Australian has found itself at the centre of a world-wide resurgence in understanding grammar.
More than 40,000 students from around the world have started a free online grammar course at The University of Queensland .
The UQx subject, WRITE101x – English Grammar and Style, has been developed by Associate Professor Roslyn Petelin from the School of English, Media Studies, and Art History.
“They have enrolled in droves,” she says.
Students range in age from 11 to more than 80, and they are from Paris, France to Paris, Texas, from Argentina to Venezuela, and from New York to Brisbane.
“Everyone is writing more than they ever did in many more arenas than they ever had before the rise and rise of social media on the Internet,” she says.
“Everyone’s a writer. Competition for jobs is so stiff that advanced writing skills can be career-enhancing.
“Grammar has been neglected for decades. It’s starting to surface now, but teachers who didn’t learn grammar themselves have difficulty teaching it.”
The massive open online course (MOOC) encouraged students to build on their intuitive and often-unacknowledged grammar skills.
“Since grammar disappeared from primary school classrooms in the late 1950s, generations of students have been deprived of the utilitarian and recreational pleasure of understanding just how words work to create grammatically correct sentences,” she says.
“Clearly, there is a clamour for grammar.”
In developing the course, she interviewed world-leading grammarians David Crystal and Geoff Pullum from the University of Edinburgh, who have said that public discussion of grammar is in roughly the same state that public understanding of aeronautical engineering would be if educated adults believed that airplane wings flapped and had feathers.
Dr Petelin says she and her UQx team taught students to absorb and apply grammatical principles, which gave them the skills to write and speak with career-enhancing confidence, competence, and style.
UQ Executive Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences Professor Tim Dunne says she’s excited about Write101x.
“I already know that, at the end of the course, I will regret not having been able to take it 20 years ago when I embarked on my career as an academic and writer,” he said.
edX is a not-for-profit online education venture founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The University of Queensland is an edX partner, along with institutions including the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Texas System, Georgetown University, McGill University, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, University of Toronto, and the Australian National University.
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