Supervising and Writing a Good Undergraduate Dissertation

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The considerable increase in numbers of students required to complete undergraduate dissertations as part of their curricula demonstrates a clear need for supporting academic staff from a wide ...
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Reimagining Dissertation Support within Online Communities of Practice

Pp. 216-232 (17)

Linda Clarke

Abstract

The outset of this chapter acknowledges the intrinsic tension in using an online community to support dissertation writing. Whilst it is envisaged that each individual student will have an individual supervisor/tutor, a carefully constructed and managed online learning environment can incorporate both individual and collaborative learning elements. Communities of practice (CoP) theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998) and Wenger’s most recent work on digital habitats (Wenger, White & Smith, 2009) are combined to achieve an innovative reimagining of how, where and when learning takes place. This chapter proposes that some of the learning around the dissertation process might be supported within an online CoP in which undergraduates can learn from sharing each other’s practice (research, resources, writing), a form of social constructivism. Such a course would be predicated on tutors providing students with an explanation of both the expected approach to learning and eliciting explicit student ‘buy in’ to the synergistic collaborative learning approach which is at the core of such learning. The digital habitat consists of:

The Tools Landscape which is focused on how the course tools (blogs, wikis, discussion fora) support the rhythms and interactions of members of the course community of practice.

The Course Landscape which is constructed from the perspective of the course tutor, and is designed to assist the tutor in the practical business of course design. It is based on the roles of students and tutors in relation to each course component and the extent to which components are unique to one cohort or shared across cohorts.

Keywords:

Blogs, collaboration, community of practice, digital habitat, discussion fora, dissertation, rhythms, online, social constructivism, wikis.

Affiliation:

School of Education, University of Ulster, UK.