Linnea Spitzer, Senior Instructor, Portland State University Intensive English Language Program, contributed to this post; thank you to Dave Dillon, Distance Education Coordinator, Grossmont College, for providing data on college success course impact; thank you to Jen Hofer, poet, translator, and interpreter, for consulting on translation questions.
Open Oregon Educational Resources is using Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funding to translate Dave Dillon’s award-winning, openly licensed textbook, Blueprint for Success in College and Career, into Spanish in order to provide an affordable resource to meet the needs of North American college students who are native Spanish speakers. The project will make revisions for cultural relevance and translate ancillary materials needed by pilot instructors in order to make the textbook easier for instructors to adopt in their courses.
Summer 2021 marks the beginning of the Blueprint translation and revision process. With project manager Linnea Spitzer steering the ship, we started by asking 10 content reviewers from colleges and universities across Oregon to provide feedback on the relevance and cultural appropriateness of the existing course materials between July and August, 2021. In tandem with this feedback, we also asked four Spanish-English bilingual student reviewers to read the textbook and participate in focus group discussions. In these focus groups, we sought information about the lived experience of these Spanish-speaking college students and their thoughts about Blueprint’s cultural relevance. The faculty and student content reviewers were compensated for their input.
Based on the feedback from content reviewers and students, a small team of collaborating authors is revising the Blueprint textbook, adding content that specifically targets the needs of many North American Spanish-speaking college students. Throughout the revision process, the authors are also revising for greater inclusivity in terms of race, nation, gender, and ability in the language of the textbook, the quotes that are provided for inspiration, and the videos that are used to illustrate ideas in the text.
The revision process will be completed by the first week of October, 2021, when the revised Blueprint manuscript will be ready for handoff to our professional translator.
Why Hire a Professional Translator?
The biggest line item in this project’s budget is for our professional translator’s services. The project team believes that this is a worthwhile investment in providing high quality course materials for Spanish-speaking students. The American Translators Association maintains a page addressing why translation should be done professionally.
In open education settings, there are usually two non-professional scenarios that are suggested as a way to reduce or eliminate this project cost:
- Use machine translation and hire a professional translator to clean up the result. Machine translation works well for simple tasks such as understanding the gist of an email. For a project as in-depth and important as course materials, the robot will not do as good a job as a person. In the long run, it will cost more to hire a translator to fix the machine translation than if the translator had started from scratch.
- Assign students who are learning how to be translators to do the work as an open pedagogy project. This scenario could be effective if the students have the support they need to produce professional-level results. The project leader also needs a review process to vet all of the content that will be included in the publicly shared materials. With a lot of structure, and plenty of time, the downstream users of the translation would have high-quality course materials in a language other than English.
For this project, hiring a professional translator will provide the linguistic and cultural nuance that cannot be produced by a machine. This choice will also streamline the process of translating Blueprint, keeping us within the grant timeline to create and pilot the new student materials.
About the Translation Project
Blueprint is “a students’ guide for classroom and career success. This text, designed to show how to be successful in college and in career preparation, focuses on study skills, time management, career exploration, health, and financial literacy.” This textbook already has roots in Oregon: it incorporates chapters written through two different statewide OER grants by Phyllis Nissila and Alise Lamoreaux, both Lane Community College instructors; and Amy Hofer, Statewide Open Education Program Director, was one of Dave’s informal consultants during the preparation of the book.
Research demonstrates that college success courses can increase important student metrics such as retention and completion. For example, a college success course led to a 20% increase in retention at Tulsa Community College and a 30% increase in retention at Durham Technical Community College. At a college in Texas, participation in a student success course was found to influence persistence, retention, academic achievement in English and mathematics, and student engagement.
However, the average cost of a textbook can be estimated at $100, which is counterproductive in college success courses, which are often one-credit courses aiming to remove barriers to success. College success courses are therefore uniquely important for transition to no-cost or low-cost materials. Our overall goal is to remove barriers to success for Spanish-speaking students in Oregon and beyond, by providing course materials for free online and/or at low cost in print (estimated cost <$20), in the language that they are most comfortable with, for these important courses.
- Summer 2021: Faculty review existing English-language materials to identify needed revisions for cultural relevance; Students review existing English-language materials; Contributing authors draft new intro; Contributing authors revise existing materials incorporating reviewer feedback
- Fall 2021: Translation begins
- Winter 2022: Translation continues
- Spring 2022: Translation ready to share with pilot faculty
- Summer 2022: Pilot faculty prep courses; Translation working draft complete
- Fall 2022: Pilot faculty teach courses and provide feedback for revisions
- Winter 2023: Pilot faculty teach courses and provide feedback for revisions
- Spring 2023: Pilot faculty teach courses and provide feedback for revisions; Translation final draft complete and ready to share widely