OER1045 Oral Presentation pdf

VirtualDutch : Open Educational Resources and Distance Learning in a Lesser Taught Language Community

Ulrich Tiedau, UCL

Conference Theme: Open Educational Communities

Abstract: ‘VirtualDutch’ is an inter-institutional lesser-taught language community involving the Dutch departments at UCL and the universities of Sheffield, Cambridge and Nottingham. Its main aims are to create and share Open Educational Resources, and to develop web-supported forms of inter-institutional collaboration in teaching and learning. The programme started in 2001, mainly in response to the declining interest in modern languages in the UK which is affecting all modern languages, but the lesser-taught languages like Dutch in particular. Confronted with diminishing resources and threats of discontinuation of language programmes, VirtualDutch brings existing resources, expertise and interest together in an open Dutch learning community. A comprehensive range of OERs has been released since the start of the programme, including self-access reading skills courses, online reference works and multimedia studypacks for autonomous learning, covering various aspects of Dutch language, literature, history and society. All these resources are openly accessible in a open community environment for learners of Dutch. Of course strategic considerations were only one factor behind the development of VirtualDutch. By sharing resources and expertise amongst the participating institutions and making them openly available, the initiative has also brought more breadth and depth to the curriculum and created a VirtualDutch learning community across and beyond institutional boundaries. Students benefit from the encounter with a wide range of learning environments, from classroom contact to multimedia language instruction via virtual learning environments and web-based autonomous learning with the self-study-packs. They also feel part of a larger Dutch studies community in the UK, especially when they collaborate in joint teaching projects involving students and staff from all institutions. While collaborative teaching and learning has successfully been embedded into the curriculum of the four participating universities, VirtualDutch in an accompanying move now also offers a fully modular and purely distance-based degree programme. The first steps in this strategy are two short courses geared to language learning and a fully accredited Postgraduate Certificate in Dutch Cultural Studies (by Distance Learning). The presentation will give an overview of the experiences of the VirtualDutch learning community in; the experiences with collaboratively creating, sharing and publishing teaching and learning resources; the benefits and pitfalls encountered and some first results from the distance programme, a case study which may potentially be of interest for other lesser-taught subjects!?

Keywords: Dutch; Virtual; Lesser Taught languages; Modern languages; OER; Open Learning Community