The Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) has launched an online course to help postgraduate students to develop their research writing, specifically the concept note that informs a full research proposal.
The new course, Journeys in Research Writing, was designed by CHED's Language Development Group and the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT). It introduces students to different ways of approaching their research topic, doing literature searches and developing a pre-proposal concept note, which is the precursor to a full research proposal.
The online model means that CHED staff will be able to assist many more students (in many more international settings) than is currently possible. However, a face-to-face option is also available for those who prefer a blended learning experience.
Hosted on Vula (UCT's online collaboration and learning environment), the course site is an interactive storehouse of academic resources, videos, maps and tables that is intended to enhance students' learning experiences.
Many postgraduate students struggle to write up their research, said Associate Professor Lucia Thesen, one of the course designers. To support them, CHED has been developing innovative pedagogies, such as writers' circles and blended-learning courses.
Dr Catherine Hutchings, who facilitates the face-to-face version of the course, said it creates a safe space for students to “find their voice and develop an argument” for their research proposal. By the end of the programme, students submit their concept notes to their chosen reader for feedback. Students opting for the face-to-face version will meet weekly with Hutchings to discuss the highlights of the online sessions.
According to Dr Aditi Hunma, online spaces have been designed to facilitate collaborative learning and a sense of belonging. Janet Small of CILT emphasised that students can engage in different modes of expression on the course site. They can share ideas both through their formal tasks at the 'Work desk' and informal discussions at the 'Coffee table'.
The course was launched at Obz Square and arranged by their Residence Academic Development Committee. This committee aims to transform classroom experiences into “living and learning programmes tailored for the residence setting” according to logistics administrator Taahira Goolam Hoosen.
Story Helen Swingler. Photo Michael Hammond. Illustrations courtesy of CHED.
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