I was using OER long before I knew they were OER! Exploring the wealth of online educational resources has been a great source of professional development for me, forcing me to consider each new resource in the context of how beneficial it will be to the course outcomes and the goals of my learners. I have cultivated an entrepreneurial “can-do” spirit.
I started small, gradually incorporating OER into courses. I would assign OER as additional work, use web exercises in the labs, or use OER for in-class supplements when a section of a publisher-sponsored text didn’t help impart the concept at hand. Eventually, after a couple of semesters of finding OER for everything my learners needed, I took the plunge and eliminated the publisher-sponsored text altogether.
Now, thanks to OER, several other online sites, and a lab full of language learning software that I didn’t previously know what to do with, I have a completely redesigned course–not so much in content, but in the way my learners access and interact with their course materials. I have even been able to change the format of the course, which began as a fully in-person five hour per week class. Now it is a hybrid class where we meet in person for three hours a week and the students do two hours a week in the lab.
Face to face hours are spent focusing on speaking and listening, actually using the language, as opposed to talking about it. I am definitely seeing a difference in speaking proficiency levels.
Thanks to my exploration of OER, I have been able to grow as an educator and create my own universe of teaching that is truly customized to my learners’ needs. One of these resources I have had the pleasure to come to know very well is Français interactif, a complete first-year French program available for free online from the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL).
I have established connections at UT-Austin and other institutions where Français interactif is being used. We are a community of users who collaborate to improve this OER and share best practices. The text boasts a forum for instructors all over the world to share resources and a Facebook presence for thousands of student users. This multi-modal program offers all that one would expect from a French method produced by a for-profit publishing company, including online exercises with excellent grammar presentations, audio and video resources, downloadable chapters that have been polished by content experts, a test bank, sample syllabi, and supplementary exercises as well.
What’s more, as an instructor in a Texas community college where many of my students aspire to transfer to the University of Texas, we are lucky to find in the “characters” of the textbook actual UT students who are not too far ahead of my own students in their learning paths, providing them authentic learning material which they can relate to.