#CorpusMOOC – take two

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S B F Ryan: #edcmooc Cuppa Mooc (CC BY 2.0)

I’m doing the Corpus Linguistics: Method, Analysis, Interpretation course on Futurelearn – it started on September 26 and runs until mid-November, so there’s still time to join. It’s my second time on the course; I first did it in 2014 and have been planning to retake it ever since. There are a couple of reasons: I started late the first time around and felt I was playing catch-up the whole time, and also, for someone who’s new to CL, there’s a lot to process if you’re going to do it properly. Readings, videos, software installation… they say 3 hours a week (if you don’t count the supplementary materials) and that sounds about right, but 3 hours a week is what I expect my undergrads to spend online for a 4 ECTS course (albeit over a 16-week period), so it’s not a completely insignificant time commitment either.

The good thing about doing the course again is that the content is making more sense and going through it is faster, which means I’ve been able to watch some of the supplementary stuff as well. Compared to the 2014 run, it does seem like there are fewer people enrolled, or at least fewer of those commenting in the forums. I seem to recall up to 200-300 comments on individual activities, whereas this time I think getting to 100 is good going. Which I guess makes sense – if this is the fourth time the course has run in as many years, I would imagine it’s likely the number of CL enthusiasts who haven’t done it yet is going to taper off. Also, there seem to be rather a lot of comments of the thanks-for-the-useful-content variety, while in 2014 I think perhaps more people offered their interpretations of the various results they came up with in AntConc. These took longer to read and while I know I can’t (and am not supposed to) go through all the comments in all the forums in a MOOC – at least not if I want to eat and sleep – I seem to almost be able to do that this time. Obviously, these are just my impressions.

I can’t help looking at the course through my course designer/online instructor lens. It’s well-structured, the tutors (mentors) respond promptly (strong online presence 🙂 ) and there are numerous opportunities to engage with the content, mentors and other course participants. Which I don’t do much, apart from with the content. But I’ve taken things a step further this time – I’ve added a profile pic, liked a couple of comments I thought were particularly helpful (and might be helpful to others, in case anyone is sorting comments by “most liked”) and even asked a question. All the time I thought about how I nag my students to add profile pics and ask questions in course forums as opposed to emailing me. A brief digression: I just remembered there was an interesting post on the topic of not always being eager to interact with other students over on Alastair Creelman’s blog. It took a little while to dig it up, and here it is.

I guess if I were nitpicking, the only thing that I’m a little surprised at is that the videos don’t have that slick production feel of some Coursera videos, but maybe it’s a question of cost? I’m not saying this is a problem, though.

Lest it should appear that I am dwelling too much on course design and moderation, I should note that I have also spent quite a bit of time on the AntConc screencasts (and a little less on the GraphColl ones, but there are fewer of those). I did watch the AntConc ones in 2014, but as it’s been a while since then, this time I watched them once to see what each step was about – and was happy to realize I hadn’t forgotten everything – then I watched each one again, pausing every few minutes to go through each step with my own corpus. Another brief digression – I remember hearing at the EDEN conference in 2014 that many MOOC participants don’t actually watch videos but prefer to read the transcripts. I just want to go on record here that I really appreciate the videos and like hearing a friendly voice. 🙂

I did say “my own corpus” in that last paragraph. Yes, I know that sounds kind of pretentious, but it’s a teeny-tiny (for a corpus) collection of words which I converted into a text file and tagged the last time I did the course. So I like to call it a corpus. It’s actually a collection of posts from an online forum – more on that in this post which I wrote at the beginning of 2014, when it hadn’t occurred to me yet that I could do anything corpus-related with it. It has 1238 word types and 7660 tokens. I didn’t find anything terribly interesting, possibly owing to the size limitations but also to the fact that I haven’t formulated any kind of hypothesis.

I’m going to stop here and hopefully get around to doing another post later on in the course. I’m also hoping I’ll be able to focus more on CL rather than on possibly quite unhelpful observations about random stuff not directly to do with CL. I am enjoying the course, and think it will eventually prove tremendously useful. If you’re doing the course as well, I’d be interested to hear what your experience is like and if you have access to the stats I’d be curious to know if I was anywhere near right about the enrollment figures.

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