We Are All About Our Students
Let’s face it. Linguistics is not one of the most common areas of study. Although there are a number of universities that offer graduate degrees in Linguistics, thus have the ability to offer tutoring to undergrads, the majority of universities either do not have a Linguistics Department (yet require courses such as Intro or Phonetics), or do have a Linguistics Department that is not large enough to include graduate student TAs. This means there are numerous linguistics and linguistics-related majors who do not have the option of academic support related specifically to their studies.
When the requests for help from my students demanded more time than I had to offer, I decided to create an academically sound, interactive online platform where students could practice concepts taught in lectures, test their knowledge, strengthen analytical skills, and become overall more confident in the discipline. My initial focus was to create interactive exercises in each of the major content areas (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics) that replicated data sets similar to those presented in lectures and various textbooks.
I also had to deal with students’ complaints about conflicting information in text books and online sources. I learned that students were referring to different texts and resorting to endless web searches looking for answers to their questions. As for me, I couldn’t find a single book that globally explained concepts in a manner congruent with my lectures. This resulted in the writing of many, introductory level ‘tutorials’ in which I broke down theories and abstract information into tangible, concrete concepts that offered corresponding exercises for practice.
Almost immediately I began to observe students becoming more comfortable asking questions in class, joining in discussions, and participating more confidently in group work. Even more encouraging was the fact that assessment grades began to improve quite dramatically. Students’ comments about LinguisticsNetwork revealed that they loved working online, they loved having immediate access to support, and most of all, they loved the fact that they were actually understanding the material.
LinguisticsNetwork became such a grand success that I created a team of linguistics pedagogues and expanded the site to offer our students more comprehensive academic support. So now we are a growing contingent of professors, grad students, a few outstanding undergrads, and a great webmaster who love linguistics, care about students, and believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn more about what they do most, ‘language.’