My session will focus on the findings of a research study we conducted on OER accessibility. We believe this session has close links with the conference theme ‘back to basics’ which reflects on the question whom OER are open for? In our study, we ask ourselves a similar question – are OER open to English native speakers or a more global audience?
Please, see below the full abstract for more information about our session.
OERs contribute to the field of learning by enabling anyone to exercise their right to education, it serves the aim of education for all. OER platforms such as OpenLearn receive millions of visitors each year (OpenLearn, 2018). At the same time it is known that OER in English are taken by English non-native speakers (NNS). Yilmaz (2011), in a study of international students’ use of OER concluded that since OER are generally in English, students are obliged to choose English as a language of preference for learning from the OER. Moreover, English NNS do not generally receive scaffolding through teacher mediation in the OER context unlike in formal education which may ease their learning. This might set more challenges for English NNS who do not have sufficient language proficiency but who are nonetheless eager to follow and use OER.
Linguistic accessibility is already included in a number of OER quality guidelines (e.g. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1; the Guidelines for OER in Higher Education). These guidelines prescribe the course developers to make text content readable and understandable. However, review of literature on OER showed that there is lack of research on the readability level of OERs and the extent to which they are accessible to English NNS.
In this study, we conducted readability analysis of the materials from 150 most popular OER courses from a leading OER platform – OpenLearn (www.open.edu/openlearn). Readability was determined using the algorithms with Textinspector online readability tool (textinspector.com). Our findings revealed that all materials across different educational levels and disciplines require advanced level of English language proficiency. One-way Anova analysis showed that there were statistically significant differences across educational levels with introductory OER courses being easier to read (Flesch-Kincaid Grade M=11.17; concentration of advanced C2 lexis M=2.46) as compared to intermediate or advanced courses (Flesch-Kincaid Grade M=14.37; concentration of advanced C2 lexis M=3.21).
The practical implication of the study is determined by the finding that despite published accessibility guidelines, OERs are disseminated with language too complex for English NNS at lower levels of English proficiency. Recommendations are made as to how to make OER materials accessible to a wider global audience.
It is going to be a 15-minute presentation, 5 minutes Q+A. It will follow a conventional research presentation with introduction to OER linguistic accessibility, methodology, results and discussion of our study and practical implications for OER educators and OER community in general.
Guidelines for open educational resources (OER) in higher education (2015). Commonwealth of Learning. Paris: UNESCO.
OpenLearn. (2018). The OU’s OpenLearn Portal Website. Available at http://www.open.ac.uk/about/open-educational-resources/openlearn [Accessed 24 September 2018]
Text Inspector (2018) Online lexis analysis tool. Available at textinspector.com [Accessed 1 October 2018]
Yilmaz, M. (2011). Open educational resources: Students’ perspectives in an international learning environment. Paper presented at the 24th ICDE
World Conference on Open and Distance Learning, Bali, Indonesia.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1. W3C World Wide Web Consortium Recommendation 5 June 2018. Available at https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/docs/. [Accessed 20 October 2018]