In an attempt to make the summer vacations productive, I got a chance to enroll for the Understanding Research Methods course offered by University of London via Coursera. In case you have not heard of it, Coursera is a very famous website that offers massive open online courses or MOOCs for short, from universities around the world. The world’s best courses are offered free all year round which include topics and subjects ranging from computing and information technology, health and medicine, to social sciences, development, and even music and film.
Being a global leader in distance learning and flexible study, the University of London also offers courses designed and taught by professors of its lead colleges and institutes through Coursera. Some of them include Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps, English Common Law: Structure and Principles, The Camera Never Lies, What future for education?, Enhance Your Career and Employability Skills, and more.
The six-week course on Understanding Research Methods that I am taking is taught by Dr J Simon Rofe and Dr Yenn Lee of SOAS (see overview video below). It offers interviews and readings as the study assets and has been working through a quite informative and supportive design. I have found the readings and interviews very useful and they have genuinely helped me in the assignments. Week 1 was about what is a research question, and it followed an assignment of providing a research question. Week 2 and 3 explored what a literature review is and why is it needed. The assignment at the end was about writing a summary of about 200 words of one of the readings given. Week 4 and 5 trained the future researchers on planning and managing research. The assignment was about posting our thoughts on the reading given which described critical thinking and an introduction to arguments.
The assignments are a series of e-tivities. In a limited number of words, the text is to be submitted before the deadline and here comes the most interesting part. The assignments are evaluated through peer assessment. Every student has to complete a minimum of two evaluations in order to get his/her assignment graded. Each assignment has a 25% in the total and the effective grades given are a median of the scores given by the peers; which is 1 for a genuine attempt and 0 for not a genuine attempt. To earn a Statement of Accomplishment, an overall 75% is required, while a 100% gets you the Statement of Accomplishment with a distinction!
Some students might have and actually have been disappointed by the evaluations they got, as I realized through the discussion forums, but I believe this system allowed students to get involved in discussions and also made them help rather teach each other and share ideas. However, there are certainly some guidelines given in the FAQ section that are to be kept in mind while evaluating.
As this is the final week of the MOOC, I have to submit a 1,200 word outline research proposal on my research question up to the 7th of July. And yes, it feels great to know that I have scored a 75% up till now on my previous 3 assignments.
Finally, I bid thanks to the course instructors Dr J Simon Rofe and Dr Yenn Lee, and the Understanding Research Methods course team for providing a very flexible and efficiently designed course that was free from burdening coursework and allowed active engagement in activities to hone my writing, research and analytic skills. It surely will be of great assistance to me when I study my 200 courses in September, most importantly the course Social Research Methods.
Wishing everyone a happy summer!
Sundus is studying for the BSc Sociology in Pakistan with support from Roots College International. The BSc Sociology is not available to new students from 2014, however you can still study for a Diploma for Graduates in Sociology.