The Open Translation MOOC: creating online communities to transcend linguistic barriers

Beaven, Tita; Comas-Quinn, Anna; de los Arcos, Bea; Hauck, Mirjam and Lewis, Timothy (2013). The Open Translation MOOC: creating online communities to transcend linguistic barriers. In: OER 13 Creating a virtuous circle, 26-27 Mar 2013, Nottingham.



One of the main barriers to the reuse of Open Educational Resources is language (OLNet, 2009). OER may be available but in another language so a preliminary step to reuse is translation or localisation (see as an example the UnisulVirtual courses translated from OpenLearn into Brasilian Portuguese). One of the obvious solutions to the vast effort required to translate OER is to crowdsource the translation, as exemplified by Wikipedia (Wikipedia Translation) or TED (Ted Open Translation Project).

From October to December 2012 the Department of Languages at the Open University UK ran a MOOC on Open Translation Tools and Practices (OT12). Participants explored a range of online open translation tools (Amara, Transifex, Google Translator Toolkit) that enable and facilitate the crowdsourcing of translation, dubbing and subtitling. For this specific event, participants collaborated in the translation and subtitling of open educational resources mainly to and from English and Spanish, but also Portuguese, French, Greek, German and Catalan. Forum discussions, synchronous online sessions, recorded podcasts and the tasks themselves were designed to provide input, facilitate discussion and share views not only on the linguistic specificities of translating different languages, but also on issues such as quality assurance in open translation and the ethics and practicalities of openness in education and translation.

Data for this paper is drawn from online surveys covering participants’ backgrounds and their prior experience as translators; their expectations and motivation for participating in the OT12 MOOC; and their evaluation of the outcomes of the MOOC. Metrics provided by Google Analytics and VLE logs of participants’ activities are used to inform the analysis of the survey data.

We understand MOOCs as events (Cormier, 2010) or, following the principles of connectivism, catalysts for starting conversations within a network (Downes, 2011), and therefore feel that they might be a suitable way of engaging online communities of translators, language teachers and learners, and those interested in OER in the crowdsourcing of translations for OER.

The OT12 MOOC content is released as an open educational resource (OER) under a Creative-Commons License so that it can be adapted and reused in other contexts. In this paper we would like to open up a debate on how the world of open education can harness existing open translation models to further the openness agenda.

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