This past week, I completed my first course in the University of California – San Diego Copyediting program: Grammar Lab. It spanned ten weeks, and you can see my full initial thoughts on the course here. I’m sharing my experience so you might have a better idea of what to expect if you are considering this certificate.
My Grammar Lab course required the following each week:
- Reading, approximately 20-30 pages
- Exercises, approximately 10-15 subjects with about 10 questions each
- Post on the discussion board
In addition, there was a midterm and a final.
The required reading was The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage, 2nd Edition by Mark Lester and Larry Beason, and I found it informative and easy to follow. It wasn’t stuffy, and I think someone just stepping into editing would have no trouble following along. It had handy tests to use when it came to checking your grammar. The subjects covered felt rather basic, but this course is more of a refresher, so I can’t fault it there. The amount of reading each week was manageable with a busy schedule.
The exercises varied: multiple choice, typing in one word, or rewriting the whole sentence. You were able to retake every exercise multiple times, and it gave the correct answers after every completion. This meant that there really was no excuse for not getting 100 percent every time. As this was all done through Blackboard, sometimes having to rewrite the sentences became a pain, because you needed to wait for the professor to check it, but that didn’t occur often.
I mentioned in my initial thoughts that some of the sentences used seemed purposely misleading or used almost Old English-style writing. As this is something many of us would never encounter in our work, it was a little frustrating. The workload was very manageable, though some weeks took a little longer than others. This could depend on your grammar strengths. I was rusty in regards to terminology, so I required more study time for those.
This was by far the most useless aspect of this course. Remember, each professor sets up their own Blackboard, so this may just be the way my teacher decided to use it. He would post a question relating to the reading and ask us to post an answer. Everyone made their own thread with the answer, which due to the nature of the question often contained the same information. There was no actual discussion and the professor never commented.
Midterm and Final
Our professor was very flexible regarding the timeline for turning these in. They contained three sections.
- Answer questions regarding terminology (naming things such as the direct object, gerund phrase, and tense)
- Correct any grammatical errors in a passage
- Correct any errors in some sentences
Despite being out of practice for the first section, both tests were online and open book, so simple research helped. The other two sections are straightforward as well. During the midterm, I changed only simple errors, and he came back with a completely different paragraph. So for the final, I made more sweeping changes. Some of it seemed subjective, but my grade was just fine. He actually offered to let us redo the midterm for a higher grade, which I thought was very nice.
Each course offered has at least two options for professors. You can do your research through Google, but there is also a Facebook group for those enrolled in the program. This is a great way to ask others who have already taken courses to give some feedback.
I am in the midst of week one and have completed the first lesson. The reading was straightforward, though I was really disappointed with the lecture. My professor offered a PDF version, an audio file, and a transcribed version. It was very basic, as in practically the same as the book. […] I have spoken with people who have previously taken a course with the professor I chose, and they informed me that he isn’t the greatest user of Blackboard but he is great at answering emails.http://literatusediting.com/2018/04/09/grammar-lab-ucsd-copyediting-initial-thoughts/
Not much changed from my initial thoughts regarding the professor and the lecture. He was very responsive when I sent him a question. He sent out weekly emails containing questions he received that week, and I found that helpful in reading where others may have struggled. However, these emails became infrequent, and it was later obvious that he was recycling emails from previous semesters.
However, he was very nice and extremely knowledgeable. I can’t really fault him for taking shortcuts. He has offered to continue answering any questions we have beyond this course, and I think that is absolutely wonderful.
Everyone will have a different experience with this course. It will depend on the professor you choose, your previous grammar knowledge, and your willingness to go beyond the bare minimum. The fact that you can retake the exercises after being given the answers makes it easy to get 100 percent. But, it means that it is on you to really read why your answer was wrong. Of course, that really goes along with any online course. The professor can only do so much.
The real question is if I learned anything. Resoundingly yes. I tend to focus on conversational grammar and style when writing, so it was very helpful to be reminded of the professional requirements that may be used in professional settings.
Despite any minor issues, I would definitely recommend this course to someone looking to brush up on their professional grammar or even someone new to grammar in general. It was very high level. And obviously, it is required before you can go any further in the certificate program. Keep an eye out for the next initial review: Copyediting I.