During the winter term, LDSL has offered courses and workshops in our Winter School Learn about Linguistic Data Science. Three online courses were taught during the semester; two online workshops followed at the beginning of the term holidays.

A winter school on Linguistic Data Science

The course offerings were connected to perspectives on the application of linguistic models but fanned out in two streams:

  • The online courses offered on the one hand an introduction to Data Science with R, and on the other hand an introduction to programming in Python and more advanced NLP applications such as syntactic parsing.
  • In the two workshops, this knowledge was deepened. The R workshop From Data to Explanation focused on data analysis using generalized linear mixed models, and the workshop on NN in Python was an introduction to the use and implementation of neural networks for Natural Language Processing.

Changing to online courses

Our winter school was originally planned as a program for students of linguistics, computer science, data science and related disciplines. Planned as a mixed offering consisting of online courses and workshops in presence, we expected to meet our participants in Bochum and to join forces to learn more about research questions and methods from Linguistic Data Science.

The three courses were conceived as introductions to topics that would be covered in more depth during the workshops. While challenging, we expected the participants to manage well when learning together and being in close contact with instructors during the intense learning experience.

In reaction to the current crises, we reorganized the courses and workshops so that they could be held via Zoom and Moodle. Taking into account that our international students live in different time zones, we developed a schedule which focused on self-directed work with prepared materials. This guiding structure was combined with an emphasis on dialogue in zoom meetings that focused on remaining questions or further interests. To strengthen and promote social connections and teamwork abilities, we included some (programming) tasks to be solved in small groups supported by tools for collaborative work.

At the end of the workshop week the missing social event was compensated for by a virtual dinner and games evening.

Success of program

All classes have been very successful: we had a good number of participants, who completed the courses including all required tasks despite most of them participating voluntarily and in addition to their regular studies as well as despite participating during difficult times in general. We received very positive feedback in our final evaluations: we were informed that the students experienced the courses as rewarding and preparing them for new challenges with new skills. Many expressed their interest in further classes – which we will announce via the usual RUB channels and additionally through our mailing list.

Additionally, we have collected more resources for online learning (some tools have to be improved for better real-time collaboration) and experienced the advantages and disadvantages of courses lacking in-person contact more densely. Also, we were able to learn more about the experiences of students with different subject backgrounds shaping their expectations of lecturing, communication in groups, problem solving, and demands of a course on them. In turn we learned about the specific challenges classes like this have.

One important "finding" for our specific topics would be the changed ratio of "knowledge per time" in this format: While well prepared materials allow for a surprising amount of progress during a certain time in self directed learning, the intense workshop experiences showed that working in groups and learning from "lectures" is more demanding online than offline on both participants and teachers.

Continuation from the LDSL

We are happy and proud to have finished the Winter School completely differently from our original plans but still so successfully. This extends to our participants who participated, learned, and engaged in sometimes extremely adverse situations that made their interest even more rewarding.

The LDSL is looking forward to offering similar courses in future - offline and online. We hope to soon be able to announce more details on a larger planned endeavor - here and through our mailing list.