Olivier, B.H. (2016). The impact of contact sessions and discussion forums on the academic performance of open distance learning students. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17 (6).
In my current position, I have been involved in many research projects. Most often this has involved my partnering with (a) principal investigator(s) toward developing a research question related to the scholarship of teaching and learning (5, 2), and then assisting in the design of the research protocol, and providing a review of the current literature related to the intervention. In some cases, this has found me sitting in a board room with a statistician reviewing scatterplots, histograms, and other data, and while I would love to suggest that I have always followed along with confidence, the truth is, that often I have had to ask a LOT of questions. In other cases, I have been forwarded research articles from instructors, who have commented on the relative value of a research contribution, or who have questions the design and methodology of a particular study. And again, while in many cases while I have completely understood the rationale around these critiques, there have been other occasions where without this guidance, I probably would not have approached the contribution with the same level of healthy skepticism.
After taking this course (MDDE 602), and then following it on with a more advanced study of quantitative methods (MDDE 701), I now feel more confident in my role as part of a research team. I feel that my contributions to the development of research questions will be more meaningful in future (5, 1). I believe that my review of the literature will be more informed and that I will be better equipped to discern the significant of previous contributions (5,4), and that despite the fact that this assignment only asked me to do so for a single article, I can apply these learnings more broadly in the future (5, 8; 5, 3; 5, 6). I will now understand more completely the outputs from various analyses, and then evaluate their implications (5, 3). When I lead focus groups in the future, my reporting of outcomes will be based on more than simple instinct - I will ask better questions, and approach the outputs in a more systematic way toward providing confident evidence-based conclusions (5, 9).
More, I now feel confident that, despite not pursing the thesis route for this program, that I am well-equipped to form my own independent research undertakings (5, 1; 5, 2). Instead of contributing the rationale and literature review to a research ethics board proposal, I will now feel self-assured that the protocol *is* ethical and follows the stated guidelines (5, 11). Recently, since taking these courses, I have been asked to supervise a graduate student conducting analysis for a project. I was able to actually teach this person how to use SPSS, something I never thought I would be in a position to do! (5, 2). I knew exactly what tests were relevant for our needs, and was able to quickly and confidently review the outputs and explain whether the findings were significant (5, 6; 5, 7). What I have discovered is that I actually LOVE the research process - I am endlessly fascinated by this discovery and sharing of knowledge, and I look forward to continuing to make contributions in this way (5, 7; 5, 8). And so while I still at times have doubts as to whether I should have written a thesis, I am positive that my research journey is only just beginning.
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