Sunday, 28 February 2016

Experiences Beyond the Aura Programme’s Research One (R1) Learning Intervention

The implementation of the AURA progamme at Strathmore has become a reality. By September, 2015, the participants had already engaged in various online activities such as: the diagnostic and pre-online learning session undertaken in preparation for face to face learning (The face to face learning took place at Strathmore from 30 September to 2nd October 2015.)  What follows are reflections on the approaches, processes and methodologies encountered in the learning interventions.

Blended learning approaches

The implementation of the AURA programme has involved a blended learning approach complementing face to face interactions with online experience. The main benefit of this blended learning approach is that the participants have the possibility of internalizing, and practicing, specific skills from the interactions between themselves and the facilitators. Non-mediated human interaction has a special element that cannot be bridged effectively by technology hence combining face to face with the online learning. This approach could be one of the key factors contributing to the effectiveness of the AURA programme in transforming participants’ research practices.

Benefits of a diagnostic process to customize content

In the process of the face to face delivery, it emerged that there was a difficulty in maintaining the consistent participation by senior researchers, who were of the opinion that the sessions did not address their specific capacity building concerns but were more focused on the needs of young scholars.

An attempt had been made to ensure that the content would appeal to a mixed audience, but it was difficult in practice to achieve this objective without a deliberate content re-design prior to running the intervention. This highlights the benefit of the diagnostic process in customizing content and demonstrates that poor participation in this process may have contributed to the problem of the undifferentiated content arising in the first place.

Using an experiential learning facilitation methodology

The experiential learning facilitation methodology that was employed by the AURA team is the enduring strength of the face to face intervention. This methodology is learner-centred and successfully engaged the faculty, who themselves are teachers in their own disciplines and can be highly critical of traditional teacher-centred approaches.. The assessment of learning at the end each day, using the reflective journal, is a best practice tool that helped participants internalize and document their personal learning. The R1 face to face learning is a valuable precursor to, and has raised expectations for, the forthcoming teaching intervention which will be rolled out in 2016.

The other appealing, and motivating, aspect of the AURA programme learning interventions is the practical assistance the participants received through detailed feedback on their assignments from enthusiastic professors in the AURA network. An opportunity presented by the GKEN4Africa 5th International Multidisciplinary Conference 2015  for two participants from Strathmore to showcase their “work in progress” – this opportunity has further fuelled the excitement of other participants.

Future considerations

Looking to the future, it is anticipated that individualised attention to the participants will be critical in achieving the anticipated programme results, such as publications. This is a strong learning point that Strathmore University would like to carry into its internal capacity building programmes for teaching and research.

Stephen Ng’ang’a and Cavin Opiyo are based at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, Thank you. Wonder whether by increasing the number of participants (MOOC-like program) it could be possible to generate sub-groups with similar experiences or research interest, and by that way appealing to all possible participants.
    Any experience on that?