The refugee situation that appeared on the radar of a lot of academics in 2015 highlighted a dire situation, where (according to UNHCR data) 68.5 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide, of which 25.4 million are refugees. The initial warm acceptance of people from this international community in some European countries waned over time for a multitude of political and sociological reasons.
An ERASMUS+ project called MOONLITE (ref. 2016-1-ES01-KA203-025731; running from 2016 – 2019), was launched to explore the value that open education resources and practices (henceforth, OERP), specifically MOOCs, could have to help refugees with social inclusion, employment, and entering higher education. The higher education partners in this project focussed on the application of OERP for refugees in their institutional contexts. Specifically, at UNED (the Spanish national distance-education university), a series of Language MOOCs (henceforth, LMOOCs) were developed to help refugees learn Spanish at A1-A2 levels (following the Common European Framework of Reference that grades language competences from A1 to C2; Read, Sedano and Barcena, 2018). The course resources were licensed as CC-BY-SA.
Studies show a reluctance on the part of refugees to engage in open online learning, for a range of reasons including the perception they have that such educational activities are inferior to standard textbook-driven classroom-based learning. Since such face-to-face learning is not even an option for most refugees, for logistical reasons, the difficulties they have using online OERP needed to be addressed (Traxler, Read and Barcena, in press). When the project started, more than twenty refugee support groups, non-governmental organisations, and other charitable entities, who work with and support refugee learning, were contacted and, together with some refugees themselves, they collaborated in the project to help identify the limitations that are present in currently available OERP, how they could be adapted, and the scaffolding of their use to overcome such problems. As a result of this collaboration, three dimensions were identified, where specific measures are needed to adapt OERP for refugees, namely: technological, methodological and linguistic/cultural.
In this work, an analysis is undertaken of the nature of open education for refugees, why it may not be perceived by them as being relevant for their learning needs, and what can be done during the development and application of open educational resources to overcome these problems. Data is provided from the participation and learning outcomes in the LMOOCs developed, to support the arguments included in this analysis. Finally, the results of this “inclusive reframing” of the OERP for refugees and migrants are extended to draw conclusions on the general application of this form of education for more expansive social groups.
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Read, T., Sedano, B. and Barcena, E. (2018). Tailoring Language MOOC design for migrants and refugees. In: T.Read, S. Montaner and B. Sedano, eds., Technological Innovation for Digital Lives and Cultures. Mauritius: Éditions universitaires européennes, pp. 383-396.
Traxler, J., Read, T. and Barcena, E. (in press) Refugees from MENA Learning Languages – Progress, Principles and Proposals. In: H. Reinders, D. Tafazoli, A. Littlejohn and C. Coombe, eds., Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching: The Case of the Middle East and North Africa. London: Palgrave Macmillan.