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April 2022 - Year 24 - Issue 2

ISSN 1755-9715

Open Educational Resources for Language Learning and CLIL in Italy During the COVID 19 Pandemic

Letizia Cinganotto is a full time Senior Researcher at INDIRE (National Institute for Documentation, Innovation and Educational Research), Italy. She holds a PhD in synchronic, diachronic and applied Linguistics. She is a member of different working groups and scientific committees on CLIL and language learning both at national and international level.
She has presented papers at national and international conferences and published articles and chapters in peer-reviewed journals and recently five volumes on CLIL. She is a reviewer and a member of the Editorial Board of different peer-reviewed journals. 





The contribution places itself in the background of the literature on Open Educational Resources (OERs), focusing on remote teaching during the COVID-19 emergency. The study aims at highlighting the potential of OERs for language learning and CLIL. Some findings from an online survey addressed to Italian language and CLIL teachers will be reported and commented on, with particular focus on remote language teaching during the pandemic: the use of OERs, webtools and videos was crucial to foster students’ language skills. However, listening, oral production and oral interaction turned out to be the most challenging to develop remotely. In order to foster those skills, OERs and video-based repositories and webtools such as YouTube, Ted-Ed, Europeana resulted very useful. As a general conclusion OERs, videos and webtools can be very effective to foster language competences, in particular oral skills, in remote and hybrid teaching.



The term Open Educational Resources (OER) was coined by UNESCO in 2002 referring to educational materials which are openly licensed and can be adapted, re-used and disseminated for educational purposes free of charge.

In digital learning OER can be very effective, although it is sometimes very difficult to manipulate and adapt the resources to the specific needs of the learners. OER have become more and more flexible, being integrated in a wide range of e-learning platforms and online environments, providing assessing, annotating, editing tools and a lot of different functions allowing the students to be the real protagonists of their learning pathways.

Richard Baraniuk (2007), one of the key figures in the OE movement, highlights the main features of the movement:

  • Open and free knowledge
  • Easier collaboration among learners
  • Interaction among students, learners, educators all over the world
  • Modular and granular links and connections among concepts and contents overcoming the linear flow of knowledge.

According to Wiley and Green (2012, p.81), the main features of OER are summed up by the “4Rs”:

  • Revising – changing the OER according to the specific target of learners
  • Remixing – mixing the OER with other digital materials
  • Reusing – using the OER in new different contexts
  • Redistributing – disseminating and sharing the OER.

The use of OERs for language learning has been strongly recommended by the European Commission and the Council of Europe in recent years. The Communication on Rethinking Education, adopted by the Commission in 2012 (European Commission, 2012), addressed specifically the field of languages: “language learning is important for jobs and needs particular attention”; “faster reform is needed by Member States, based on new methodologies and technologies for teaching both the first and second foreign languages, with a view to reaching the target defined by Heads of State of mother tongue plus two” (p.5).

The European Commission report dated 2014 “Improving the effectiveness of language learning: CLIL and computer assisted language learning” (European Commission, 2014) showed how teaching outcomes could be improved through the use of ICT (CALL: Computer Assisted Language Learning) and Open Educational Resources for language learning and CLIL (Cinganotto, 2016). In particular the report recommended policy makers to enable schools to provide facilities and resources for CALL in both formal and non-formal learning; promote the benefits of specific CALL tools in language learning; provide training for teachers; provide or support teachers to develop communities of practice so that they share resources and methods for using CALL effectively. The literature on the effectiveness of CALL is extensive (Thomas et al., 2013) and confirms the potential of computer, device and technologies in general for enhancing language learning both in face-to-face, distance and remote learning.

The Council Recommendation on a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning of languages (Council of Europe, 2019)  stated that “new ways of learning need to be explored for a society that is becoming increasingly mobile and digital. In particular digital developments allow for more and more languages to be learned and practiced outside the classroom and curricula. Current assessment procedures do not fully reflect these developments” and that “digital tools for language learning and professional development of educational staff, in the field of language learning, such as massive open online courses, self-assessment tools, networks, including eTwinning and the School Education Gateway's Teacher Academy.”

The use of OERs for curriculum alignment in general (Orr et al., 2015) and for language learning

in particular, has been widely recommended in the literature (Okada et al., 2012; Beaven et al.,

2013; Cinganotto, Cuccurullo, 2016) in order to foster creation, use and re-use and sharing

of resources among both teachers and students, creating communities of practice.


Videos, repositories and OERs during the pandemic in Italy: a report

Due to COVID-19 emergency, schools in Italy were closed from March 2020 till the end of the school year. During this period, teachers were obliged to use e-learning platforms and webtools for their remote teaching and language teachers could take advantage of a wide range of repositories, websites, resources helping them reach their students at home and carry out effective and successful online learning pathways.

In order to support teachers and school leaders during emergency remote teaching, INDIRE (National Institute for Documentation, Innovation, Educational Research, Italy) organized different initiatives, such as a repository of open resources and webtools for the different subjects and the different school levels and a series of webinars run by teachers, school leaders, researchers and experts on a wide range of topics related to remote teaching.

A survey was launched by INDIRE in Italy in spring 2020 in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and the European Commission: the results have just been published in a devoted volume (Cinganotto et al. 2022). The questionnaire was developed within the current European policy discussion on language learning, teaching and assessment and a specific area of the survey was devoted to remote teaching and learning during the pandemic: 2.805 Italian language and CLIL teachers filled it in, providing a non-exhaustive, but interesting picture of the perceptions and feelings related to online language teaching during the emergency.

A lot of very interesting input was collected in the questionnaire: teachers expressed their reactions about the strengths and weaknesses of open resources and digital tools during emergency remote teaching. In particular, the use of videos to convey content in a foreign language was considered particularly effective, as well as the exploitation of different webtools to create, adopt, manipulate learning content, tailor making them to address the specific target of learners. Here are some of the comments from the teachers about the lessons learnt from emergency remote language teaching during the pandemic:

“I can use more webtools and video also in the classroom to practice listening and writing”.

“I can simplify my teaching using webtools, choosing specific materials, motivating my students with nice resources”.

“I think that studying at home has helped students to be more relaxed, focused, not to get distracted and not waste their study time. Thanks to the use of Youtube and in-depth studies on English culture, they became more passionate about studying English”.

“Online teaching/learning should be retained as part of a more complex, large-scale blended teaching/learning which makes quite an extensive use of ICT to provide students with 21st-century competencies”. 

Among the open resources used for remote language teaching during the pandemic, TED-ED was one of the most popular according to the teachers’comments. Ted-ED (acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design) (Martínez et al., 2018) is a no-profit international platform for teachers where they can look for particular resources or create their own, according to their students’ needs, language level and learning aims. Ted-Ed can be considered as a growing library of original animated videos on different topics and in different languages and has progressively created a global community for the exchange and dissemination of knowledge in all areas, including education. Teachers can create lessons using videos published on YouTube, customizing and  enriching them with the interaction and management tools provided by TED-Ed. TED-Ed allows not only to deliver authentic content, drawing on existing YouTube videos or creating one’s own videos, but also allows to build an informatively and communicatively rich context around the video itself, tailored to the needs of the teacher and students.

Another example of Open Educational Resources for language learning is Europeana, an initiative of the European Union, financed by the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility and European Union Member States, aimed at enabling people to explore the digital resources of Europe's museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections. It currently provides access to over 58 million digitised cultural heritage records from over 3600 cultural heritage institutions and organisations.

A specific project titled “Teaching with Europeana” (, promoted by European Schoolnet, the Consortium of 30 Ministries of Education, where INDIRE represents the Italian Ministry, was aimed at supporting teachers in designing and sharing learning scenarios on the teaching of different subject content in English, enhancing CLIL methodology and using digital cultural heritage in class.

The data from the survey addressed to language and CLIL teachers, highlighted the importance of OERs, webtools and videos to enhance language competence and proficiency, especially during the lockdown, where digital was the only key to education. Teachers also commented that the most challenging skills to be developed through remote teaching were listening, oral production and oral interaction, that is why videos resulted  particularly useful. In fact, oral skills could be successfully enhanced by delivering content and authentic material through platforms such as TED-Ed, allowing teachers to create their own tailored-made resources. Oral productive skills can also be  effectively enhanced by encouraging students to produce their own videos (Cinganotto, Cuccurullo, 2015; Kim, 2015), as an output of Task-Based or Project-Based Learning (Markham, 2011; Thomas M., Yamazaki K., 2021), using the Ted-Ed Club format or other webtools such as Flipgrid.

In this way students are fostered to document, search for information and express their own opinions and ideas supporting them with evidence. It is a good way to enhance critical thinking skills, public speaking and interpersonal communication, using the foreign language for meaningful purposes and tasks.



The survey on language teaching and learning promoted by INDIRE showed that teachers were generally quite satisfied with remote teaching, although they had to face a lot of challenges. Classroom instruction is still considered crucial and necessary, but what is important is that online tools, videos and Open Resources have turned out to be considered as useful for future face-to-face or blended forms of instruction as well.

The positive findings on the integration of OERs and digital tools within regular practice impact both teachers and students. In fact, teachers commented that they had  found  new ways of planning and organizing teaching, making lessons more interactive and interesting. They also found that students reacted positively to the new ways and models of instruction which could also be used for future schooling.

As far as languages are concerned, oral skills were the most challenging ones, due to the limits of technologies. Synchronous meetings, organized by a large number of language teachers were a good way to foster interaction among students and with the teachers.

Videos and video-based Open Resources and repositories such as Ted-Ed, Khan Academy and Europeana were also shown to be effective to enhance oral skills.



Baraniuk, R. (2007), Challenges and opportunities for the open education movement: A connexions case study. In T. Iiyoshi & M. S. V. Kumar (Eds.), Opening up education (pp. 229–246). Boston: MIT Press.

Beaven A., Comas-Quinn A., Sawhill B. (2013), Case Studies of Openness in the Language Classroom,

Cinganotto, L. (2016), CLIL in Italy: A general overview. Latin American Journal of Content and Language Integrated Learning, 9(2), pp. 374-400.

Cinganotto L., Cuccurullo D. (2015), The role of videos in teaching and learning content in a foreign language, Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, v.11, n. 2.

Cinganotto L., Cuccurullo D. (2016), Open Educational Resources, ICT and Virtual Communities for Content and Language Integrated Learning, Teaching English with Technology, v.16 n.4, pp. 3-11.

Cinganotto L., Benedetti F., Langé G., Lamb T. (2022). A survey of language learning/teaching with an overview of activities in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic, INDIRE.

Council of Europe (2019), Council Recommendation on a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning of languages:

European Commission (2012), The Communication on Rethinking Education:

European Commission (2014), Improving the effectiveness of language learning: CLIL and computer assisted language learning:

Kim H. (2015), Using Authentic Videos to Improve EFL Students’ Listening Comprehension. International Journal of Contents, 11(4), pp. 15-23.

Markham T. (2011), Project Based Learning. Teacher Librarian, 39(2), pp. 38-42.

Martínez Hernández María A., Vargas Cuevas Junior A. & Ramírez Valencia Astrid (2018), TED Talks as an ICT Tool to Promote Communicative Skills in EFL Students, English Language Teaching; Vol. 11, No. 12; 2018, 106-115.

Okada A., Connolly T., Scott P.J. (2012), Collaborative Learning 2.0: Open Educational Resources, Open Educational Resources, IGI Global.

Orr D., Rimini M., Van Damme D. (2015), Open Educational Resources – A catalyst for innovation, OECD.

Thomas M. (2017), Project-Based Language Learning with Technology Learner Collaboration in an EFL Classroom in Japan, Routledge.

Thomas M., Reinders H., Warschauer M. (2013), Contemporary Computer-Assisted Language Learning, Bloomsbury.

Thomas M., Yamazaki K. (2021) (eds). Project-Based Language Learning and CALL From Virtual Exchange to Social Justice, Equinox Publishing.

Wiley, D., Green, C. (2012), Why openness in education? In D. Oblinger (Ed.), Game changers: Education and information technologies (pp. 81–89). Washington, DC: Educause. URL: https://library.


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