A few days ago, the smart people at TechChange featured an interesting end-of-the-year post: ‘How to Make Online Learning a Career-Boosting Habit’. This inspired me to think about some of the similarities and differences between various forms of online learning.
As ComDev is about to start a new term with a fresh cohort of students and the application deadline for autumn 2015 is also approaching fast I wanted to share some of my insights after teaching ComDev for just over 1.5 years now:

  1. Define your end goal

This should be a no-brainer: Get an MA after two years of part-time studies.
But quite a few students who are admitted to our course do not reach this goal-or at least not within the ideal time frame of four semesters. Job changes, live, children and moves happen and you need to ask yourself how dedicated you are to completing a 60 ECTS MA program.
As I highlight in point 4, you will get the most out of the program if you follow the timeline and participate as much as possible in the regular teaching and learning activities and stay connected to the course and its virtual and physical environment in the Öresund region of Denmark and Sweden.

  1. The chances and limitations of online flexibility

Unlike other online courses, the ComDev MA, although entirely web-based and 50% part-time, is not 100% flexible and not 100% an individualized learning program. Even if this sounds much more bureaucratic than we actually work and think, but at the end of the day this is a regular MA program offered by a Swedish Higher Education institution-it just so happens that the classroom is virtual.
While you can access recorded lectures, the learning platform or digital content from the university library 24/7, we do require different forms of group work, peer reviews of assignments and individual assignments ranging from traditional written essays and home exams to blog posts and presentations. We also invite you to join us for teaching days, seminars and social events in Malmö and we frequently travel, e.g. promoting and living the Glocal Classroom. I know that there is a strong student and alumni presence in Stockholm which organizes get-togethers, but if you are planning to have an after work drink in your city-let us know and we are happy to promote the event and may even try to join you for a beer or coffee!
In short, we are trying our best to facilitate a global virtual classroom that comes with the full rights and responsibilities of any other higher education studies environment. You and the teachers have the right to enjoy a long summer holiday-and the responsibility to deal with a higher workload at peak times, for example at the end of the terms in December/January and April/May.

  1. Schedule in your online learning time like you’d schedule a meeting.

On the one hand I agree with TechChange on the importance of setting aside time for (online) learning:

‘According to Lauren Bailey, it is very important to “be diligent and set aside time every day to log into the course — even if you can only spend 20 minutes. Try to attend live events and make sure to ask questions that enhance the discussion.”’

But on the other hand, I also think that this issue highlights an important difference between a task-based course and the long term learning goals of a postgraduate program. You also need time to read, think, explore the literature, prioritize readings that you consider interesting and relevant and then start the read, think, …circle again. In the age of Internet, eBooks, journal articles and e-reader friendly resources there is essentially no excuse for not taking advantage of the (digital) library. And dealing with an abundance of information, making sense of all the ‘data’ is a skill you will need to master in the 21st century-and our program will enhance your digital literacy.

  1. Make connections by participating as much as you can

Again, I pretty much agree with TechChange on this point.
One challenge is that most of the admission process is conducted by Sweden’s central university admission institution which means that we at ComDev know very little about new students when they commence their studies. Through introductions in the work groups, online lectures or questions on our learning platform we get to know quite a few students, but what I personally find challenging is that we often miss out on the office hour, cafeteria or after classroom interactions that most on-campus programs provide. I personally enjoy feedback-what worked well last week, what question was not answered and is volunteering for organization x, y or z a good idea? Attending our 1-2 day teaching seminars or just dropping by when you live in or visit the Öresund region are very much encouraged and appreciated. This also applies to our growing network outside the formal teaching activities, e.g. our facebook page, student and alumni group or LinkedIn group.

I realize that I tend to describe a model scenario and that staying engaged in a demanding course that requires some structure and discipline is not always possible with every student. But given the context of a ‘proper’ postgraduate degree program offered by a creative, fairly young and fairly unstuffy Swedish university we can also offer quite a lot and, as the name suggests, communicating about your own professional or organizational development is as much part of the package as reading a novel, working on a group blogging project or submitting an academic thesis.

If you are a current student or alumni and think that I missed something-post a comment or send us a message!
Also, if you studied other online courses and found certain tools and approaches helpful we would love to hear from you!

Tobias Denskus is a Senior Lecturer in Communication for Development and currently also the program coordinator for the MA in ComDev. He mostly blogs as Aidnography and can also be followed on Twitter.

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MA in Communication for Development (60 ECTS)

Communication for Development is an interdisciplinary field of study and practice, combining studies in culture, communication and development integrated with practical fieldwork. It explores the use of communication – both as a tool and as a way of articulating processes of social change – within the context of globalisation.

The MA in Communication for Development (ComDev) is a one-year web-based programme running part-time over two years. During the first year, students receive a comprehensive overview of globalisation and an introduction to the field of Communication for Development. In the second year, students are introduced to the use of new media and ICT in a development context and receive a thorough introduction to research methodologies in order to prepare them for their thesis.

ComDev attracts students from all corners of the world and it is particularly popular with those working within the field of communication and development or in civil society organisations. There are close to 200 graduates from the programme and future employment includes working with professional media companies, international organisations and going on to PhD-studies.

“Because the course is for targeting people already in the C4D field there was a lot of experience among the students, which was shared and discussed and became part of the very dynamic learning environment.”   ComDev graduate (2010)

report2ComDev was a pioneer in the use of internet-based learning, using online platforms to make education available to students globally and offers a unique blend of distance- and campus-based learning. From the start, the backbone of the programme has been a pedagogical approach referred to as Convergence Pedagogy. The concept was coined and is continuously developed by the ComDev staff and utilises the advantages that the online environment offers in terms of students connecting with fellow students around the world mixed with onsite seminar weekends where students get a chance to meet and interact in person. Lectures and seminars are planned to allow students participating in different time zones. This learning environment, based on the group dynamic that potentiates the participants’ own resources, is described as the Glocal Classroom and allows students based in different countries to interact and conduct group assignments with their peers: from South Korea to Brazil and South Africa to Sweden.

The programme prioritise embracing the global when planning for seminars and to date ComDev has held seminars in India, South Africa and Tanzania to name a few. For 2014, seminars are planned to take place in Australia, Canada and South Africa as well as in Malmö, and students are encouraged to attend the seminars in person if they have the opportunity.

“Meeting staff and fellow students during the oral examination seminar in Malmö was a great experience … I also very much appreciated the respectful and friendly atmosphere among teachers and students.”   ComDev graduate (2013)

How to Apply

The application window for the MA programme in Communication in Development closes on 15 January 2015 for autumn 2015 admission. More information on how to apply can be found on the University Admission’s official website. In English, and in Swedish.

MAH_logotype_english_originalIt’s almost time to kick off the semester and we are happy to welcome so many new students to the ComDev programme! This spring you’ll start off with a course in communication, culture and media analysis where you’ll be introduced to the understandings of communication and communication strategies in the area of Communication for Development, and the course provides an opportunity for the in-depth analysis of the discourse and practice of ComDev. For this course new students are joined by our students starting their second semester.

Under the Course start guide you’ll find useful information regarding your studies with ComDev. Take a few minutes to read it through in preparation for the start of the semester.

We also welcome back the second year students who will spend this semester emerging themselves in the study of new media, ICT and development followed by a course in research methodology. Our forth semester students will dive into their final thesis – the degree projects. We’re excited to see the outcome!

If you can’t wait for semester to start, here are a few tips for you to check out over the holidays:

square6The Glocal Classroom
Is a ComDev project where we work with four universities on four continents to build a global platform for collaboration and interchange in web-based learning. It started in Stellenbosch, South Africa in March 2014, before continuing in Guelph, Canada, in May 2014. In September the Glocal Classroom will come to Malmö, Sweden and the project will conclude at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, in November. Be sure to visit the blog for updates on the seminars, interviews with participants on the project and other news!

Ørecomm Centre for Glocal Change
Is a cross-border centre run by researchers from Malmö University and Roskilde University aiming at establishing a transnational centre of excellence in the field of ComDev research. Ørecomm is the organiser of the annual Ørecomm Festival, which this year is titled Voice&Matter. ComDev staff is an active part of Ørecomm and in 2014/2015 engaged in the Critical Perspectives project.

Glocal Times: the ComDev Open Journal
In 2005 we established Glocal Times, an indispensable digital reference and a vid forum for the discussion and dissemination of issues concerning communication for development and social change. We frequently publish alumni articles and we encourage our graduates to submit articles based on their degree projects for publication. The latest issue was published in December 2014 and engages with communication for development from a threefold perspective: as a field of study, as professional practice and as an institutional project.

Aidnography-Eclectic mix of reflections on development, communication, anthropology and academia
ComDev’s Tobias Denskus regularly blogs as aidnography; regular reviews of interesting digital content and book reviews are complemented by reflections on the aid industry, for example on volunteering, the ‘corporatisation’ of aid, the globalisation of SWEDOW-sending Stuff We Don’t Want to ‘poor people‘ and much more.

Your ComDev Studies
To find out more about your lecturers for the coming years, visit the Staff section on the Portal and be sure to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. Looking forward meeting all of you in the course of next week!

comdev

ComDev students and lecturers at the Ørecomm Festival in September 2013.

New issue of Glocal Times!

by Rebecca Bengtsson December 11, 2014 ComDev

Issue No. 21 of the Glocal Times can be read in full here. Six months have passed since the publication of Issue No. 20 of Glocal Times. In the meantime there has been plenty of activity within the field, including the Voice & Matter conference, held in September of this year by the Ørecomm Centre […]

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ComDev alumni interviews: ComDev graduate completed her PhD

by Rebecca Bengtsson December 10, 2014 Alumni

Johanna Stenerson is one of the first ComDev graduates to complete their PhD. Johanna graduated from ComDev in 2006, and after having worked in Nicaragua as a programme analyst in a civil society organisation she was accepted for doctoral studies at Örebro University, Sweden. In November she defended her PhD thesis “Citizens in the Making. […]

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ComDev graduate Florencia Enghel defends her PhD thesis

by Rebecca Bengtsson December 8, 2014 Alumni

On 8 December, ComDev graduate and Glocal Times editor Florencia Enghel is defending her Phd thesis “Video letters, mediation and (proper) distance – A qualitative study of international development communication in practice” at Karlstad University. We’re wishing Florencia the best of luck for her defence! Florencia’s study scrutinizes the trajectory of an international development communication […]

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Malmö University Master’s Scholarships

by Rebecca Bengtsson December 3, 2014 ComDev

Malmö University offers talented international students a scholarship which covers between 75 and 100 percent of the tuition fee, which also applies to applicants to ComDev. APPLICATION ROUND OPEN The Malmö University Master’s Scholarship (MUMS) is for students who are citizens of a country outside the European Economic Area/Switzerland, have applied for an English-taught Master’s […]

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Glocal Classroom: Seminar at Flinders University

by Rebecca Bengtsson November 26, 2014 ComDev

Voices from Timor-Leste Seminar and Simulation Three days of intensive collaboration has come to an end – for now. Everyone agreed that both the seminar and the following simulation were successful, and that there lies a lot of potential in developing the concept further. Below are a few voices about the three days. A big thank […]

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The Glocal Classroom. Timor-Leste Intensive: 24-25 November 2014

by Rebecca Bengtsson November 11, 2014 ComDev

‘Timor-Leste – Challenges of a New State in the Asian Century’  The Flinders University contribution to the Glocal Classroom takes the form of an academic topic/seminar on Timor-Leste.  This is a young state, geographically close to Australia, and situated within a global context known as the Asian Century. See the full programme here: Flinders Glocal Classroom programme The seminar will […]

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Book release – the last book in Oscar Hemer’s Argentina trilogy launched today

by Rebecca Bengtsson November 5, 2014 ComDev

On 5 November, ComDev’s Oscar Hemer launched the concluding novel of the Argentina trilogy, Misiones, which he has been working on since 1997. The official launch took place at K3, the School of Arts and Communication. – It was with great joy that I returned to writing fiction after having spent a couple of year writing on my […]

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