‘Journeys in Research Writing’, an online short course for postgraduates, was launched on the 30th of March at Obz Square Residence. Jointly designed by members of the Language Development Group and the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (both in CHED), the course introduces students to ways of approaching a research topic, doing literature searches and developing a pre-proposal concept note. Hosted on Vula, with optional face-to-face sessions, the course site is an interactive storehouse of academic resources, videos, maps, and tables to enhance students’ learning experience.
The launch at Obz Square was made possible through the efforts of the Residence Academic Development Committee (RADC), whose aim, according to Logistics Administrator Taahira Goolam Hoosen, is to ‘transform classroom experiences into living and learning programmes tailored for the residence setting’. This launch forms part of the ‘Conquering the PG mountain’ series.
Students hailed from various Francophone and Anglophone African countries and faculties including Health Sciences, Engineering, Commerce and Humanities. Despite this diversity, students realised that they shared much in common and were not isolated in their postgraduate journey. Mention was also made of other students across the borders who would purely take the online version of the course.
AssocProf Lucia Thesen, one of the main designers of the course, sketched a brief history of how the course came about. CHED has been developing innovative pedagogies such as writers’ circles and blended learning courses in response to the growing need to support postgraduate students in their writing of research. The online Journeys course now triggered new possibilities for reaching out to a wider international postgraduate audience while being flexible to their needs. She explained, ‘students can see the site as a resource, which they can use in ways that are relevant to them’.
The facilitator of the wrapped (face-to-face) version of the Journeys course, Dr Catherine Hutchings then gave students a tour of the site and its various features. She emphasised that this was not a research methods course but rather a safe space for students to ‘find their voice and develop an argument’ for their research proposal. By the end of the course, they would need to submit a concept note to their chosen reader for feedback. Janet Small from CILT added that throughout the course, students would have the chance to share emerging ideas and responses through formal tasks at the ‘Work desk’ and informal discussions at the ‘Coffee table’. According to AditiHunma, these spaces were specifically designed to facilitate collaborative learning and a sense of community belonging.
In addition, students opting for the wrapped version would now meet weekly with Dr Hutchings to discuss the highlights of the online sessions. These face-to-face sessions would bring together students from various disciplines, an idea which certainly appealed to all, encouraging them to take ownership of their projects. The next face-to-face session will take place on Tuesday the 5th of April at 17:00.
Story Aditi Hunma. Photo Michael Hammond. Illustrations courtesy of CHED.