CorpusMOOC: The most brilliant MOOC I have completed!

© Giulia Forsythe, 2012 reused under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

© Giulia Forsythe, 2012 reused under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

Corpus linguistics: method, analysis, interpretation’ was my third Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that I completed, but it was my first MOOC on the FutureLearn platform. While some educators may give up on MOOCs due to the low completion rates and little interaction among the participants, there is evidence that they are becoming much more internationalised and multilingual! I am always very optimistic about MOOCs, and I completely agree with Anant Agarwal on his view that MOOCs are making education “borderless, gender-blind, race-blind, class-blind, and bank account–blind.”

I enjoyed every minute of the CorpusMOOC because of its three most distinctive favourable features:

  • Continuous individualised guidance and feedback from the course team: I was amazed at how quickly the course team responded to our comments during the course. I remember that I got a response to my comment within just one hour!
  • High quality and rich content of the course: The course includes impressive wide range of videos, tasks, reading materials, discussions, in-conversation videos, quizzes and presentations in each week. I think it would not be possible to cover all these materials in the mainstream classes in just 8 weeks.
  • Comments from the course participants and course team: Comment sections were hidden treasures of new sources and inspirations! I learned many things from the participants who not only consumed, but also generated the content in the course. They shared quite a few articles, links, books and programmes that I bookmarked.

Although there was a lot of interaction between the course team and participants, it could have been more interaction among the course participants. This might be attributed to the features of the FutureLearn as we could not get any notifications when other participants or mentors liked our comments or replied to them. Also, we could not even see who liked our posts. One of the principles of the FutureLearn is to ‘create connections’ as it is stated on its website. I liked the easy-to-use and modern design of FutureLearn, but more interactive features are needed to enable us to ‘create connections’. For instance, a direct message function for the participants, rating system for the comments and social media sharing are the three features that would have improved my learning experience for this course to a great extent. Looking at its FAQ’s page, I realise that these will be added soon. Nevertheless, the principle of ‘create connections’ might be difficult to apply in the current courses at least in the beta version of FutureLearn.

I was not a complete beginner in corpus linguistics, so I cherished the flexibility of the course. Here are the three most useful gains of the corpusMOOC for me:

  • I definitely feel more confident to work with a POS-tagged corpus now. In the course, we used Corpus Query Process (CQPweb) and BNCweb, both of which have quite user-friendly interfaces. We also used AntConc to search in a corpus that had been tagged. Even though UCREL’s CLAWS POS Tagger is available to tag up to 100,000 words of English online, we need to buy a licence to tag large numbers of files. The good news is that Laurence Anthony is developing a free POS-tagger, and it will be available on his website soon!
  • I have become familiar with the semantic tagging which could be useful to group the words, conduct a research on metaphorical language and identify semantic preferences of the lexical items.
  • In-conversation videos, which were my favourite part of the course, gave me a wider perspective on the applications of corpus linguistics. I would not have imagined that corpus linguistics could be used for accounting and finance!

    I created this word cloud from my notes that I took during the course!

The CorpusMOOC, which has inspired me to pursue new research ideas, is the most brilliant MOOC that I have completed so far. For those who are interested in corpus linguistics, the course will be running again in September. Finally, I would like to thank Tony McEnery, educators and mentors of the course to offer us such a great MOOC!