I recently signed up for a couple of online courses on FutureLearn.com a site offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as something to fill my time and keep my brain ticking over during my break between Open University modules. Two of these have now begun, one of which is Developing Your Research Project.

I signed up to this course in the hope it would help me in my next Open University module, TM470, which from what I can gather is an individual project where I have to choose the topic and research it, creating a final project to be assessed at the end of the module. Two weeks into this free course and I’m ever more hopeful it will help.

Week 1

The first week was mostly introductions; introducing yourself to other learners, videos introducing academic research and transferrable skills, that sort of thing. But I learned a lot from it. We were also asked what we thought we could gain from undertaking a research project; initially I didn’t think this would be an easy question to answer but thanks to the videos I’d watched that week especially the one about transferrable skills, I was able to come up with what I thought was a suitable answer:

“I think I will gain skills which will be transferable to a lot of aspects of my life, whether that be in a future career or finding a way to make a living from home if necessary”

Finally there was a very useful checklist provided as a Microsoft Word document or PDF (depending on your preference) which covers some of the basic questions that need to be answered when preparing any research project, this included Overall Deadline Date, How it will be assessed, What format the project will be presented in etc.

Week 2

This week was another very interesting week and I learned even more. So much was covered and it was done in a way that meant it was easy to absorb the information, so easy in fact that time flew by and I only realised just how much I had learned when reflecting back on the week!

The use of a learning/research log was discussed, and essentially that is what I’m hoping these blog posts will become. I never realised my blogging about my Open University modules was also a learning log, but having read about learning/research logs during this course I realise it actually is one. Perhaps not the most detailed since I note down a lot of things on paper, but it is a form of a learning log.

We looked at how to pick a topic for your research project, which included key questions to narrow down interests, academic strengths and personal gains from undertaking a project. We were asked to share our thoughts one these key questions in the comments below the article, which elicited some interesting responses. Mine was:

“I am interested in E-business Technologies particularly how implementation of which can improve existing business practices but I am also interested in how the use of e-business technologies makes it possible to build an e-business from scratch. I think one of my academic strengths is report writing which is likely to be useful in my project. I’m hoping undertaking the project will help me towards gaining a decent overall grade in my degree.”

The most important lesson I learned from the course this week is how to narrow down my focus for the project. Going from a broad subject and context down to a topic and draft hypothesis. Something I had always found difficult in the past. This led on to a peer review activity in which you submitted a draft research proposal to be reviewed by another learner or learners on the course. This was a very interesting and beneficial exercise which helped me not only develop my skills as a reviewer of someone else’s work but also gave me confidence that I was on the right track with my draft hypothesis.

Now I’m looking forward to the start of Week 3!

Current and future runs of this course are available here: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/research-project-3/details  

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