A Language Learning MOOC – Thoughts & Vision

MOOCs and Language Learning seems to be a natural fit for each other. I previously wrote about the suitability between Language Learning and MOOCs, and have expanded some ideas on the topic. (I’ve also created a website that tries to communicate the LMOOC vision)

One of the reasons why Language Learning and MOOCs fit so well together is that MOOCs can create interaction. For language learners in non-target language speaking countries, this can increase the amount of target language feedback that they receive. This is a major part of the barrier in trying to learn language in an EFL setting.

However, one of the challenges of increasing this feedback, is helping learners develop strategies for increasing this feedback, and guiding them in how to use this feedback effectively. A LMOOC isn’t based in Educational Technology (like many MOOCs are, making them more like conferences), but rather uses educational technology as a means for connecting.

Thus, the two main goals of the exterior LMOOC structure would be Increased Feedback and The Promotion of Autonomous Distance Educational Skills (Learner Autonomy).

Other, content and language driven goals, would be addressed in the finer details of the interior workings of the LMOOC.

One of the other important features of an LMOOC would be the openness of such a structure not only at the learner end, but also open at the facilitator end of the structure. I believe that MOOCs (and how they are currently practiced) would benefit greatly from a general adoption of more facilitators – a whole slew of knowledgeable people in any given MOOC that construe user activity into more robust connections and networks. Building on new teacher roles, these facilitators would take the buds of learning and help them to flower.

So, my LMOOC design incorporates the need for many facilitators by making that end of the MOOC open to anyone who would like to facilitate (by creating a kind of sub-unit within the LMOOC overall structure). This achieves two important results: learners have the ability to become facilitators; and the LMOOC becomes a tool for educators who to learn and practice distance language learning instructional design.

Anyway, please check out the link to the webpage if you are interested (here it is again), and leave any feedback. I’ve been dwelling on this idea for a while, so I think I need to let it sit – I still don’t have a means to put this into practice yet, but I would love to hear about and follow any organization that tries this type of LMOOC structure out. With the means to put it in motion, it’s would be a fantastic thing for language learners and educators. Thanks!


17 thoughts on “A Language Learning MOOC – Thoughts & Vision

  1. Pingback: EN: A Language Learning MOOC – Thoughts & Vision | LMOOC | Scoop.it

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  3. Hi I’ve recently taken part in the Spanish MOOC that uses coursesites by blackboard and a new instreamia platform for watching youtube videos and carrying out activities related to the subtitles. The instreamia platform allows for interaction with engaging video media and generates multiple questions about the subtitles based on the individual learners’ level and learning history. However, I think in terms of openness, the English Eco is allowing for greater interaction and creativity. It allows for learners to post artifacts and share material, in their own spaces. They can pick and choose the topics that they wish to learn.

    Personally speaking, I think there are many potential learners out there who have some level of autonomy and are familiar with taking different roles of student and teacher. It seems the live.mocha students are enthusiastic for this type of interaction. I have received plenty of feedback after submitting an ‘assignment’ from fellow learners. (In fact, this is a good place for Chinese students to interact with students from different countries.)

    I wonder if the topics would need to be categorised in a similar way to other lesson material – (at first at least),with level and language point focus. In fact, maybe the MOOC activities could be intergrated into lesson plans such as these (http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/lesson-plans) to share with teachers. If all teachers are using the same hastag then the students would see other students posts related to the same topic as they search the daily post list.

    Actually, I’m interested to try an LMOOC for Chinese students sometime this year. This may be in the form of optional tasks and activities connected with an existing online language learning course following a similar sequence of activities to the sample English Eco Boston topic. [I would be really excited if students could use a tool to generate their own mini lessons from material they find on the internet/on their own blog posts whether in writing/voice/image/video or a combination.]

    I think these activities would need to have a language point and level focus. I think the perfectly autonomous route is the most ideal and fits best with the principles of constructivist learning and would allow for greater acquisition and deeper learning. However, I think a compromise with some initial structure and focused noticing activities leading to application is still required for most language learners in my experience (for lower levels at least.)

    I think the conclusion I’m gradually drifting towards is that like other subjects, the language MOOC would probably take many different forms:
    1. LMOOCc (as I understand it – English Eco)
    2. classroom MOOC (oxymoron? 😉 where the teacher coordinates a group of learners to connect and share with others, blended connectivism)
    3. MOOCx (lots of learners, but basically following the same course structure as traditional pedagogical formats, with submissions all in same place – Spanishmooc)


    • Hi Robert, thanks for the comment, and I think you’re spot on about a lot of things. The Spanish MOOC and the proposed English Eco structure would be targeting different learning goals – the EE structure focusing more of creating interaction and, as you say, creativity (as I say, autonomy) rather than direct language instruction. As I envision it, the language instruction would be embedded in the finer topics of the EE structure – ultimately of creating two layers of structure, and enabling the openness at the facilitator’s end.

      You’re also right in bringing up issues about level assessment. This would be one of the most time consuming aspects of facilitating the topics in the EE structure. Over time, I think enough versions of topics and materials would develop to be offered for different skill levels of students, but to assume that all language learners are able to accurately self-assess could lead to a lot of frustration for the learner. As I mentioned in my original post last year, learner ataxia is a major concern for anyone trying to use the abundance of authentic English Language interaction available online. Maybe assessing skill level is one of the essential roles of a facilitator in the EE structure?

      Topics could be categorized by level, although I’d probably rather suggest to have the design and the material itself adjusted and different versions presented by level, within the same topic. I wouldn’t want to limit interaction between topics, and even between different skill levels of students – taking on the role of ‘mentor’, even in simple communication exchanges, is a great way for lower skilled students to improve, and a great way for higher skilled learners (in comparison) to assume that role of facilitator. This is especially advantageous in asynchronous settings.

      The inclusion of a ‘language point’ would also be one of the (strongly) suggested components of any given topic, I agree with you, that it is needed, although I would still leave it up to the facilitator to include it.

      Please keep me updated (either here, or via email) with any Chinese MOOC that you try. I’d love to see how you go about it, and help out if possible.



      • Hi Glen, thanks for the reply. I understand how the role of the facilitator role would work much better now. I also like how having different activities for different levels within the same topic would work better to help learners of different levels interact and potentially assist each other.


  4. Pingback: justlearning - #ETMOOC A Language Learning MOOC – Thoughts & Vision « A Point of Contact

  5. My main comment would be that it is not clear when this MOOC starts, whether it has already started, whether there is a topic currently underway, how I access that topic, and how I take part. There needs to be, in other words, a clear ‘on ramp’ for participants.


    • Hi Stephen, thanks for the comment, and you’re right about it not being stated clearly. This isn’t a MOOC yet, and there are no plans to get it running anytime soon – it’s simply thoughts and vision right now. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have the means to get it going myself. I did want to put the structural idea out there so that someone or some organization might take the idea and try to run with it. (check the ‘about’ page of the English Eco website that is linked)

      Your point about the ‘on ramp’ is great, though. This would certainly need to be considered as a first step if the idea ever progresses.


  6. Just off hand (and I realize this is still a-brewing), what about English Eco as the platform hosting series of short classes or workshops, with materials remaining available online after the workshop? Launch could be orientation session.

    I’m not sure how common the practice but some online ESL classes do run on a rolling basis. In any case, I plan to tell my online, blog based (sort of) self paced study group about Eco English.


    • Thanks so much Vanessa. Workshops or some type of Orientation would fit well within the EE structure, especially for the 2 initial topics that introduce students to the style of learning. Although, the design of EE tries to encourage such details to be implemented by individual facilitators – ie: a facilitator creates a two week topic and decides to create their topic (series of topics) as a workshop, short class or webinair or such. What you’re suggesting isn’t all that different from what I’ve proposed, I feel. It would just be a matter of converting that remaining distributed material into a structured topic.

      If you’re going to spread the word to your study group, it might motivate me to set up the initial orientation, and a topic or two. Would you be willing to do so as well? What context is the study group based in?


  7. Pingback: A Language Learning MOOC – Thoughts & Vision | The MOOC revolution | Scoop.it

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  9. Really enjoying reading your thoughts on this topic Glen, and everyone else’s too of course:) I have a slightly different set of challenges in the work I do I guess, in that I’m not positioned in my current job to teach English as a separate subject so much as to focus on English language as it plays out in the teaching and learning of academic disciplines, and my mission, as I seriously consider MOOCs, is to identity the good the bad and the ugly in mainstream subject design and delivery (in class, online and in MOOC) in terms of how it helps or hinders the language learner – because the students I work with are doing higher ed in their L2 and generally getting little support to make sense of the language they are immersed in as they immerse in it.

    The solutions I examine are not more classes on the side that take time and attention away from the main game, but the sort of integration that some CLIL principles articulate, and that curriculum-integrated academic literacies and functional grammar approaches aim to achieve. So I’m watching your emerging space with great interest, but also considering a somewhat different set of problems… but loving being in conversation with folks who share many of the same interests – best wishes, Emily


  10. I wanted to let you all know about a follow-up to the SpanishMOOC (http://www.spanishmooc.com) which I taught. We’re going to host a discussion and technical training on language teaching through a language teaching mooc, http://www.ltmooc.com. We’ll be discussing many of these same points and how we can adapt methodology and technology to better fits the needs. I hope many of you can make it!


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  12. Pingback: A Language Learning MOOC – Thoughts & Vision | Blog d'Anna

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