Over the past two years or so I have been working with Dr Eleanor Quince, Postgraduate Research Coordinator for the School of Humanities at the University of Southampton, on a project to deliver skills training online. A training programme for Humanities postgraduates already existed as class-based sessions but a need was identified for those students who were either studying away from campus on a regular basis and part time students whose time commitments prevented them from attending daytime classes. Training covered all major sections of the Research Councils’ joint skills statement on the acquisition of generic and transferable skills such as oral presentation, career development, time management, as well as more specific skills such as research ethics, archival research, ethnographic techniques, and the four milestones of completing an MPhil/PhD thesis (first year presentations, MPhil upgrade, submitting your thesis, the viva).
Phases 1 and 2 of the online course were completed by April 2010. Phase 1 was concerned with gathering course materials, evaluating the target audiences (working part timers, distance learners, students abroad) and selecting the most appropriate delivery mechanism. Phase 2 was solely focused on developing the learning objects and training themes for the course. These were divided into ‘core’ and ‘additional’ learning objects. An expert assessor has evaluated their content and feedback has been responded to in additional improvements. In addition, informal feedback has been gathered throughout the process. If funded, phase 3 will concentrate on qualitative evaluation of the course and its elements. The project so far has been funded by the School of Electronics and Computer Science and the Roberts Skills fund (named after the Roberts Report which identified the need for postgraduates to complete their doctoral studies while also gaining skills), both internal to the University.