OER (Open Educational Resources) research community


The eLanguages team led and took part in a number of projects exploring the use of Open Educational Resources (OERs) in language learning.

eLanguages began research in the area of Open Educational Resources (OERs) through a number of projects that began in 2007. The JISC-funded L2O Project investigated community sharing of Language Learning Objects (LOs) and developed an experimental repository, CLARe, to enable the storing and sharing of the project LO outputs.

This project was followed by MURLLO (Management, Use and Re-purposing of Language Learning Objects), an Eduserv-funded project, which explored the development of tools to assist in the application of contextual metadata, resource discovery, and editing of LOs.

CLAReT (Contextualised Learning Activity Repository Tools), another JISC-funded project, took the CLARe repository and contextual metadata further by investigating and mapping the language teaching and learning domain and using Web 2.0 interfaces (such as tag clouds and principles of social networking) to assist in better resource discovery. The L2O research community continued to expand and take part in all of these projects.

Faroes, a further JISC-funded Capital Project, led by the Learning Societies Laboratory in ECS at the University of Southampton, built on this work and developed LanguageBox, a repository for sharing language learning resources in distributed social spaces.

From November 2011 to October 2012, eLanguages led a group of five part-time teachers of French, German, Italian and English as a Second Language, from the Modern Languages and Linguistics department at the University of Southampton in their involvement in the JISC-funded FAVOR (Finding a Voice through Open Resources) Project. This OER Project aimed to showcase the excellent and often unrecognised work of part-time language teachers in Higher Education through their teaching resources. The teachers adapted, published and shared some of their existing language teaching resources as open content and learned to use new authoring tools such as LOC to create additional resources. These Open Educational Resources were uploaded to the LanguageBox from where they can be linked to or downloaded by other teachers.

The FAVOR project was managed by the LLAS Centre and involved nearly 30 part-time language teachers coordinated from five geographically dispersed UK language centres. Over 300 language teaching resources in a range of digital media were shared as open content through LanguageBox, a web-based repository for language teachers and learners. For more information see also the FAVOR Project blog.

Some of the key projects we were involved in were:

MURLLO - Management, Use and Re-purposing of Language Learning Objects

In 2007, MURLLO (Management, Use and Re-purposing of Language Learning Objects), an Eduserv-funded project, followed on from the L2O project and explored the development of tools to assist in the application of contextual metadata, resource discovery and editing of Learning Objects (LOs).

The MURLLO project addressed some key issues that had been identified by the L2O project as critical success factors for effectively managing, using and re-purposing re-usable learning objects (RLOs). These were:

MURLLO initially looked at different ways of collecting context-rich metadata; tested models for Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) management of online resources, and identified suitable business models for licensing content. An analysis of the results informed the development and testing of 'open source' tools.

These tools aimed to enable users to add their own learning materials, along with metadata and IPR information to a digital repository. A Wiki-type tool was created for users to edit/repurpose online learning material for their own purposes and then store the revised content for others to view or use. The project also planned the creation of an 'online shopping trolley'-type tool to simplify the selection of learning activities from the repository, and the export of collections of such activities to a user's own computer.

A reference model for contextual metadata was developed with the help of our Community of Practice.

The wiki-type editor allows users to upload an existing content package as a zip file. Once a learning object is loaded, users can open it from a WYSIWYG editor and make modifications using a selection of toolbars. The process is similar to editing Word documents, therefore users without HTML/XML knowledge are able to apply their changes easily.


These tools are now open source and available for non-commercial use. Please note they are beta versions and may require further work. If you download and improve them, please email us and share your changes so that we can disseminate further.

Contextualised Learning Activity Repository Tools (CLAReT)

The Contextualised Learning Activity Repository Tools project (CLAReT) addressed two key needs. These were to engage the language teaching and learning community in a body of shared practice in relation to their own online teaching resources and to facilitate digital resource discovery in a shared Learning Object repository (Contextualised Learning Activity Repository, CLARe).

A terminology that derived directly from a shared language and understanding of the teaching and learning context was used to generate a language learning and teaching concept map (folksonomy) through which users could search for and download digital resources (Learning Objects and Pedagogic Assets) stored in the shared repository. They were also able to upload new items to the repository. A FREMA-Style view of the map was available to aid navigation.

A prototype repository with several additional Web 2.0 like features (star ratings and scope for user comments) explored visualisation of the teaching and learning context.

The CLAReT project further developed the regionally-based cross-sector community of practice which focussed on moving towards a shared culture of use, re-use and re-purposing of online resources. The CLAReT project emphasised the sharing and dissemination of good practice. This community-driven approach extended the work already undertaken by the L2O and MURLLO projects.

A series of workshops which involved a growing community of practice informed the development of the concept map and the Web 2.0-like features of the repository. A useful output from the project was a set of 6 user profiles designed for testing the effectiveness of the concept map. These were based on HCI (Human Computer Interaction) research and included detailed personae with related search tasks resembling those likely to be undertaken with the repository in real life. The user profiles included online course designers, HE, FE and school sector teachers and student users.

The LanguageBox: A Faroes Project Repository for Sharing Language Learning Resources in Distributed Social Spaces

The Faroes project was a JISC-funded Capital Project led by the Learning Societies Laboratory in ECS at the University of Southampton, and supported by pedagogic experts from the University of Portsmouth, and from eLanguages in Modern Languages and Linguistics and the LLAS Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies at the University of Southampton.

Its aim was to establish a lightweight repository for learners and teachers to store, manage and share their resources. It built on the CLARe repository (developed alongside the L2O Project), the experiences of the L2O, MURLLO and CLAReT projects, and continued to engage the active community of language teachers and learning technologists from those projects.

Through previous workshops with the language teachers' community of practice two important lessons had been noted. These were that:

The simplicity of producing and re-using resources (for example, there is no overhead of content packaging, or complex metadata authoring) makes them particularly attractive to practitioners. Further engagement with the community helped the project to deliver a really usable repository that fulfils these requirements. In addition, it allowed us to begin to explore the difficult issues concerning authorship, provenance, authority and copyright in the context of a real system with real users.

Through engaging with the established community of language teachers in order to deploy a lightweight repository, the project team aimed to both foster cultural changes in resource sharing in the community, and also to create innovations in repository design based on Web 2.0 best practice.

Launch of LanguageBox

In October 2008, LanguageBox was launched. This provides a lightweight digital repository for language teachers to store, manage and share their resources. Web 2.0 features were added to LanguageBox including popularity ratings, most recently added resources, interlinked tagging and an innovative previewing facility. LanguageBox is now open for language teachers around the world who wish to join the user community and contribute their own resources.


A similar project led by the LLAS Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, and in which eLanguages was also involved, developed HumBox, a digital repository for teachers to store, showcase and share Humanities teaching resources as Open Educational Resources (OERs).