‘An interest in translation and a great addition to the CV!’ An evaluation of learners’ experiences of an online volunteering task

Comas-Quinn, Anna; Fuertes Gutierrez, Mara and McGill, Lou (2017). ‘An interest in translation and a great addition to the CV!’ An evaluation of learners’ experiences of an online volunteering task. In: OER17: The Politics of Open, 5-6 Apr 2017, London, The Open University.

URL: https://oer17.oerconf.org/sessions/an-interest-in-...


Working within the principles of open pedagogy (Wiley, 2013), educators can present learners with valuable opportunities to develop digital and collaboration skills, engage with real-world problems and showcase their work. For language learners in particular, global, multilingual online communities that allow users to engage as consumers and producers of content (Ritzer & Jurgenson, 2010) provide useful environments where language skills can be practiced and developed through participation in authentic tasks (Kiraly et al, 2016).

This presentation examines the benefits and challenges that participation in open communities brings to learners, particularly in enabling them to develop their digital and linguistic skills, whilst making a visible contribution to society. It reports on the evaluation of a task in which advanced language learners joined an online volunteer community to work on the translation of subtitles using open content and tools. Their motivation, expectations and concerns were recorded in a pre-course questionnaire, and a post-course questionnaire was used to gather information on their experiences. Feedback was also gathered independently from course designers and course facilitators.

Results from learners were very positive with almost all participants reporting that the task had improved their learning of the language, enjoyment during learning, and learning of new research and digital skills. Participants particularly valued having choices to select the content and tools used, and developing their learner autonomy. Negative aspects clustered around the steep learning curve required to familiarise themselves with the technology, information and support available to carry out the task.

One of the challenges for educators is to strike the right balance between providing guidance, support and sufficient scaffolding for learners, and allowing them enough room to engage in meaningful problem-solving and the development of their autonomy as learners (Martínez Carrasco, 2016). The enormous gains in learning and motivation reported by learners must be tempered by the need to develop the required participatory and digital skills that would enable learners to fully benefit from these opportunities (Beaven et al, 2014)

This contribution will consider the gains for learners and educators that an open pedagogy offers, and highlight the drawbacks and constraints, both ethical and pedagogical, that the implementation of such an approach poses for educators.

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