The Effects of Open Education on Language Education

We recently published Open Education and Second Language Learning and Teaching edited by Carl S. Blyth and Joshua J. Thoms. In this post the editors explain what open education involves.

We first began talking about the possibility of a co-edited book on open education and second language (L2) learning and teaching at an open education conference in Park City, Utah in 2011. At the time, it felt as if we were part of only a small group of applied linguists in the US interested in the open education movement. We knew that colleagues from many other parts of the world, especially in the EU, were much more engaged in and had more fully embraced open education in their classrooms and with their research. We continued working on our own projects for several years after that time period, with Carl leading various open efforts in the US via the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) at The University of Texas at Austin. As more colleagues in the US and in other parts of the world began to become aware of the disruptive affordances of open education, we re-visited the outline for the book that we had created and formally launched the project.

Open education can be defined via three main components: 1. open educational resources (OER), which are any kind of materials or tools that are created with the intention of freely sharing them with others without restrictive copyright or fees; 2. open educational practices (OEP), which include any kind of professional development activity that aims to inform others how to create, locate, and/or adapt OER or pedagogical activities that afford learners more agency in the learning process; and 3. open access scholarship, which involves sharing one’s research via open access journals and open digital repositories. Inherent in these three components are values such as accessibility, inclusivity, equity, and the democratization of knowledge. In essence, open education is about removing barriers to pedagogical resources, professional development practices/opportunities, and scholarship.

While the aforementioned barriers have always been present in our field and in other disciplines, the Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on these concerning issues. Our book therefore is timely in that it explores how open education efforts in L2 learning and teaching can mitigate obstacles while creating new knowledge ecologies. The book is theoretically grounded in ecological perspectives on L2 learning and teaching and explores open education via a transdisciplinary approach. Contributors’ work is organized via three main areas:

  • open efforts that affect learners’ developing knowledge in L2 instructional environments;
  • open work affecting educators’ developing knowledge in L2 teacher education; and
  • open initiatives related to developing knowledge in other areas in the field of L2 education.

Finally, it is important to note that this book is available via open access under a CC BY ND license. For more information about our book and to download a free copy, please see Multilingual Matters’ website.

Carl S. Blyth (University of Texas at Austin, USA) cblyth@austin.utexas.edu; website.

Joshua J. Thoms (Utah State University, USA) joshua.thoms@usu.edu; website.