Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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Succeeding in postgraduate study

Session 1: The nature of Master’s-level study


Welcome to the course Succeeding in postgraduate study.

In this first session we will be taking a look at Master’s-level study and how it differs from undergraduate study. We will consider some of the requirements and demands of studying at this level, explore the different types and purpose of Master’s degrees, and look at some of the characteristics expected of Master’s graduates – those who have successfully completed a Master’s degree programme.

Before we begin, please watch this short video in which the course authors, Eric Addae-Kyeremeh and Payam Rezaie, introduce you to Session 1.

Download this video clip.Video player: Session 1 introduction
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Transcript: Session 1 introduction

Welcome to this new badged open course on succeeding in postgraduate study produced by the Open University. I'm Eric Addae-Kyeremeh. And I'm a Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for the Master's in Education programme at the Open University.
And I'm Payam Rezaie. I'm a Reader and the Programme Director for the Science Master's programme at the OU.
Between us, we have more than 30 years of experience in teaching postgraduate students, producing and leading qualifications across different programmes at the OU and elsewhere.
We designed this course to help students who want to pursue Master's-level study to be better prepared for success. The course serves to bridge the gap between undergraduate and postgraduate study. It also serves as a useful induction to postgraduate study.
It will help you to become familiar with the requirements and demands of postgraduate study and to develop the skills and confidence to pursue your learning further.
The course is divided into eight, approximately three-hour sessions, so 24 hours of study in total. It broadly covers four themes. These focus on key aspects of postgraduate study, including the nature of Master's-level study, essential information and digital literacy skills for postgraduate study, understanding critical thinking, analysis and reflection, and applying critical and reflective thinking in academic and professional contexts.
The sessions will develop your understanding of the challenges of demonstrating critical awareness of a subject area, help you to reflect on and communicate your understanding, make use of appropriate evidence such as scholarly literature, and consider some of the conventions for critiquing academic writing. You'll understand the need to draw on theories, models, frameworks, and evidence to support your writing, compare contrasting theoretical arguments, and explain convincingly why you find an argument, a position, or standpoint particularly compelling. You'll also learn to plan and manage your studies and reflect on your own learning. Parts of this course will also introduce you to aspects of studying for a Master's by distance learning and communicating in an online learning environment.
Once you successfully complete this course, you can gain a digital badge and a statement of participation as a record of your achievement. You can use this as evidence of your independent learning and commitment to continuing your personal and professional development.
Quizzes at the end of each session will help you to gauge and reflect on your learning as you make progress through the course. There are two assessment points that count towards the digital badge-- an interim assessment at the end of Session 4 and a final assessment at the end of Session 8. These badge assessments comprise two online quizzes. And you will need to score at least 50 per cent in both assessments in order to gain your badge. You can find out more details on assessment in the introduction guidance notes.
Throughout the course, you'll be required to read online, watch short video clips and presentations, listen to audio recording, search for information from internet sources, and reflect on your learning. It is therefore important to dedicate sufficient time for these activities.
The course is written with a worldwide audience in mind. Although we draw on UK and European higher education frameworks and standards for this course, the principles and guidelines do apply to most universities and colleges worldwide.
We've been limited in what we can cover on a 24 hour course. So we've provided a list of further reading, as well as links to various other useful resources should you want to explore these further.
Succeeding in postgraduate study can be started at any time. But if you're planning to move on to postgraduate studies soon, do make sure that you complete this course well in advance of the start date for your postgraduate course. You can study the course at your own pace. But we would encourage you to maintain a study schedule and plan your study time. We've provided further guidance on this in the accompanying introductory notes, so please do have a look at those.
We hope that you find this course informative and helpful and wish you the very best with your studies.
All the best.
End transcript: Session 1 introduction
Session 1 introduction
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Please note that the ‘accompanying introductory notes’ mentioned in the video refer to this page in the Introduction and guidance section [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Having viewed the video, you should now have a good impression of what this course sets out to achieve, how this suits your particular study needs, and how it will enable you to be better prepared for postgraduate study. Just to reaffirm, throughout this course when we refer to ‘postgraduate study’, we mean Master’s-level or equivalent study undertaken as part of a taught postgraduate programme (PGCert, PGDip, MSc, MA, MBA), and not ‘research’ degrees (MPhil or PhD) per se. However, the fundamental principles and core study skills that are discussed here do also apply more generally, including to research degree programmes.

Moving on to postgraduate study can seem daunting at first, particularly if you are returning to study after an extended break. We want to reassure you right from the start – you shouldn’t be put off if you find, as you work through the course, that you are not confident in your abilities or understanding in some areas. Our aim throughout this course is not only to help you gain a better understanding of the requirements and demands of studying at Master’s level, but also to provide you with practical advice, and essential tools that will build on your existing capabilities, and support you to develop your skills and the confidence to pursue your learning further. Activities within this session will specifically help you to check your expectations, evaluate your readiness, and develop key skills (such as prioritising tasks, managing your study time, and personal development planning) that will ensure you are both well-informed and well-prepared for postgraduate study. Towards the end of this session, we will also introduce you to some aspects of studying for a Master’s by distance learning, as an option that may suit your personal lifestyle and career goals. We discuss some of the benefits as well as the pressures of studying online, and take a look at certain misconceptions around distance and online learning.

By the end of this session you should be able to:

  • understand the requirements and demands of academic study at Master’s level
  • understand the nature of distance learning on a Master’s programme
  • plan your studies to suit your work−life situation and optimise your study time.

The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations for the course before you begin, in our optional start-of-course survey. Participation will be completely confidential and we will not pass on your details to others.

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