CLARIN Café II: How to Use CLARIN in (online) Higher Education

Submitted by Linda Stokman on 23 June 2020

The second CLARIN Café “How to use CLARIN in (online) higher education” took place Wednesday the 10th of June and was hosted by CLARIN ambassador Dr. Francesca Frontini of Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier III. The recordings of the presentations are now available on the CLARIN Youtube Channel.

This second installment of the CLARIN Café series is a continuation of the discussion which started during the recent CLARIN@universities workshop on how CLARIN resources can benefit university teachers and lecturers. While the 2019 workshop showcased positive experiences from all CLARIN member countries, the demand for more support was expressed and the idea of shared teaching scenarios was proposed. Fast forward a few months and the situation in higher education has drastically changed, with an even stronger need for virtual education tools and platforms. What can CLARIN do to support such needs? What can we learn from the success stories, but also from the less positive ones? With the impending summer, and lecturers starting to prepare their courses for next September in these uncertain times, this Café was an opportunity to meet, find inspiration for new teaching solutions, collect feedback and needs, and share ideas. 

The discussion was opened by a short introduction by Francesca Frontini, pointing out some of the obvious advantages of using CLARIN resources and services, notably in the context of distance learning and virtual courses: the facility of sharing FAIR data, thanks to single sign on  as well as the advantages of online services when students are working from home on their personal equipment. The café continued with presentations by four university lecturers, representing various CLARIN consortia, disciplines and research data communities, who shared their experiences.

In the first talk Amália Mendes (Centro de Linguística da Universidade de Lisboa, School of Arts and Humanities - Lisbon University) presented CLARIN in the Humanities courses of Lisbon University. At the School of Arts and Humanities, CLARIN contents are taught at BA and MA courses in Linguistics (for instance, a Corpus Linguistics MA course, an MA course on Computational Linguistics, and a seminar on discourse annotation). Recently, seminars and workshops on standards, XML and annotation have been extremely useful for both Linguistics and Literature. The TEITOK platform is an example of text representation that has been shared and applied to diverse projects such as a learner corpus, an historical corpus and recently a corpus of essays in the perspective of digital editions. The next goal is to share the expertise and the CLARIN contents and resources with the History department at their Faculty. The soon to be launched website of PORTULAN CLARIN will enable access to resources and to a workbench to those teaching in the Humanities and addressing the Portuguese language.

The second talk, given by Jolanta Kovalevskaitė (CLARIN-LT, Vytautas Magnus University & CLARIN Lithuania User Involvement representative), focussed on  Integrating CLARIN-LT Resources in Teaching. The examples of integration of CLARIN content were drawn from BA and MA courses: Lexicology and Lexicography of Lithuanian Language (BA), Contrastive English-Lithuanian Stylistics (MA) and Natural Language Processing (MA). Resources from CLARIN-LT and other CLARIN consortia, such as wordlists, reference and annotated corpora, treebanks, and tools are used both in the theoretical part and in the form of hands-on exercises, project work, case studies, thus providing students with practical knowledge on language data research and methods, research data management, access to resources, ethical and legal issues.

The programme continued with a short presentation on New times, New Challenges: Exploring Language Archives by Vera Ferreira from the SOAS University of London (UK) and CIDLeS - Interdisciplinary Centre for Social and Language Documentation (Portugal). As the title suggests, the case study here was the SOAS Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR), containing a rich collection of primary data (such as audio recordings, video recordings, photographs, time-aligned annotations, lexical databases, dictionaries & glossaries, papers on the language, sociolinguistic surveys). How can archives such as ELAR promote best practices, in young researchers as well as established ones? The ELDP training programme aims to promote not only the documentation of endangered languages around the world but also the publishing of primary linguistic data, by providing basic knowledge in modern linguistic and language documentation, integrating courses on data management, data processing and archiving in ELAR. The FAIR-isation of this type of data is crucial to encourage their reuse in research, but is greatly beneficial also in terms of their use in education. Lecturers who archive their data with ELAR find it easier to share them with the classroom, thus promoting good data and deposit practices among students (MA and PhD thesis). In turn, the promotion of FAIR data as, among other things, better teaching materials, can help overcome a certain reluctance to publish, which is particularly acute when it comes to  raw linguistic data.

Last but not least, Mietta Lennes (Project Planning Officer and CLARIN User Involvement representative for FIN-CLARIN at the University of Helsinki) described the selection of online courses offered by FIN-CLARIN and the Language Bank of Finland. In particular, Mietta gave examples of how the popular online course Corpus Linguistics and Statistical Methods was originally created and how the content, including videos, exercises and other materials, was translated into English so that they can be used in parallel. The complete list of FIN-CLARIN’s courses is available on the Language Bank website, and via the Digital Humanities Course Registry. FIN-CLARIN and CLARIN resources can be included in teaching in many different ways. As an interesting side note, the Library of Open Educational Resources was recently opened in Finland, allowing teachers to publish, document and share their teaching materials in a persistent, well-documented and citable way. In the AOE service, it is also possible to build collections of existing materials for different purposes. This kind of interoperable libraries can open a lot of exciting opportunities, especially for the efficient re-use of small, relatively independent pieces of learning content.

The presentations were followed by a lively discussion, touching upon several topics such as: the possibility of sharing resources and teaching scenarios across institutions and across languages; the positive interaction between research and teaching in the curation and preservation of language data; the importance of learning by doing when it comes to the pedagogy of FAIR data, especially for data collected and produced by the students themselves.

The closing remarks was given by Darja Fišer, the Vice Executive Director of CLARIN to update participants on the current initiatives: CLARIN funding opportunities for teachers and lecturers (such as the CLARIN Trainers Network, funding for the development of CLARIN training materials and the CLARIN mobility grants) as well as relevant events for the upcoming  CLARIN annual conference (CLARIN in the classroom, CLARIN PhD Student Session, CLARIN Consultation Session). 

The discussion on this topic of the CLARIN Training Suite has been kick-started, and we are planning to continue it with an event co-located with the CLARIN conference and a new dedicated mailing list to which you can subscribe here.

On a final note, the CLARIN Café model seems to be gaining momentum, and this second café, too, had good attendance and positive returns. While waiting for the third Café before the summer pause, the CLARIN ambassadors are open to any suggestions and feedback. 

Read more about the CLARIN Café sessions