About my research

My research was set in the context of the European Commission’s eTwinning initiative and it looked specifically at the use of eTwinning Learning Events (non-formal learning). It examined how the community influences the development of teachers’ competence in online collaboration and discourse, and it considered the contribution of social aspects and online moderation.

I am very grateful to my supervisor, Dr. Julie-Ann Sime from Lancaster University, and to my eTwinning soulmate, Tiina Sarisalmi, for their invaluable support. And to my examiners, Prof. Marilyn Leask from the University of Bedfordshire and Dr. Don Passey from the University of Lancaster, for their valuable advice.
Keywords: online learning communities; community of inquiry; online collaboration; content analysis; social presence; social ties; teacher training

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Thesis submitted

Last week I finally completed my thesis and submitted it to the university. Phew. It's been quite a journey to get this far and of course I still have the oral examination (viva) to do in July. However, I do feel a weight lifted from my shoulders.

I've been amusing myself by plotting the word account against time (in the graph above). It shows a steady increase since I started writing in earnest last September. With a reduction towards the end as I completed the final editing.

So what advice might I give to someone going through as similar journey?

On reflection I think there is a combination of factors that have helped me to get this far:

  • As the graph shows, keep at it! Regular periods of writing, using holidays and study leave (if you are lucky enough to have it) to focus and progress.
  • Regular discussions with your supervisor. Mine, Julie-Ann, has helped me a lot to reflect on what I am doing, to plan for the way ahead and to keep my motivation going during what is a long and otherwise solitary  haul.
  • Do the writing in manageable chunks. It reminds me of a training course I did on time management which suggested that in order to eat an elephant, you have to do it is small pieces. I started with the chapter on the findings of the research, as this is the core of the thesis. My feeling being that if I could get this right, the the rest should follow.
  • Focus. Decide that you are writing-up and don't get distracted by temptations to continue researching.
  • Do a first draft of the literature review but then come back to it later. I found it very useful to come back to the literature and to re-connect with it once I was at the stage of writing-up the discussion and conclusions. It also helped me to decide what literature was essential and what was interesting, but not really useful.
  • Bookmark and put to one side for later text which is good, but not necessary core to your writing. Julie-Ann was instrumental in helping me to edit the text, by suggesting that I shouldn't delete ideas but rather move them to one side and keep them for the future.
  • Find someone with whom you can discuss what your doing. I used colleagues at work and my husband Bryan to discuss what I was thinking and bounce ideas. Bryan was also invaluable as my proof reader, looking at what I have written from the point of view of whether it makes sense and is good English (not my strong point).
  • Use opportunities when the arise to present your work and receive feedback. My recent presentation at Networked Learning really boosted my confidence. My presentations was in front of Terry Anderson (one of the authors of the Community of Inquiry model that I use in my research), Peter Goodyear, Etienne Wenger and Karel Kreijns. The questions afterwards were invaluable.
I am sure there are other points, but that's enough for now.  

Over the next few weeks I shall prepare for the exam, reading Murray's (2009) book on 'How to Survive your Viva' and guidance provided by my supervisor.