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The OUPELT and EOT Story

two books one idea

Update 1st April 2014:  To continue following the story read The Strange Case of OUPELT and EOT (coming soon) where we publish a lot of much more detailed information about the behaviour of OUP.

Original article: In  2010 I met online with OUP executives under the protection of a confidentiality agreement and provided them with samples of our unique social media English course that prepares learners to have incredibly effective social learning experiences using platforms such as Facebook and Skype. After analysing our content they wrote to us on 24th May 2010:

Supporting communicative skills using social media and other methods outside the classroom would be a significant departure from our current core business. Whilst I absolutely see the benefit to students in providing this, I am not sure that this would fit within our current business models.

On 27th October 2011, I was contacted again by a different group of OUP executives after we got some very positive press on Outsell Inc, the publishing industry’s market analysis website,

Languages Out There has been short-listed in the European Commission's "Social Media use in formal language teaching contexts" competition, for its expertise in using technology to advance the educational goals of EC member countries, in particular in the field of teaching English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL)” http://www.outsellinc.com/insights/11604

The OUP executive who emailed me described English Out There as “innovative” and invited me to a meeting in Oxford to discuss working together with our content. At the meeting on 2nd November 2011 three OUP ELT directors focused very intently upon how our content worked with online social media.

Later, after downloading samples they had asked for from our websites, analysing our content again (even asking for extra information on 24th January 2012, “a need for greater engagement with the materials to get a better sense of their worth”),  they finally wrote this to us on 20th March 2012:

LOT’s approach to the ELT market and reaching teachers and students via social communication platforms is genuinely interesting. However, assessed from the perspective of a publisher, we do not feel that LOT offers the type of materials that we could bring within our catalogue, whether in relation to the current offering or our future publishing plans.

Just five months later, on the 15th August,  we discovered OUP promoting a newly launched series of course books on Youtube with these words,

"Network is the first course to use social networking to help students succeed in English.”

What they claim to be the defining factor that makes their course the first of its kind and they use as its unique selling point is the thing we are looking into very closely. 

On July 29th, 2009 we called our course ‘The world’s first social media English course’  (we even issued a press release on the subject  that a number of websites picked-up). That’s a whole three years before OUP used virtually the same words to describe their course. A course that they no doubt expect to make a lot of money from.

It took us seven years of teaching, writing and testing to develop English Out There and the vital component that underpins it. We have been working on it full time for 11 years and our company has only made a very small profit in the last two years of operation.

Now the publishing arm of one of the most famous and respected seats of learning in the world, Oxford University, has published a course book knowing that their sales pitch is (was...see update below) a misrepresentation of the truth, as is (was) the promotional video of one of the ‘co-authors’ talking about her use of social media to teach English and declaring that she is “on Facebook”.

You used to be able to watch their video here but it has been removed, this is what it looked like.

We couldn't find the author on Facebook. Can you? 

(N.B. There’s one person with her name in the same town, but it isn’t her and online educators always use their real names, for obvious reasons).

(Update 20/11/12: As a result of a letter from UK Tradings Standards and an email from us OUP have removed the word 'first' from all of their websites, taken the product off Amazon and removed the video above from Youtube)

You can help us and other innovators by signing this e-petition and encouraging your friends and colleagues to sign it by sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, other social platforms or by email. 

Thanks for your help and support. Together we can successfully hold OUP to account.

If this information has made an impression on you and you want to help us to cover our legal costs, which could be considerable whilst we explore these matters further, please can you donate some money by buying some of our fantastic legal fees perks here.


On 19th November we received an email from OUP's solicitors accusing us of defaming the Network authors and OUP.

We stand by our statements as being statements of fact. The main focus of our statements was OUP's claim that their course was the 'first'. In the last week this claim has been removed from most OUP promotional materials and we thank them for doing that.

So, for complete transparency, and because we agree with their solicitor's statement that says,

"We note that you have not, in any of your comments since Mr Gundersen wrote to you [an OUP executive in New York], explained OUP's position or that OUP dispute your statements",

..we think it is only fair and appropriate that OUP's position is posted here and either in full on other platforms we have used or with a link to this page from them. We have posted the whole email because we don't wish to be accused of taking any comments out of context.

"Erik Gundersen_at_oup.com

8 Nov

to Jason West jason_at_languagesoutthere.com

Dear Mr. West,

We have been following your social media feeds about OUP’s new product Network.  We always welcome feedback on our materials and actively encourage public debate even if, on occasion, the comments are not complimentary.  In such cases we always explore the issues raised, and where criticism is misleading or inaccurate, we endeavor to set the record straight.  You mention an email you have sent to OUP – can you specify which address this was sent to as it has not come to my attention?   I have now spoken to those involved in the creation of Network, and a separate group of colleagues who took part in the previous discussions between English Out There (EOT) and OUP, and would like to share the results of these discussions with you.

Network is a five-level ELT coursebook series based on an earlier OUP product, English for Life.  English for Life started being developed as far back as 2003, and was written by well-known and highly regarded author Tom Hutchinson.  The syllabus for Network is based entirely on English for Life, but the social networking element of Network is new, the 40 social media lessons and unit-ending tasks having been developed by author Kristin Sherman and other writers in conjunction with a social media consultant Daniel Latorre.   Kristin’s work was borne out of a series of research workshops carried out with teachers in Brazil (June 2010) and Mexico (November 2010) and then confirmed through subsequent research in Taiwan and Korea (April 2011).

Today many ELT teachers utilize social media as a way of assisting language learning so it’s logical that we would explore ways of supporting them in doing so.  EOT and Network both make use of social media, but it is clear that they are very different products and that one cannot be derived from the other.  As we understand, EOT is a provider of language courses direct to learners; it offers self-study, community and teacher-mediated lessons both live and online.  Within this context, it promotes social network sites as a medium for practice and learning.  Network, on the other hand, is a print-based coursebook designed for the classroom and is marketed primarily to institutions.  The purpose of the social networking ‘Get Connected’ lessons in Network is to teach critical thinking skills such as understanding online privacy and language skills such as creating a personal profile and blogging in English.

While the EOT website was reviewed by OUP colleagues in other parts of the organization, no member of the Network team reviewed English Out There during the development of this project.  In addition, to our knowledge, no OUP employee enrolled onto a course or purchased materials from this site.  There is no reason to suggest, nor evidence to support the view, that your discussions with my colleagues in any way led to the creation of Network.  As I have already explained, much of Network’s content was based on an earlier coursebook, and the decision to include social networking elements stemmed from discussions that took place during research trips to Latin America in 2010.

Your accusation of plagiarism against our two authors is unfair, unfounded and damaging to their reputation and OUP will certainly support them should they wish to defend themselves.  We request that you remove all such allegations from the public domain.  At the same time, OUP is reviewing all its marketing statements about Network to ensure they are accurate.

If you wish to discuss this matter further, I encourage you to contact me directly.


Erik Gundersen

Executive Publishing Manager, American Adult Courses"

One comment for now. In relation to the last line of the letter above. We did contact Mr Gundersen directly by email and asked him to give examples of anything he considered to be accusations of plagiarism by us. Mr Gundersen didn't reply. We then got an email from OUP's solicitors in London on 19th November.


A few people have asked what is happening so I thought I'd give you an update on the situation.

A few emails have now been exchanged with OUP's lawyers. They have stuck rigidly to the arguments contained in Erik Gundersen's email (see above). I checked the statements Mr. Gundersen and OUP's lawyers are relying upon and sent them a reply on 23rd November 2012.

In my reply I pointed out some serious factual errors, for example, EOT is indeed a printed course book. It was developed in the classroom from 2001 onwards during thousands of hours of classroom teaching with paying students. It was published in e-book PDF in 2007, for use in classrooms and again as a printed course book for classroom use in 2009 (ISBN 978-0-9561589-0-1) and again as teacher and student books for classroom use in 2011 (ISBN 978-0-9561589-1-8 and·ISBN 978-0-9561589-3-2). Institutions are currently using EOT content. You’d think a publisher such as OUP would have been able to figure that out wouldn’t you?

In relation to access to content, we sent samples to OUP employees by email in 2010 (and still have all correspondence). We also have detailed database records of two OUP employees one in 2011 and another on the 9th February 2012 (four months after we met OUP in Oxford) downloading content from secure areas of our website after providing their contact details.

There’s more…but the fact is that Mr. Gundersen’s email stating OUP’s position, which their lawyers are also relying upon, provides only more questions, not answers. I asked these questions in my written replies, twice, but they have not been answered.

OUP have instead repeatedly stated that the first group we were in contact with in 2010 had absolutely no connection with the second group I met in 2011 and that neither of those two groups had any contact whatsoever with or shared any information with the third group in the USA that actually developed their course, Network.

To their credit, prompted by my request to have a proper discussion about this, OUP offered me a conference call with unnamed executives to "reassure" me that nothing wrong had gone on. The thing is I didn't feel fully comfortable with that...I don't know what you think but I think matters like this require the guaranteed attention of the most senior executives, not unnamed executives.

So, their offer failed to convince me that they were taking my complaint very seriously. It also came with deadlines which seemed to imply I would be sued if I didn't meet them. The first deadline was 26th November when I was supposed to have taken everything I had put up online down. I refused because in my honest opinion I had just posted facts. The deadline passed uneventfully. The second deadline was 24th December. I ignored this deadline too and thought I'd wait to see what happened and get on with a bit more investigation. Nothing has happened so far but believe me, it is scary getting letters like this. They make you feel like you've done something wrong.

A few weeks ago I emailed their solicitor to say I had not forgotten about all of this and pointed out that the deadlines appeared to have passed uneventfully.

My work over the last two months has produced some new information and as a result I emailed OUP's solicitor last week to ask her if we could talk about it on the phone. Her secretary said she was out of the office but that she had asked me to put the new information in an email. I said I would do that and thanked her for getting back to me.

If you sympathise with the situation I find myself and my company in do please sign the petition by clicking on the link below, it takes just two minutes to do it. Then please share it. More than two hundred concerned individuals, many ELT educators, have already done it. I appreciate your continued support, thanks:


That is where we are at today.

UPDATE: 9th APRIL,  2013

This is what UK Trading Standards gave me to send to distributors of OUP's course book Network - Get Connected on 21st January this year, it has just been sent to ELTBooks.com in Japan who are still using the offending words,

"Network – Get Connected

It was brought to Dorset Council Trading Standards Service attention that
the product known as 'Network - Get Connected' Course was being described
as "unique" and "the first course to use social networking".

After reviewing evidence supplied by the Publishing company 'English Out
There', it appears the above claims could be misleading because we have
seen evidence that the product is not the first in its field.

It is an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading
Regulations 2008 and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing
Regulations 2008 to make misleading statements. It is also important to
note that any other company advertising a product are also obliged to make
sure they are complying with the above Regulations.

Guidance on these regulations can be found at

Any company that has concerns or questions concerning their legal
obligations should contact their local Trading Standards Authority whose
details can be found at http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/advice/index.cfm

This advice is based on the information available at the time and you are
advised that only a court can interpret the law with any authority.

Yours Faithfully

Eloise Head
Trading Standards Enforcement Officer

Dorset Trading Standards Service
Colliton Annexe
County Hall
Colliton Park

Tel: 01305 224867
Fax: 01305 224297
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."

Also today (9th April 2013): OUP (via their solicitors Harbottle & Lewis with whom I have had contact and who failed to give me any answers to specific questions I asked in November last year) are seemingly finding it tricky to understand a long and detailed letter that includes detailed evidence that was sent to them on my behalf by the solicitors Edmonds Marshall McMahon on 13th March. We all think I deserve a detailed and open response immediately.

They replied last week but didn't seem to think there was a problem that needed addressing. So we asked again and gave them 24 hours to respond.

Breaking News: We have just received a reply from Harbottle & Lewis (at 16.59 today, just one minute before our deadline) but, again, unfortunately their reply contained no open and detailed response to our questions. Maybe they will have better luck next time!

To continue following the story read The Strange Case of OUPELT and EOT (coming soon) where we publish a lot of much more detailed information about the behaviour of OUP.