The Linguist

The Linguist 52,3

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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ONLINE LEARNING Where there's a MOOC Kirsten Winkler looks at the Massive Open Online Courses that are shaking up the higher education sector y now it has become pretty difficult to avoid the MOOC topic. The problem is that there's nothing much left of the original term, as people tend to call every web-based course a MOOC, rather than maintaining a more differentiated definition. As Steven Downes recently pointed out in a blog post titled 'The Great Rebranding': B 'The arguments in which the four elements of MOOCs – 'massive', 'open', 'online' and 'course' – are one by one putated to be 'optional' or 'unnecessary' seems to me to be a desperate attempt to cleanse MOOCs of any disruptive impact they may have on the traditional action of in-person teaching to a teacher to a small group of people.' We need to keep in mind that online courses that call themselves MOOCs but are hosted on platforms that offer their services to colleges and universities are not 100 percent true to the original meaning of the term. There is a difference between the concept of a MOOC and what it has turned into today. MOOCs are nothing new Interestingly, MOOCs have existed for quite a while in the language learning space; the (ed)tech media just didn't call them MOOCs. Language learning communities such as Livemocha, busuu and launched about five years ago and saw some appreciable growth early on. Busuu claims to have more than 30 million users today, Livemocha and both have around 15 million. This is significant even when compared to the most popular MOOCs. Language learning communities featured most of the functionalities we now associate 16 The Linguist JUNE/JULY with MOOCs. They were massive from the start, as the platforms were meant to provide access to an indefinite number of language students. This is, of course, part of the underlying business model – to reach as many potential students (clients) as possible. They were open, as most featured a so-called 'freemium' business model. This means that a portion of the content is available free of charge and 'premium options', such as additional grammar sheets and exercises, have to be purchased. (Only switched to a premium-only model.) This is similar to what Coursera is doing today, as the US-based MOOC platform offers its courses for free but charges for certification. Language learning communities were online or 'in the cloud'. This was one of the major selling points compared to Rosetta Stone, which was the old bull they were trying to compete with. Ironically, Rosetta recently acquired Livemocha in what seems to have been a fire sale, and the company's new CEO is pushing Rosetta towards a cloud-based service in order to compete with the remaining language learning communities. These communities are actually a step ahead of the MOOCs, as they already offer mobile learning solutions via applications for smartphones and tablets. In contrast, MOOC platforms are generally web-based and rely on a desktop computer for access. Last but not least, all of the language learning communities offered courses, again most of them free of charge. Although often fairly rudimentary, they nonetheless provided a structured way for absolute beginners to start learning a new language. Would it not be in universities' best interest to create dedicated MOOC courses for languages? UPCOMING COURSES At present, the US-based MOOC platforms offer the best selection. Udacity and edX are mostly tech and science centered, so Coursera is currently the platform of choice for linguists. Courses are constantly being added, so to find the right one for you check out – a UK-based search engine for MOOCs around the globe. There are still no language-related courses, but some may be of interest: • The Law of the European Union: An Introduction, starts 10 June; • Creativity, Innovation and Change: starts 1 September; • Age of Globalization: starts 1 September; 2013_Sept/about • Designing a New Learning Environment: starts 21 October; • Globalizing Higher Education and Research for the 'Knowledge Economy', starts 21 January 2014;

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