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4TU.
Centre for
Engineering Education

Project introduction and background information

This project focusses on creating a partially online version of a methodology course that offers the basic knowledge on research methodology and supports students in designing their own thesis projects. The aim is to redesign the course into a partially online course and to produce knowledge clips and an online learning environment on blackboard.

The courseĀ can be offered both as scheduled course as well as non-scheduled. It will activate students and it will be beneficial as reference material and refresher material for incoming new master students.

Firstly, staff can then pay more time to offering feedback and support students in the application of that knowledge to studentsā€™ research projects in tutorials or to research skills, such as data collection methods. The online theoretical knowledge on research methodology can also be assessed through online administered tests. Students should pass these tests before they are admitted to these tutorials and before they are entitled to receive feedback on their individual proposals.

Secondly, students currently follow the course often at a moment when they have not yet made up their mind with regard to their BSc thesis topic. Once they have, they can review the knowledge clips that are relevant for their research projects.

In addition, the online materials can be offered to incoming MSc students in the MSc Landscape Architecture and Planning, the MSc Forest and Nature Conservation and the MSc International Land and Water Management with deficiencies in research methodology, which can be studied in the summer period previous to the MSc programme.

The online materials can be used for the creation of new learning experiences that promote active learning and for more relevant and efficient use of lecturerā€™s time.Ā At the moment the course is scheduled in period 1, 4 and 6. This means that all teaching methods have to be repeated three times a year. The development of online teaching activities can create efficiency in the delivery of the course.

Finally, there is a potential to offer the online methodology course to potential students of other WU programmes. Possibly online teaching activities can be combined into online course versions with different sizes (1, 3 or 6 credits) and hence different ambitions in terms of learning outcomes.

In later research projects, students can always revisit the knowledge clips that are relevant to their research projects at hand (eg experiment, case study or cross sectional designs)

The course will be modular in structure. All the components will be organised per topic and ordered on blackboard. An introductory Prezi presentation will explain the structure of the course and illustrate the links between all the components. Research methodology is obviously not a course that can be taught in a strictly sequential manner.

Each component will have a written online introduction with references to the relevant theoretical texts and to possible video clips for explanatory purposes. An additional new feature of the new teaching methods includes an extra illustration of the theoretical parts (for instance on the experiment, the questionnaire, formulating a research objective, and so on) by examples of current or recent empirical research projects that are carried out by staff of Wageningen University and Research, and that content-wise links up with the domain of the study programme concerned (landscape architecture, forest and nature conservation, land and water management). The theoretical knowledge of the student will be tested in a playful manner by means of quizzes, whereby the ability of students to link theory with practice will be emphasized.

The final assessment of the course consists of two parts: on one hand a research proposal/paper in which the students shows that s/he is able to design and formulate a basic research design and is able to critically reflect on its internal and external validity; and on the other hand a multiple choice exam that assesses the studentsā€™ theoretical knowledge.

Objective and expected outcomes

To redesign the course into a partially online course and to produce knowledge clips and an online learning environment on blackboard.

Results and learnings

The development of the research design paper is incremental and students will receive feedback several times from peers and staff. In addition, students will be challenged to participate regularly in the online discussion forum on Blackboard to discuss and criticize ongoing research projects and ask and answer each otherā€™s ā€“ methodological - questions.

By changing lectures into online knowledge clips staff can pay more time to offering feedback and support students in the application of that knowledge to studentsā€™ research projects in tutorials or to research skills, such as data collection methods.