Experience of a Visiting Scholar

The Sino-British Trust provided me with a perfect opportunity for my research. I have been given the opportunity to participate in the Beyond Distance Research Alliance (BDRA, now Institute of Learning Innovation) of the University of Leicester (UoL) as a visiting scholar from October 2012 to February 2013. My visit to the University of Leicester was an excellent and rewarding opportunity to work in a lively, critical and highly international environment, which contributed to expanding my horizons as a researcher. Personally, this four-month visit allowed me to get additional energy that will help me to carry on with my research in the fields of E-learning and critical studies on Project Based Learning (PBL). This was indeed an extremely intellectually challenging and productive period.

At BDRA I was provided with excellent research facilities. Further, the academic environment was of extreme importance. The frequent engagement and discussions with the colleagues of BDRA and the researchers from UoL are a key element. All the events gave me an excellent opportunity to discuss my research project in detail, hear about other fellow scholars and researchers and their fields of study, and exchange views and experience. I also invited some of my colleagues and students to take part in a survey on iTunes U.

During my time at BDRA, I was able to study in depth some central aspects of PBL and its realization through online scenarios, especially those pertaining to the theoretical basis of my research. Profiting from the broad collection of books, journals and current articles available in the university’s libraries, and from the chance to meet and exchange ideas with professional colleagues working on e-learning and technology enhanced learning, I managed to improve my research report and to strengthen its main ideas, which focus  on the topic of “ E-tivities embedded in Projected Based Learning scenario used in online vocational education”. I also had the opportunity to learn from a European Commission-funded project on Problem-Based Learning called SCENE during my stay at here.

Hengjun giving a presentation at BDRA

Hengjun giving a presentation at BDRA

In addition to completing the research report for which the fellowship was granted and building a framework of Project Based Learning scenarios used in online vocational education, during my stay I attended the following events taking place within the University:

  • Distance learning and technology workshop for the delegates from the Open University of China (OUC), in Leicester, 23 Nov, 2012.
  • Workshop: changing conceptions of online distance education for the 21st century, in Open University, 27 Nov, 2012.
  • Internal conference: Learning and Teaching Conference, 10 Jan, 2013.
  •  Leading & Motivation others workshop, 14 Jan, 2013.
  • Writing for Business workshop, 22 Jan, 2013.
  • The Ethics of: Ethics and Online Research workshop, 23 Jan, 2013.
  • Blackboard Content Creation workshop, 30 Jan, 2013.
  • BDRA’s doctoral research group meetings

My visit to the BDRA gave a significant boost to the development of my research. I will share my work with my colleagues in China. And I will continue my research on E-learning and its application in vocational education. I intend to finish my work as follows:

  • Submit a piece of journal paper focus on Project Based Learning and its application in vocational education, in collaboration with Dr. Palitha Edirisingha.
  •  Finish a piece of conference article concerns the E-learning and Project Based learning.
  • Build an online PBL scenario about logistic information collection.

Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues of BDRA for allowing me to work in such an interesting, inter-disciplinary and transnational environment. I am truly grateful to everyone and in particular, to my tutor – Dr. Palitha Edirisingha. I am so grateful for his hospitality, support and advice on my research. I also learned from Professor David Hawkridge, a visiting professor at BDRA, who has been involved in setting up CRTVU in China. A word of appreciation is also due to Dr Ming Nie, Dr Paul Rudman, Gabi Witthaus, Terese Bird, PhD students and other unnamed colleagues for your hospitable assistance. I enjoyed our discussions, and the intellectually rich and friendly times we shared.

 Thank you all.

– Dr.   Hengjun Zhao

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