For the last two years I’ve been studying for an MA in ICT in Education at Leeds University. The last piece of the puzzle my MA Critical Study (a 15,000 word research project) went in the post last week and the process has come to an end. Looking back the whole MA was proof of the power of online collaboration, from start to finish.
To start the story at the beginning; in 2006 I was looking for an e-learning related MA. I was a regular reader and poster of the forums at the Times Educational Supplement. Another contributor recommended the MA at Leeds that she was taking and one thing led to another. I’ve since recommended another person the same way!
My entire MA was via online distance learning using the First Class learning environment. There were both online and face to face students. Lecture notes and podcasts were posted online. We had a forum to discuss set reading or tasks and we met once a week online for a live discussion on a topic set by our tutor; often and article or an assignment. At the end of each module we wrote a 6000 word assignment to prove that we had learnt something. (Though that sounds a little cynical the assignments really helped me revise much of what I had learned).
One of the problems of being an online learner can be a lack of community. This was certainly hard. Often our discussion forums were quiet and pleas for help in the class discussion forums drew few responses. This is where my other communities came into use especially when it came to my critical study. Being a science (computer science) graduate I had no prior experience of carrying out a research project for my bachelors degree. Back then I wrote a piece of software and wrote about the process and how it worked. For my MA study I wanted to research how my students used VLEs. The whole process was new to me. My first port of call online was a message sent to the Mirandanet discussion list asking for details of any academic research on VLEs in schools. The response was small but gave me some excellent leads. A similar question to my twitter network brought back some other leads and as I delved further and found other links I shared them back to my twitter followers some of whom found the links equally useful.
My next problem was creating a research questionnaire. I put my draft out to twitter as well as to some friends (via e-mail). Two individuals on twitter gave me some superb feedback (David Nobel and Theo Kuchell) on how to improve my quesitonnaire. Help with analysing the data came via e-mail from two other people that I had never met before, one the research methods tutor at Leeds University and the other a friend of a friend in Manchester. When it was all done it was time for the dreaded proof reading. Again twitter proved very fruitful with great comments and extra commas from Lisa Stephens, Mary Cooch, Ian Usher and Dale Jones.
My acknowledgements page was large and proof of the power of online communities. Of the 12 people I mentioned by name I had only met 4 in person.
Now the MA is done I’ll have more time to spend on rebuilding our school VLE from scratch and I’ll keep you updated right here!