Lancaster University’s MOOC in Corpus Linguistics has been hugely important to me during my doctoral research and I’ve taken it each year since it was first offered in 2014. This is not because I’m an especially slow learner or that I was unsuccessful in all of my previous attempts – it’s because the course has so much to offer that it’s impossible to appreciate all of the different aspects in one go; it requires repeated visits as understanding deepens and new questions emerge.
When I first took the course, I knew nothing about corpus linguistics (or MOOCs for that matter) and went through each week’s materials at a very introductory level, trying to get a handle on the principles and terminology and also learning about tools and techniques. At first, I was apprehensive, ready to bail at any sign of discomfort, but I found the lectures not only easy to follow, but also thoroughly enjoyable and endlessly fascinating. I was hooked! Although the course itself spanned eight weeks, the materials were available on the website long after the course was over. This allowed me to revisit and review tutorials whenever I felt unsure about something, and also start to focus on areas that aligned with my own research interests.
The following year, with the basics under my belt, I decided to take the course for a second time with the intention of tackling the content in more depth and also using my own data for the tutorials. What I found was that the multiple layers of the course became extremely valuable as I became more comfortable with different concepts and research in the field and also that my approach to the course had changed. Instead of following the course week by week as I had done the first time, I started to pick and choose different aspects that matched particular stages of my own research.
The third time I took the course, I was driven by an interest in the advanced materials as well as the discussions and comments by other students and mentors. I had so many questions arising from my own research that I felt it would be helpful to hear what others had to say about their own. The forum became an incredibly valuable resource and one that I had not appreciated as a beginner. It is extremely generous of Lancaster to offer such a fantastic course with all the support, resources, knowledge and materials and ask for nothing in return.
And now, even though I’ve completed my doctoral research, I’ve registered for the course for the fourth time. It is such an incredibly diverse and fascinating course, with so many layers and areas of interest, that there is still a great deal for me to learn. And the numerous scholars discussing their research have an enthusiasm and passion for their work that is both infectious and inspirational. Perhaps my husband is right, I’ve become addicted to this MOOC!
The next Corpus MOOC starts 25 September 2017. You can register for free at https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/corpus-linguistics.
The course is intended for anyone interested in quantitative language analysis – no prior knowledge of linguistics or corpora is required.