching, only a couple of them showed convincing examples of reworked resources that demonstrated changes in their teaching approaches. It is therefore difficult to conclude with certainty that OER reuse lead to the transformation of changing practices. There seems to be an overall feeling from participants that using colleagues’ materials influences material design and teaching tricks. However, can a critical reflection on material design lead to profound changes in teaching approaches or beliefs?

46As teachers described the changes they have made to the resources, they discussed their teaching beliefs at the same time and articulated effectively their reasons for the modifications. The respondents had precise ideas about what they wanted to achieve during their tutorials, and the changes were clearly linked to their teaching objectives and students’ learning outcomes. It seems that the changes were led by their beliefs and ideas about language teaching. Teachers who preferred static resources, for example, tended to want to do grammar lessons, as they believed it was an important aspect of the language learning. They articulated clearly the reasons for the screens they used. Similarly, teachers who used interactive resources seemed to expect students to be active, revise the vocabulary and come up with the grammar rules by themselves. Teachers who practised such activities worked with students in the context of a task, which is symptomatic of teachers who see themselves as facilitators of learning, rather than teachers in the traditional sense. Similarly, participants who provided scaffoldings and added prompts to original resources aimed to facilitate oral production, particularly for the weaker students and to increase the pastoral support for students’ with particular learning needs.

47Based on these findings, it can be assumed that the more teachers are attached to and engrained in their teaching approaches and beliefs, the less they are likely to change as a result of influence from colleagues through OER reuse. Only one, possibly two or three participants referred to changes in their teaching approaches or beliefs which I interpret as profound changes.

48Noteworthy is the fact that respondents who indicated or demonstrated the most signs of learning are OER passive users or OER active adopters. All OER innovative re-designers failed to demonstrate clear changes in their practices. For example, one participant said that using a ‘trusted’ colleague’s idea saved her time. She explained that she liked and used a specific resource because it corresponded to her teaching methodologies. She recreated a brand new resource for her context and needs, replicating a colleague’s idea, because it suited her own teaching approach. In that sense, I would argue that her teaching methodologies have not altered as she kept her style of teaching and usual practices. Using somebody else’s materials merely gave her a good idea for a tutorial activity. Conversely, another participant, who said that she realised she needed to have more approachable slides for weaker students, provides evidence that there has been a clear change in her thinking process about online and distance teaching. She realised that she had to make a change in the content and presentation of her slides to accommodate weaker students better than she used to.

49As teachers look for resources that match their teaching beliefs, it seems that OER users do not alter their teaching approaches drastically as a result of using other people’s materials. The search for ‘understanding resources’ and ‘good resources’, and the fact that some resources suit some users and not others, indicate that the choice of resources depend on individuals’ understanding of them. The understanding of one particular resource by one individual changes according to that individual’s teaching beliefs, background and personal theories. Teachers look at the resources and form their own interpretations according to what they believe can ‘work’.

50Another reason that seem to lead to imply that teachers do not fundamentally change their teaching beliefs or methodologies is the fact that they seldom use the teaching notes attached to resources. They look for resources close to their teaching approaches, so despite the critical reflection about materials and pedagogies, it could be speculated that teaching practices may change only on the surface. The transformation of resources does not in itself guarantee transformation in teaching practices. The resource in itself is not important; rather, what is important is: what use teachers actually make of them (Mishra, 2017).

51The findings for ‘Learning and developing’ are significant in three respects: first, using and adapting lead clearly to critical reflection about own materials and teaching approaches and allow for trial and error as well as experimentation with students. Second, respondents declared that reuse of colleagues’ resources lead to changes in material design and quality, and for some lead to changes in online teaching practices, although this is not supported by strong evidence in this study. Third, the adaptations are guided by teaching beliefs and methodologies. When teachers say that they have improved or changed their practice, they appear to imply that it is their materials and activities that have improved. However, there is little evidence in the examples displayed during the interviews or in the language they used to suggest that their deeply engrained teaching beliefs and methodologies have improved or changed as a result of being inspired by other teachers’ ideas.

Conclusion and further studies

52The study presented here shows that, in a context of distance and online learning, conducive to OER reuse, reappropriation of OER can lead to improved materials and modified teaching approaches to some extent. Whether OER reuse leads to profound changes is to be further investigated. As other studies suggest, it takes time for teachers to embed new technologies and new approaches, OER reuse is not a linear process and teachers needs also more training with OER (Nogry et Sort, 2016; Schuwer and Janssen, 2018).

53This study, limited to one academic department of one institution in the UK cannot be generalised to all OER users of all academic disciplines or all sectors of education or countries, nor can the findings be generalised to all teachers in the language teachers’ community. However, it provides critical insight into the OER reuse phenomenon, specifically, teachers’ self-reflections with OER. A large-scale study into the reuse of OER in different disciplines and in different distance education institutions worldwide, using the same methodology may enable to assess whether the insights gained through this study are specific to language teachers or can be generalised to a wider spectrum of teachers.

54After reappropriation teachers continue to adopt preferred teaching methodologies and do not really change their beliefs as to what constitutes appropriate online language teaching as a result of using and adapting collegues’ materials. Further research is needed to address the issue of teacher change and transformation of practices due to the fact that it is difficult to evaluate changes based on a methodology that uses self-reporting method for data collection.

55Examining language teachers’ beliefs about OER in relation to online teaching may help to clarify how teachers change (if they do) their approaches to teaching online over time. A longitudinal study including students’ performance and teachers’ reflections on teaching beliefs and methodologies using transformative learning theory would have the potential to establish whether OER reuse can influence and change practices.

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Hampel. R., & Stickler, U. (2005). New skills for new classrooms: training tutors to teach languages online. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 18(4), 311–326. DOI: 10.1080/09588220500335455

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Notes

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: The interviews online room
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Titre Figure 2: The five-step model of reuse
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Titre Figure 3: Reappropriating
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Titre Figure 4: Editing a resource for a French Beginners’ online tutorial
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Légende Adapted resource 1
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Titre Figure 5: Learning and developing
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Titre Figure 6: Example of adaptation that demonstrates a change in teaching approach
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Légende Adapted resource 8
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Hélène Pulker, « Impact of reappropriation of open educational resources on distance and online language teaching »Distances et médiations des savoirs [En ligne], 31 | 2020, mis en ligne le 28 septembre 2020, consulté le 28 novembre 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/dms/5292; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/dms.5292

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Hélène Pulker

The Open University
Helene.pulker@open.ac.uk

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