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This chapter discusses the use of on-line materials to enhance the student’s dissertation experience. This project began in the School of Hospitality Management and Tourism in 2009 partly as a reaction to the fact that from that September the final years of all honours degree programmes would complete a dissertation. This necessitated a more structured approach to the management of this process and also meant that supervisors would be supervising many more students than heretofore. As part of this new system it was decided to investigate the possibility of developing on-line support materials which would be available to all students in conjunction with the support that their supervisor would provide.
In the current academic year such resources are being made available on a weekly basis. They primarily take the form of video podcasts. These materials have two objectives. Firstly they impart important information which is relevant to the stage in the process at which they should be that week. This includes for example video interviews regarding how to write a questionnaire, a discussion regarding the role of supervisors and how to read critically. But the second objective is equally as important and that is to motivate the students and to keep them on track. For this reason the resource is released every Monday morning with the intention of reminding them of the tasks they need to conduct for their dissertation this week and to motivate them. Examples of materials in this regard include the first video about the challenges of the dissertation and how to overcome them and another video interview with the Counselling service in DIT, relating to getting back on track after first semester exams and how to manage your time and motivate yourself.
This chapter discusses the process by which the resources were developed, presents examples of materials that have been used successfully and engages in an analysis of how the success of such materials can be measured. The experience and views of students are also incorporated in the chapter as a key way of evaluating the tools.
This chapter will be of interest to supervisors and those managing the dissertation process in their own institutions. It provides ideas of how on-line resources can be utilised effectively for this purpose and also makes the resources that have been developed to date available for those who wish to use them. The challenge of changing technology, changing students, changing institutional environments and independent research necessitates supervisors to think beyond traditional ways of engaging with students, not necessarily replacing the personal contact that is an important part of this process but about ways to supplement this contact. This chapter contributes to this thinking by outlining and evaluating the first efforts of doing this in one institution.
Mottiar, Z (2013) Using online support materials to enhance the student's dissertation experience in Donnelly, R, Dallat, J and Fitzmaurice, M, Supervising and writing a good undergraduate dissertation. Betham Publishing, 2013.