A global network of researchers

AuthorAID’s first Research Writing MOOC attracts over 1000 developing country researchers

By Andy Nobes | Feb. 2, 2016  |  | Research writing

In November 2015, we ran our first fully open online course in research writing. The course lasted 6 weeks and was aimed at improving research writing skills of early career researchers in developing countries.

AuthorAID have previously run several online research writing courses, beginning with a 2011 pilot course for 28 researchers in Rwanda. By the end of 2013 we had offered this course a few more times, as well as developing a grant proposal course. In 2014, due to the popularity of the course, we opened it up to more participants and coined it our ‘mini-MOOC’ - more than 250 researchers from many developing countries took part. As we developed the course we wanted to improve the participant interaction and we integrated peer assessment activities, which facilitator Ravi Murugesan spoke about at an online Moodle conference in May 2015. Our second ‘mini MOOC’ in June last year had 367 participants.

Our courses up to this point had used an application and selection process, but we thought it was time to try running the course as a fully open course, in other words a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course), so in September we put out a call for enrolment and 1762 people enrolled from over 50 developing countries!

The course consisted of 12 lessons, weekly quizzes, and two peer assessment activities (one of which was writing a research abstract or summary). The participants had to pass all the quizzes to qualify for a completion certificate and digital badge. 596 participants completed the course, and 457 achieved a merit grade by also completing at least one of the peer assessment activities.

The course facilitator was Ravi Murugesan and the administrator was Andy Nobes. But the main feature of this course was the involvement of 20 guest facilitators from the AuthorAID network many of whom are AuthorAID mentors. They did a remarkable job of responding to the participants’ posts in the discussion forums, which numbered in the thousands!

“Thanks for putting up a wonderful course. It doesn't seem like self learning at all, thanks to the easy to use features, design and amazing level of interactions. The replies by guest facilitators is a course in itself. Appreciate the efforts by you and team. Grateful for everything. Regards”
Participant from India

Participants came from all the AuthorAID partner countries such as Sri Lanka, Ghana and Tanzania, but we were also delighted to see nationalities we not reached before – researchers from Somalia, Bhutan, Guatemala, Iraq, Papua New Guinea for and many others. Most subject areas were covered, and after user requests we created a research networking forum for participants to collaborate on their research topics – connections were made on topics such data management, intellectual property, oil pollution, plant breeding, disaster management, gender issues and more.

Congratulations to all participants who completed the course and achieved a certificate and badge!

We will be writing up a full report of the key facts and learning from the MOOC in due course. In the meantime, AuthorAID will be running further online courses in 2016. Follow the AuthorAID blog by email to keep updated!  

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