Period: 1/1/2016 – 31/12/2018
Research project supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) under reference no. TIN2015-68326-R.
Open Education has become a revolutionary approach towards the future of education, enabling worldwide free access to a huge volume of Open Educational Resources (OER). A prominent example of OER are the OpenCourseWare (OCW) course lectures produced at universities and published for free via the Internet. Although OCW projects have had a large impact on Open Education, the so-called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are increasing this impact even further. In contrast to online repositories of (OCW) lectures, MOOCs offer more structured formal courses, discussion forums and the possibility of earning academic certificates. In Spain, many educational organisations have increased their production of OER and are joining, or even starting, MOOC initiatives such as Miríada X, UNED COMA, UniMOOC and UPV[X].
The rapid growth of OER and MOOCs has not gone unnoticed by governments and international organisations concerned with Education, as demonstrated by the 2012 Paris OER Declaration adopted in the 2012 World OER Congress held by UNESCO. The Declaration showed the importance of OER to widen access to education, and enumerated 10 recommendations to states regarding international collaboration and accessibility. Following the Paris Declaration, the European Commission launched the “Opening up Education” agenda in September 2013 for stimulating high-quality, innovative ways of learning and teaching through new technologies and digital content. In it, it is recognized that the EU lacks a critical mass of good quality educational content in multiple languages. Although there is a clear need of multilingual services in Open Education, current OER-based platforms, and MOOCs in particular, do not offer multilingual communication and only very occasionally offer multilingual content.
Based on this evidence, this project aims to dramatically foster Open Education by providing multilingual access to OER and by enabling multilingual online communication in MOOC platforms. These two general purposes can be achieved by using a combination of transdisciplinary tools: automatic speech recognition (ASR), speech synthesis (Text-To Speech, TTS), statistical machine translation (SMT) and dialogue. By using ASR, TTS and SMT, multilingual access to OER will be possible for everyone regardless of their mother tongue or learning abilities. By adapting SMT models to the specific structure of dialogues in discussion forums, learners will be enabled to conduct cross-lingual conversations. Additionally, by adapting the cross-lingual dialogue tools thus developed, an ambitious automatic virtual educator will provide academic assistance to learners, increasing feedback from the system.
The tools developed will be integrated into Matterhorn and Open edX, with the aim of evaluating them on real-life data and settings. This integration will ensure that our innovative solutions will rapidly spread over many OER and MOOC providers worldwide. The project will thus be framed as a whole within the goals of the societal challenge “Economy and digital society”, as defined in the “Estratègia Espanyola de Ciència i Tecnologia i d’Innovació 2013-2020”, the 2012 Paris OER Declaration, and the “Opening up Education” initiative.
With the purpose of fostering Open Education by providing multilingual access to OER and by enabling multilingual online communication in MOOC platforms, this project has three scientific and technological objectives:
- To provide multilingual access to OER. By using ASR, TTS and SMT, OER will be accessible to everyone regardless of their mother tongue or learning abilities, fostering awareness and use of OER.
- To enable advanced interaction in MOOC platforms. By adapting SMT models to the specific structure of dialogues in discussion forums, learners will be enabled to conduct cross-lingual conversations, which will support the emergence of multilingual social groups of learners around MOOCs. By adapting the cross-lingual dialogue tools thus developed, an ambitious automatic virtual educator will provide academic assistance to learners, increasing feedback from the system.
- To integrate into the Matterhorn and the Open edX platforms to enable real-life impact. It is worth noting that integration into Open edX also means integration into the UPV[X] platform, since it is an instance of Open edX. The deployment of tools in Open edX and Matterhorn ensure that our innovative solutions will be evaluated on real-life data and settings, and that they will rapidly spread over many OER and MOOC providers worldwide.