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Funding for Open Centre for Languages and Cultures

People using sign language

The Open Centre for Languages and Culture (OCLC) launched in October 2020, providing short courses which cover general linguistic and intercultural communication skills and specific industry-related support.

Dr Mirjam Hauck and Dr Sylvia Warnecke launched the Open Centre to support the learning of languages and cultures in a professional, academic and leisure capacity.

The project will be presented at OU COVID-19 Research: Online Learning and Education Seminar, which will take place on 27 May 2021.

Discussing the motivations for establishing the OCLC, Dr Hauck, Director of the Open Centre for Languages and Cultures and Senior Lecturer at the OU, stated:

"Language is key to everything we do [at the OU]. This has become particularly salient during COVID-19: enabling communication by and with marginalised groups, establishing and communicating truth and reliability of information have become key to effectively managing public health in the four nations and beyond. The Open Centre provides learning that is highly relevant in this context, empowering individuals with communication and the related cultural and digital literacy skills through short, accessible courses."

The OCLC has been established to provide the opportunity for scholarly investigation into new ways of designing and implementing, with a focus on intercultural communication, the teaching of the languages of the regions and nations and heritage languages.

Discussing their motivations to provide opportunities to learn about indigenous languages and awareness of related communities living in the regions and nations of the UK, Dr Mirjam Hauck and Dr Sylvia Warnecke recorded the following video.  

Dr Mirjam Hauck and Dr Sylvia Warnecke discuss the Open Centre for Languages and Cultures

The launch of the OCLC will also facilitate the need for skills and industry support, with experts at the OU developing short courses to improve communications in professional contexts and to address specific industry requirements such as Artificial Intelligence in the workplace.

Discussing the opportunity to provide learning in the field of British Sign Language (BSL), Dr Warnecke, BSL project lead on the OCLC and Staff Tutor based at the OU in Scotland, stated:

"The content related to BSL draws on and will inform research with the deaf community and BSL practitioners, part of which focuses on these groups' experience during the pandemic and how education providers like the OU can collaborate better with them to cater for these groups' needs more effectively.

"A second objective is to influence policy in the longer term to enhance the status of BSL in those UK nations where BSL does not yet have legal status. This research is undertaken in collaboration with the charity Deaf Action Scotland. The design and delivery of the short course will benefit from our own expertise in LAL (Languages and Applied Linguistics), in digital literacy skills training, in technology-meditated learning and teaching of languages.

"This is a much-needed development as many BSL practitioners have not been able to work effectively with the BSL community due to COVID-19 related restrictions."

Research conducted by the Open Centre for Languages and Cultures into British Sign Language has been supported by funding from The Open University's COVID-19 Research Funding Grant. This has been used to carry out focus groups with the deaf community as well as BSL practitioners informing our production of curriculum in BSL and English for deaf people, as well as develop a Knowledge Transfer Voucher which in collaboration with Deaf Action has been designed to support the charity with challenges in the funding and delivery of their charitable activities.

The collaboration will also support online course production, improve the awareness of the charity and help create employment opportunities for members of the deaf community; which is a requirement in the Scottish Government's BSL National Plan 2017-23.

Further plans for the OCLC include involving members of the deaf community in the design, production and delivery of courses, providing an auto-ethnographic approach to research.

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