EUROCALL 2014

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Investigating an Open Methodology for Designing Domain-specific Language Collections

More so than ever we have increasing access to a range of authentic open content online (lectures and podcasts, e-books/textbooks, research publications, blogs, wikis etcetera) and free and open online tools for their linguistic analyses. Designing easy-to-use interfaces for the use of these linguistic tools is a key requirement for their uptake by non-expert users, namely: learners, teachers, subject academics, instructional designers and language resource developers.

With this research and design paper, we are proposing that Open Educational Resources (OER) are increasing access to high quality online educational and research content for the development of powerful domain-specific language collections that can be further enhanced linguistically with the FLAX (Flexible Language Acquisition) Open Source Software (OSS). FLAX uses the Greenstone digital library system, which is widely used OSS that enables end users to build collections of documents and metadata directly onto the Web (Witten et al., 2010). FLAX offers a powerful suite of interactive text-mining tools, using Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence designs, to enable novice collections builders to link selected language content to large pre-processed language databanks, including collocations and Wikipedia databases and the live Web. For instance, the Wikipedia Miner tool (Milne and Witten, 2013) extracts key concepts and their definitions from Wikipedia articles to related words and phrases in language collections built in FLAX. The development of wordlist and keyword interfaces also allows learners to analyze the range of vocabulary used in a specified document, including the General Service List (West, 1953), the Academic Word List by Coxhead (1998) and Off-list words that are often domain-specific (Chung and Nation, 2003).

The use of domain-specific corpora is a growing trend in language teaching and learning (Stubbs and Barth, 2003; Gabrielatos, 2005). An open methodology trialled at Queen Mary University of London in collaboration with the OER Research Hub at the UK Open University demonstrates how applying open corpus-based designs and technologies can enhance open educational practices among language teachers and subject academics for the preparation and delivery of courses in English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP). An ESAP collection in FLAX was developed for students taking a Critical Thinking and Writing in Law In-Sessional course at Queen Mary and those following the Law Pathway on the summer pre-sessional programme. The collection includes transcribed lectures, academic blog posts and Open Access research publications in the target domain of Law. Among other aspects of language, the law corpus in FLAX provides an excellent context in which to study collocations, a notoriously challenging aspect of English productive use even for quite advanced learners (Bishop, 2008; Nesselhauf, 2003). The software also identifies “Lexical bundles” used in the target collection, which are multi-word sequences with distinctive syntactic patterns and discourse functions found in academic prose and lectures (Biber & Barbieri, 2007; Biber et al, 2003, 2004). It is anticipated that this open methodology for domain-specific language collections building will be of value to wider academic language communities across formal and informal education, with outputs available in the form of OSS and OER.

Author(s):

Alannah Fitzgerald    
Department of Education / The Institute of Educational Technology
Concordia University, Canada / The Open University, UK
United Kingdom

Alannah is an open education practitioner and researcher working in the area of technology-enhanced learning for English Language Teaching (ELT) and English for Academic Purposes (EAP). She is currently working with the OER Research Hub at the UK Open University in conjunction with her doctoral resesearch in Educational Technology at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

Martin Barge    
School of Languages, Linguistics and Film
Queen Mary University of London
United Kingdom

Martin joined Queen Mary, as Technical Director of the Langauge Centre, in September 2007. The Multimedia Language Resource Centre is a facility within the Language Centre that provides computer-assisted language learning resources for the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film. Martin's roles and responsibilities include: directing and developing the use of technologies for language learning, ensuring that the computer facilities and applications are fully functional, and providing training and support for language teachers and learners.

William Tweddle    
School of Languages, Linguistics and Film
Queen Mary University of London
United Kingdom

William is the summer pre-sessional coordinator at the Language Centre within the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film. He also has a background in CALL and has headed up multimedia development projects for EAP at Queen Mary.

Saima Sherazi    
School of Languages, Linguistics and Film
Queen Mary University of London
United Kingdom

Dr. Saima Sherazi is the Coordinator of ELSS Sessional Programmes at Queen Mary University of London. Her research interests are Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), Evaluation of multimedia learning and Writing in the Disciplines.On joining Queen Mary in 2007 Saima taught on the Language Centre's Legal Thinking and Writing Programme (LTWP) and other postgraduate research writing courses offered by Centre. She supports the director in the design, development and running of different Language Centre programmes and courses as the Coordinator of English Language & Study Skills. Her current research interests are the teaching of writing in a collaborative semi-embedded approach to Writing in the Disciplines and the blending and evaluation of e-learning multimedia materials in the HE context.

 

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