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iLearn Open House – Featuring LING219

This week’s iLearn Open House features
LING219 Introduction to Sociolinguistics.

This second year linguistics subject teaches students about the patterns and origins of variation and changes in dialects, social aspects of interaction, globalisation and the spread and loss of languages, how culture and world views affect language and interaction norms, and multilingual individuals and states.

Dr Nick Wilson took over this unit in 2016, when the iLearn layout was arranged into weekly topics. Rather than continue with the existing structure of the the iLearn page, he decided to strip it back completely. His motivation was simple, “when you actually are looking for information, scrolling is really inefficient, why do students go onto iLearn, they don’t go to browse, they go on because they need to know something, and they need to get to a particular part quickly”.

Wilson’s stripped back version simply contains:

  • a small introductory paragraph
  • link to an announcements page
  • a general discussion forum
  • a communications with teaching staff page
  • the unit guide
  • a social forum

Instead of weekly topics blocks underneath this, Wilson uses just three;

  • assessment
  • lectures and tutorials
  • weekly planner, readings and other resources
Image of iLearn unit LING219
iLearn unit LING219

Instead of having to click through each week, students can simply go to a one page weekly planner, containing topics and readings for the entire unit. He has also included a twitter feed block that is constantly updated by tutor, Livia Gerber, with a range of things discussion topics about language.

Image of weekly planner
Weekly planner


Although Wilson stripped down the ‘look and feel’ of the iLearn homepage, he still recommends utilising iLearn as much as possible. In each tutorial, iLearn is open on the screen where a weekly target is set around the assessment, “instead of having activities we have targets. For example, by the end of the tutorial, the students will have storyboarded the [first assessment] video, or written a draft script; they’re task focused”.


Wilson supports the use of discussion forums in iLearn. The first assessment in this unit is a group based video project. iLearn allocates the students into groups and each group has their own private discussion board that their tutor can also view.

Ideas generated about the group based video project are collated on the discussion forum and are also used to devise the marking criteria for the project, a criteria co-created by the tutor and the students.

The tutors gather information posted on the discussion forum about the video project and summarise it into the marking criteria; the criteria is therefore well understood by the students, having taken part in its development.

Wilson has also managed to effectively incorporate ‘feed forward’ into this assessment so the students are not only co-constructing their marking criteria, they are given feedback on this criteria.

“One of the main identified problem areas in feedback is not so much them getting it on time, but the students understanding the feedback and acting upon it, if they’ve developed the criteria and they’ve carried out the feedback and if they then have to reflect on the feedback then hopefully somewhere along the lines some understanding about what the feedback is should arise”.

As for the unit as a whole, Wilson says the biggest lesson, and learning experience when using iLearn, is making sure the online and offline worlds join up, “it’s all very well having a great iLearn unit, but if you don’t hammer home why it’s fundamental to the unit, it’s not going to do anything. I don’t treat iLearn as static, I constantly update it, it’s got to be fundamental to the assessment because that’s how you get students to pay attention”.

To access Wilson’s LING219 Introduction to Sociolinguistics, or any opened unit go to the iLearn search page Enter a unit code or keyword into the search box.