LLAS News Blog

News articles of interest to higher education LLAS subject fields.

Thursday 21 March 2013

New language trends survey sets demanding agenda for primary and secondary schools

CfBT Education Trust today published the results of national surveys of primary and secondary schools, revealing the multiple challenges for languages within the new English National Curriculum.
The ‘Language Trends’ report shows that while foreign language teaching is already a reality in most primary schools, there is a very wide spectrum of practice and a lack of consistency in both approach and outcomes. Teachers need further training and support as the subject becomes statutory in September 2014, particularly in those schools where provision is currently least developed.

Friday 15 March 2013

Do you engage with iTunesU?

iTunesU is an area within Apple iTunes which allows institutions to create accounts and publish their own, branded educational content. It is a place to showcase excellence in education through the open publication of teaching resources. We, at LLAS, have recently been involved in the HEA-funded ‘iTunes and You’ project, where  we have taken existing open educational materials published for research and teaching by humanities staff at the University of Southampton, and worked with the university marketing department to repackage them as learning modules in the form of iTunesU course packages. This is a new way of presenting content through the University’s iTunes site and offers a model of engagement for academics to showcase and package their research and teaching work in appealing ways to a broad, global audience.

iTunesU is often seen as exclusively for high-quality video or audio recordings and it can be an intimidating place for researchers and teachers to consider when wishing to publish their work openly. The iTunes and You project has clarified and demystified the process for staff and provided clear guidance material to assist them in understanding how to publish their work in this way. In addition, the project has created an exemplar model of how nuggets of related research and teaching materials can be packaged as mini, bite-sized modules of learning and published with coherence through the iTunesU site (and other OER-sharing platforms).

A key aspect of the project has been to demonstrate that materials created for one particular discipline and educational context (Spanish language, migration studies) has wide applicability across the humanities and to a range of audiences in different parts of the world. OERs used for this project have been published by Southampton as part of the JISC-funded OpenLIVES project. The material consists of oral testimonies collected from Spanish migrants, and includes images, learning objects, and various teaching materials. Materials are in Spanish and English. Click on the link below to see the materials on iTunes:

Some of our key findings are:

Engagement with iTunesU can be effective if part of a ‘holistic approach’ to publishing open content. Our analysis of iTunesU content and site management revealed that it has advantages and limitations as a site for publishing open content. Its advantages include its reach to an international audience, its high production values (as a website), its value as a promotional site, and its reputation and requirement for high quality materials. It also has limitations as a site for publishing open content: there is limited facility for the addition and display of metadata on each file; iTunesU is hidden from principal search engines; use of the site is dependent on installation of Apple iTunes (this is possible at the University of Southampton only on request from our central IT services); management of the site requires staff dedicated to this purpose; there are perceptions amongst staff that iTunes is for audio and video material only, and that the site is only for hosting material of exceptionally high quality (which puts-off potential depositors). This mix of advantages and limitations means that iTunesU is perhaps best used as part of a ‘holistic’ OER approach, which would include promotion and use of other sharing sites, such as public social networking sites like YouTube and Flickr, as well as academic repositories like Jorum or HumBox. The high quality and promotional aspects of iTunes are important ways of raising awareness internationally about UK HE and UK HE resources and staff, and therefore should be part of any ‘open access toolkit’ in an institution.

Publishing on iTunesU offers a more supported way of engaging with open practice because users can make use of established university systems to help them navigate their way through issues around publishing open content. For example, most institutions have lecture-recording software widely available which facilitates the easy capture of content suitable for publication on iTunes. From our experience, material intended to go on to an iTunesU site is moderated for quality and copyright issues by another university staff member before being shared on the site, which offers reassurance to depositors fearful of infringing copyright, or doubtful over the value of the material (fears which are often noted as barriers to sharing).

iTunesU would benefit from more readily accessible web statistics. The key argument in promoting use of iTunes to staff and senior management is that it has impact demonstrable by web statistics. If Apple were to create an ‘administrator interface’ which gave access to a variety of download statistics, along the lines of Google Analytics, this would improve its take-up and impact with potential users.

Use of iTunesU has advantages and disadvantages for the sharing of open content; however, it is an important tool for publishing a range of different OERs and promoting the excellence of UK HE internationally. Effective use of the site requires active institutional support, encouragement and guidance, and we suggest that it is best used as part of a range of methods of engagement with OERs.

We would like to hear from you and your experience of iTunesU. Leave a comment below or contact us at llas@soton.ac.uk.

Kate Borthwick
LLAS Centre for languages, linguistics and area studies

Thursday 7 March 2013

Polyglots required if we want a place in the global academy

English cannot be the only acceptable language of scholarship, says Toby Miller. It’s arrogant, impractical and anti-intellectual

Times Higher Education

Monday 25 February 2013

Why I'm glad I gave languages a second chance

Looking at my track record it's fair to say that I was an unlikely candidate for a modern languages degree. I achieved a B in French GCSE, and plummeted spectacularly when I received a D at AS-level. At parents evening my tutor said that I simply wasn't cut out for studying languages at an academic level.
Skip forwards four years and you'll find me writing from my desk in the University of Rosario in Bogota, Colombia. I'm on a placement year as part of my language degree which I am studying at the University of Leeds.

Full article in the Guardian 

Thursday 14 February 2013

Languages: the State of the Nation: new publication from the British Academy

Languages: the State of the Nation
Demand and Supply of Language Skills in the UK

The British Academy has today launched Languages: the State of the Nation. The report, prepared by Teresa Tinsley, outlines the baseline data on foreign language use and deficits in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Key findings from the report include:
·         There is strong evidence that the UK is suffering from a growing deficit in foreign language skills at a time when globally demand for language skills is expanding.
·         The range and nature of languages being taught is insufficient to meet current and future demand
·         Language skills are needed at all levels in the workforce, and not simply by an internationally-mobile elite
·         A weak supply of language skills is pushing down demand and creating a vicious circle of monolingualism
·         Languages spoken by British school children, in addition to English, represent a valuable future source of supply – if these skills can be developed appropriately.

These findings present us with cause for both cautious optimism and rising concern. Our diverse demographics and world-class higher education system provide us with the tools to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the future. But, too often, education policies are operating in isolation of demand. The report concludes that without action from government, employment and education sectors, we will be unable to meet our aspirations for growth and global influence.

Click here to download the Summary and Full Reports.

Friday 7 December 2012

Islamic Studies Network project draws to a close

Since 2009 staff at LLAS have been working on the Islamic Studies Network, a project funded by HEFCE and overseen by the Higher Education Academy. The Network was established following on from a series of consultation meetings and research commissioned by HEFCE on Islamic Studies in Higher Education, including two reports by LLAS staff and colleagues at the then-Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies. The Network brought together academics working in Islamic Studies from a wide range of disciplines, and provided practice-sharing and networking opportunities through events, project grants and publications. A full range of resources developed through the project, including teaching materials, research reports, event reports, case studies and model module outlines are available on the Network website.

One of the main aims of the Islamic Studies Network was to create a sustainable network of Islamic Studies practitioners to continue building on the work of the Network once the project funding period was over. We are therefore pleased to announce that planning is underway for the formal establishment of a British Association for Islamic Studies (BRAIS). The association will be a learned society and professional organisation focused on enhancing research and teaching about Islam and Muslim cultures and societies in UK higher education. It will provide a forum for academic exchange for scholars with an interest in any aspect of Islam and the Muslim world (including non-Muslim majority societies), and will act as an umbrella organisation for members working in a wide range of disciplines and geographical interest areas. To read more about the association please visit http://www.brais.ac.uk. The association is planning an inaugural conference in Edinburgh on 5-6 September 2013.

Lisa Bernasek, Academic Coordinator for the Islamic Studies Network

Thursday 15 November 2012

Modern languages lost for words over low intake

Two UK language departments may be forced to close their degree programmes because they recruited too few students for 2012-13, a lecturers' association has claimed.
James Coleman, chair of the University Council of Modern Languages, said that preliminary figures obtained from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that acceptances to language degrees have dropped by more than 7 per cent compared with last year.

Full article:Times Higher Education