Open Research Contexts

My current research and development work with the FLAX project is centered around the design, development and dissemination of interactive open academic English language collections for uptake in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Networked Courses, and in traditional English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and English translation programmes. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, multi-site research is being conducted with the following stakeholders:

Research on Developing Open Linguistic Support for Informal Education: MOOCs and Networked Courses

CopyrightX at Harvard University

Age of Globalization MOOC with edX at the University of Texas at Austin

English Common Law MOOC with Coursera at the University of London

Virology MOOCs with Coursera at Columbia University

CopyrightX in FLAX. Click on the image to visit the collection.


Research on the Reuse of OERs and Open Access Publications in Formal Language Education: EAP and English Translation Studies

Queen Mary University of London Language Centre. With EAP course programme leaders who have a background in Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), we are developing game-based activities for the new suite of free FLAX language learning apps for Android. Here we are specifically looking at the reuse of domain-specific content from Open Access publications, including the EThOS PhD thesis database at the British Library. that can be mined with the FLAX OSS for the development of open CALL and Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) vocabulary resources for open EAP.

FLAX Collocation Matching App. Click on the images to visit Google Play and download the FLAX apps for free!

Murcia University LACELL Group (Lingüística Aplicada Computacional, Enseñanza de Lenguas y Lexicografía). With corpus linguistics researchers at the LACELL group and legal English lecturers at Murcia University, we have been looking into the reuse of open MOOC content for the teaching and learning of legal English for translation studies using the FLAX web platform. With María José Marín, developer of the British Law Report Corpus (BLaRC), we have further opened up this corpus, which is derived from open government-licensed UK judicial cases, to make it available for learning and teaching purposes via the FLAX website.

British Law Report Corpus (BLaRC) in FLAX. Click on the image to visit the collection.



Research Support

This research is supported by my Open Fellowship with the Hewlett Foundation-funded Open Educational Resources Research Hub at the UK Open University, and is further supported by the UNESCO Global OER Graduate Network (GO-GN), and a doctoral dissertation grant from The International Research Foundation (TIRF) into English Language Education.

Research Hypotheses

oerresearchhubThe following OER hypotheses will be tested in relation to learning with open corpus-based linguistic support materials in the context of MOOCs and networked courses, and to learning with re-useable open content in formal EAP and English translation studies contexts. Hypotheses for investigating Open Educational Practices (OEP) in the context of language materials development with teachers and researchers working in formal EAP and English translation studies will also be tested.

Hypothesis A – Performance Use of OER language collections leads to improvement in student performance and satisfaction.

Hypothesis E – Reflection Use of OER for developing language collections leads to critical reflection by language educators, with improvement in their practice.

Hypothesis G – Indicators Informal (MOOC) learners use a variety of indicators when selecting OER.

Hypothesis H – Support Informal learners adopt a variety of techniques to compensate for the lack of formal language support.

Hypothesis I – Transition Open education acts as a bridge to formal language education, and is complementary, not competitive, with it.

Hypothesis K – Assessment Informal means of assessment (in MOOCs and language programmes) are motivators to learning with OER.

Developing Mature Data-Driven Applications for Open Language Education

Importance is placed on empirical reusable data with the FLAX project for taking a corpus-informed and data-driven approach to language learning and teaching. Moving away from subjective conclusions about language based on an individual’s internalized cognitive perception of language and the influence of generic proprietary language learning resources, this research will present evidence that empirical, reusable and open data enable language learners to reach objective conclusions about domain-specific language usage based on corpus analyses. Designing and developing accessible social interfaces for language learners to interact and learn with these corpora is at the heart of my research with the FLAX project where the open research, open data, open access, open-source software, and open educational resource movements converge.

Social Interface Theory

My research draws on the concept of the social interface as both a practical and a theoretical construct from the sociology of technology. Moving away from the traditional concordancer text analysis interface from the field of corpus linguistics, which only reveal language snippets from complex querying by researchers, the FLAX project has developed simple yet powerful augmented text interfaces for language learners, which present documents in full and link in supplementary and complementary open resources using artificial intelligence and game-based designs. One of the datasets from this research is, therefore, concerned with human-computer interaction and the evaluation of interface designs using think-aloud protocols and surveys with language learning participants.

Drawing on Long’s social interface theory (Long, 1989 & 2001) and his method of analysis from the fields of anthropology and development, this research presents further data from interviews with language teachers and subject academics engaged in the development of open corpora (Fitzgerald, Wu & Marin, 2015; Fitzgerald, Wu & Barge, 2014). This research will locate and analyse the interfaces where social friction can be experienced with the adoption of open educational practices and where the diffusion of open tools, resources and practices for domain-specific academic English can lead to structural discontinuities (both positive and negative) in formal and informal language education.


Fitzgerald, A., Wu, S., & Marín, M. J. (2015). FLAX: Flexible and open corpus-based language collections development. In K. Borthwick, E. Corradini, & A. Dickens (Eds), 10 years of the LLAS elearning symposium: Case studies in good practice (pp. 215-227). Dublin: doi:10.14705/rpnet.2015.000281

Fitzgerald, A., Wu, S., & Barge, M. (2014). Investigating an open methodology for designing domain-specific language collections. In S. Jager, L. Bradley, E. J. Meima, & S. Thouësny (Eds), CALL Design: Principles and Practice; Proceedings of the 2014 EUROCALL Conference, Groningen, The Netherlands (pp. 88-95). Dublin: doi:10.14705/rpnet.2014.000200

Long, N. (1989). Encounters at the Interface: a Perspective in Social Discontinuities in Rural Development, Wageningse Sociologische Studies 27. Wageningen: Wageningen Agricultural University.

Long, N. (2001). Development Sociology: Actor Perspectives. London: Routledge.

Stake, R. (1988). “Case study methods in educational research: Seeking sweet water.” In R.M.Jaegar (Ed.), Complementary methods for research in education. American Association for Educational Research, 253-278.

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