HOW TO CARRY OUT MASTERS’ FINAL PROJECTS IN VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS FOR DEVELOPING AND EVALUATING COMPETENCES. THE E-TUTOR PERSPECTIVE
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:Currently, the supply of master's programs at universities is characterized, on the one hand, by providing comprehensive training to its students based on developmental competences, and on the other hand, by favoring meaningful and transferable learning to social and employment context (Brown, S. & Glasner, A., 2003).
Within masters programs, the Masters’ Final Projects (MFP) are defined as a key instrument in the service of the implementation of global teaching-learning process as well as its designing process. This enables students to develop their skills as well as obtaining their accreditation.
Presenting our project "Developing and Evaluating Competencies through the Master's Final Project", we want to identify and evaluate key elements that facilitate the student's competences and their development and assessment through the master's last project, when it is carried out and assessed completely in a virtual learning environment.
This project conducts empirical research, from a qualitative perspective. We have mixed quantitative and qualitative tools and strategies. The first one is composed by online, in-depth and semi-structured interviews to seven e-tutors from different Masters of the Open University of Catalonia –UOC-. The second one comprises an online questionnaire, applied to students of MFP.
In this article, we will focus mostly on qualitative data from interviews with e-tutors. We have analized the data following a constant comparative method (Dye, Schatz, Rosenberg & Coleman, 2000; Glaser and Strauss, 1967; Goetz and LeCompte, 1981; Lincoln and Guba, 1985; Maykut and Morehouse , 1994).
There has been a dialectical and iterative work with tutors, through which we have identified various existing meaning units (incidents), and then we have proceeded to their integration into five categories:
1. The mentoring process
2. The skills development
3. The e-tutor support
4. The student support
5. The MFP’s defense process
The triangulation of the results from the interviews with those obtained in the questionnaires led to a series of guidelines that are being used for editing three guides, one for masters programs’ designers (already available online) and two (under construction) one for e-tutors and another for MFP’s students, respectively. The present communication will contain a comprehensive statement of the first guide.
We identify as the most significant limitation, in this part of our study, the need to expand the sample of e-tutors interviewed. This would allow to contrast the information and to provide guides more effective and tailored to the particular characteristics of the different audiences.
Possible future actions that we are considering are: validating the three guidelines by e-tutors in MFP at the UOC, as well as from other virtual universities with different masters program and opening a feedback process and continuous improvement able to respond the needs, expectations of the tutors and students.
Finally, we emphasize in the present phase of the project the relevance of one of the major actors in the MFP’s development process: the e-tutors. We attempt at echoing their opinions and include them when writing MFP’s guides.
Keywords: Master’s Final Project, Virtual Teaching, Virtual Learning, Competences assessment.