18 September 2013 11:30

A free online course designed to help those interested in the social sciences and humanities analyse language will be offered as Lancaster University’s first MOOC (massive open online course) in January 2014.

People who register for the course will be given online lectures developed by one of the top academics in the field of corpus linguistics – Professor Tony McEnery. Hosted on the Futurelearn site, guided reading and assessments will be available together with support from the online learners’ community.

Tony McEnery is Professor of English Language and Linguistics and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), Lancaster’s largest faculty.  FASS brings together 10 departments and associated research centres in a diverse staff and student community of 4200 undergraduates and 875 postgraduates.

Professor McEnery previously held the post of director of research at the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is Director of the new the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS) - a £4.3m research hub at Lancaster University, which studies the use and manipulation of language in society.

Professor McEnery said: “I am delighted to be working with the outstanding team in CASS to deliver a MOOC to introduce students to corpus linguistics.

“The corpus approach to language allows for the rapid and reliable investigation of large bodies of language data that would defy reliable analysis by hand and eye alone. By combining the skills of the analyst with the power of computing through programmes which permit a thorough investigation of thousands or even millions of words of text, we can help researchers to gain insights of unprecedented scale and depth into the use and manipulation of language.”

Every student on the course will be given the software and the readings they need to pursue and understand this approach to the analysis of language. By the end of the course they will have been trained in the basics of corpus linguistics and should be able to apply it within their own studies.

Professor Mark E. Smith, Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor welcomed the launch of Futurelearn, saying: “Lancaster has carefully designed its first MOOCs to offer students courses reflecting some of our very best research and expertise. I hope these courses offer a wide range of students a compelling introduction to these important and challenging subjects and encourage some to further explore some of the issues.”