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Open tools for teaching and learning: corpora and eportfolios

10 July 2012

Cloud created by:

Rosemary Calder
5 July 2012

Where: Conference Room, Ground Floor, FELS, Stuart Hall building, Walton Hall

Time: 10.00 – 12:00

Date: 11 July 2012

The use of open tools and resources is becoming widespread in higher education. In this session, two practical examples from outside the OU are brought together from the areas of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and English for Academic Purposes (EAP). Thomas Strasser presents the use of the open source Mahara eportfolio and discusses its synergies with self-organised learning, creativity and personal and skills development. Alannah Fitzgerald discusses the possibilities of using corpus-based open educational resources for EAP and the implications, challenges and opportunities when contrasted with the use of traditionally published teaching materials.


10:00 am Introduction (Anna Comas-Quinn, OU Department of Languages)

10:10 am Thomas Strasse, Pädagogische Hochschule Wien (University of Teacher Education, Vienna)

‘Mighty Mahara!? The role of self-organized EFL-learning within the context of Mahara ePortfolio’ [see abstract below]

10:50 coffee & tea

11:00 am Alannah Fitzgerald, Durham University and Support Centre for Open Resources in Education (SCORE)

‘Addressing Academic Literacies with Corpus-based Open Educational Resources’ [see abstract below]

11:55 am Closing


If you have any queries about this event please contact Anna Comas-Quinn at

We apologise for the short notice but we were presented with the opportunity to draw on experiences beyond the OU which are directly relevant to us and hope that you can make this ‘eLC extra’ event.





Mighty Mahara!? The role of self-organized EFL-learning within the context of Mahara ePortfolio

This demonstration seeks to illustrate the implementation process of the ePortfolio Mahara at Vienna University of Teacher Education. In the context of a scientific project, several steps are documented which were necessary in order to initiate a constant use of the portfolio in practical student teacher courses for EFL on various levels (elementary and secondary schools). Apart from a brief report concerning the technical implementation of Mahara (and its challenging obstacles) at Vienna University of Teacher Education, the author tries to explicitly emphasize to what extent ePortfolios support personal development, social skills, language skills and professional credo among student teachers. Furthermore, the aspect of self-organized learning within the ePortfolio-context including various asynchronous communication processes is highlighted and critically-reflected.

An additional focus of this demonstration will be on student teachers’ creative outcomes concerning the use of ePortfolios in the actual classroom (i.e. how student teachers didactically implement ePortfolio-teaching-sequences for their pupils in EFL-practice in order to enforce collaborative learning using an internationally accepted tool [i.e. ePorfolios in general, not exclusively Mahara] representing the “zeitgeist” and needs of 21st century learners).

The final part of this demonstration deals with evaluative feedback of student teachers and members of the institution (i.e. Vienna University of Teacher Education) concerning the reception of user-friendliness and learning outcomes of Mahara.


Addressing Academic Literacies with Corpus-based Open Educational Resources

This presentation will introduce and demonstrate two open English language projects, FLAX and WordandPhrase, which provide corpus-based tools and resources for managing academic texts for the development of reading, writing and vocabulary learning. This presentation will provide access to English language resources that are relevant for use in higher education as it is used across the different subject disciplines and will suggest techniques for their use: in classroom and language lab teaching, in open and distance education, and in independent study. Perceived problems with many of the current academic English resources made available by proprietary publishers will also be opened up for discussion in this presentation.

Within current English for Academic Purposes (EAP) published materials we can find a dearth of resources that fall under the promotional banner of preparing learners for ‘academic writing’. This is problematic as ‘academic writing’ is marketed loosely to refer to those resources that will in many cases only prepare students for essayist-style writing, falling within the college composition tradition from North America of teaching ‘academic writing’ to primarily undergraduate students in the liberal arts. Furthermore, many of the current academic vocabulary textbooks on the market draw on the Academic Word List (AWL) by Coxhead (2000) but this has proven to be an inadequate AWL due to the corpus it was derived from and the pre-existing General Service List (West, 1953) of words that it was built upon. Mark Davies and Lee Gardener at Brigham Young University have addressed this problem in current published EAP vocabulary resources by developing the more robust and accurate Academic Vocabulary Lists (AVL) along with a resource-packed website, WordandPhrase, for analysing academic texts using the new and improved AVL and the Corpus of Contemporary American (COCA) English.

There is also a large part of the ‘academic writing’ materials market that has been matched to English language proficiency and university admissions tests such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) where at best learners will be able to compose a standard five paragraph-long essay as part of these English writing test requirements. There is currently a deficit in resources that prepare learners for writing according to the different academic literacies of their specific disciplines in higher education, where longer complex texts are the norm and where empirical research and data are often required to be incorporated and written up as part of the research report and dissertation writing process. This has resulted in many higher education institutions developing their own in-house materials to address this issue, which should continue to be encouraged. Enabling EAP practitioners to share these in-house materials as OER should also be encouraged by way of sharing best practice for the development for EAP materials across the community of practice that address real learner needs with EAP across the different academic disciplines.

The British Academic Writing in English (BAWE) corpus by Nessi et al. (2007) composed of student-generated texts from across the disciplines in UK higher education was developed to provide key insights into the types of writing assessments students were required to write as part of their undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes. The BAWE corpus has been re-purposed by the FLAX project at the University of Waikato to make these texts more accessible for EAP learning and teaching as OER and key features from these BAWE collections in FLAX will be demonstrated in this presentation.

The BAWE collections in FLAX along with the WordandPhrase tools for text analysis using the new AVL will be presented as more robust resources for use in EAP. Insights into how EAP practitioners can develop support OER for incorporating these corpus-based tools in their teaching will also be raised for discussion.

As with other eLC events you can attend either presentation or both and these will be recorded and available in Stadium as video replays after the event. Please email if you intend to attend so that we can estimate numbers for tea/coffee.

Extra content

Embedded Content

Mighty Mahara Presentation Slides - July 2012

Mighty Mahara Presentation Slides - July 2012

added by Rosemary Calder

Addressing Academic Literacies with Corpusbased Open Educational Resources

Addressing Academic Literacies with Corpusbased Open Educational Resources

added by Rosemary Calder

Thomas Strasser's Blog

Thomas Strasser's Blog

added by Rosemary Calder

Open tools for teaching and learning: corpora and eportfolios

Open tools for teaching and learning: corpora and eportfolios

added by Rosemary Calder


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