In response to postgraduate students, supervisors and postdoctoral research fellows expressing a need for workshops targeted at building specific academic skills, as well as aspects of their professional development, UCT is now running a new series of workshops, seminars, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), in tandem with weekly face-to-face discussions.
The professional development aspects include, among others, grant application writing, conference preparation, reference management, writing an effective CV, course design and convening, and developing professional networks.
UCT's Postgraduate Studies office is drawing on MOOCs that have been developed by a consortium of 10 top universities, and are free. Dr Nelleke Bak, director of Postgraduate Studies, says students and fellows enrol online and complete the course over a set number of weeks. However, online courses tend to have high attrition rates, and in order to sustain interest and offer support, each MOOC also has an on-campus group that meets weekly to talk through the online material and tasks. These sessions are facilitated by PhD or postdoctoral mentors.
"Five MOOC groups have been meeting in Semester 1," says Bak. "The topics are on general academic writing, application of statistics in research, logical thinking, biostatistics and data management for clinical research. Facilitators Ross Harvey and Opeoluwa Oyedele have reported that the discussions in their groups have been lively, open and enlightening. Students from an array of disciplinary backgrounds share their ideas and discuss the set tasks."
As this is the first time that MOOCs have been paired with weekly support groups, UCT's Centre for Higher Education and Development is interested in chronicling the experience and capturing students' responses to the initiative. If it is well-received, Semester 2 will offer a range of new MOOCs.
A complete list of 2013 postgraduate group meetings, seminars and workshops is available on www.uct.ac.za/students/postgraduates/administration/.
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