Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dissertation Assessment Criteria

What are some of the criteria that are used to assess dissertations? Here are 7 criteria proposed by Mubanga Changala of the University of Zambia as I penned down the notes in my MBA class in 2006.

1. The purpose of the research is clear in terms of reference and objectives.

2. Clear and good choice of methodology.

3. Application of theory i.e. quality of literature review. Does theory reflect standard of a Master's

4. Quality of data collection and analysis i.e. reliability and validity: testing what you purported to be

5. Coherence of arguments i.e. argue with purpose, understanding and insight.

6. Clear conclusions and recommendations. Recommendations are action plans.

7. Good and clear presentation.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Characteristics of a Dissertation

What are the characteristics of a Dissertation? Well here are 7 characteristics that were presented in a lecture by Mr Changala to our MBA class of 2004 when I was studying with Management College of Southern Africa (MANCOSA). I hope you find them useful.

Characteristics of a Dissertation
1. An independent piece of work.
2. Shows detailed knowledge and understanding. It needs detail with a minimum of 35 references and
     maximum of 100 references.
3. Shows critical and analytical thinking.
4. It illustrates the context of academic knowledge.
5. Has a high standard of communication.
6. Demonstrates original work and research.
7. Has an academic approach i.e. it is an academic document and must have appropriate format following accepted traditions of referencing styles. It should always include a bibliography and should   normally be written in a very formal style using the third person.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

My MBA Graduate Profile

A Brief Synopsis of my Dissertation

Challenges and Opportunities of Women Entrepreneurs in Zambia

My research investigated the investigated the challenges and opportunities faced by thirty-five women entrepreneurs in Zambia. The research also established the effects on business management in general and entrepreneurship development in particular. The literature review indicated the following challenges for women entrepreneurs: cultural perceptions, access to capital, access  to  markets,  access  to  networks,  gender  stereo  types  and  inadequate  business education. In Zambia, the literature review identified the following challenges for women entrepreneurs:  lack  of  business  training/skills  and  experience,  bureaucratic  business registration systems and negative attitudes by society towards women in business. 

Furthermore, the literature review indicated that women entrepreneurs face a number of opportunities.  These  ranged  from  support  from  women's  associations,  gender  policies, business opportunities in various sectors and international trading opportunities. Women entrepreneurs needed to take advantage of these opportunities to grow their businesses. The study largely used the inductive approach with the deductive approach also used to collect and analyse data. The inductive approach was selected in preference to the deductive approach where it is difficult to define the control groups. Within the inductive approach a questionnaire was used as it was most suitable for this type of study.

The target population in the research was made up of all potential participants that formed the group to be studied. In this study the target population was the women entrepreneurs with registered business in the Lusaka Province of Zambia. A total of 35 out of 40 women entrepreneurs included in the sample responded to the questionnaire. This represented a response rate of 88 percent. The study focused on the challenges and opportunities of Zambian women entrepreneurs. Consequently, the questionnaire was designed to obtain the views of women entrepreneurs, policy makers and women business associations. The questionnaire was meant to help women entrepreneurs reflect on their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

The research found that women entrepreneurs faced the following challenges: access to finances,  access  to  information  which  has  led  to  poor  business  decisions,  access  to technology which resulted in low quality products and competition from well-established male  dominated  businesses.  Other  challenges  are  family  commitments  which  led  to demand  in allocation of  time and resources  required  for business growth,inadequate business support services from associations and relevant government ministries which led to stagnated  businesses,  recruiting  and  managing  the  right  staff  which  led  to  low competitiveness with competitors.  

The study recommended improved access to information, finances and technology through interventions from business support providers and the government. Other recommendations are business support programmes in business training and networking, HIV/AIDS interventions and improved human resource management and marketing strategies. In addition an effective and suitable regulatory and legal framework in order to operate effectively and efficiently were also recommended. 

My MBA Experience at Mancosa
The course work in my MBA studies from 2004 to 2006 with the Management College of Southern Africa (http://www.mancosa.co.za) where I did 13 modules (2 of them being electives in Entrepreneurship and International Marketing) was very interesting especially when researching for assignments and exams. I appreciated the value of small group study groups when preparing for exams and assignments  My dissertation supervisor: Professor Rosh Maharaj though based in Durban whilst I was in Lusaka provided me valuable guidance in my research enabling me to pass with a distinction. My graduation at the International Conference Centre in Durban, South Africa was a crowning moment after years of hard work,

What I gained from MBA
The MBA taught me to reflect on my thinking and also to always blend theory and practice when looking at management problems. I also learnt the value of pain staking research. I also learnt the value of perseverance as many times I felt like giving up in my course work and dissertation. My work involves the developing of programmes for entrepreneurship development of youths, women and those in the informal sector. My dissertation enabled me to have a much deeper understanding and experience of the challenges and opportunities faced by women entrepreneurs in Zambia. My appreciation of the critical role that women entrepreneurs play in national development has continued to grow as a result of my MBA research. I have also been able to supervise more than thirty MBA students since 2008.  Lastly, the skills I learnt in report writing have been very useful in my day to day work. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

How Do I Stay Motivated in my Dissertation Writing?

I think at one point most postgraduate students come to a point where they ask themselves: Is it worth continuing with my research or I should just give it up? The following article from the Royal Literary Fund is quite helpful as it shares some experiences of postgrad students who almost thre in the towel but then found ways of staying motivated.

"I remember meeting a PhD student who had been working on her thesis for years. ‘Eighty thousand words is a lot of words,’ she said. The next day I was talking with a journalist who had been commissioned to do a local-history brochure. ‘It's only 12,000 words,’ he told me. ‘I can knock that out in a weekend if I have to.’ The difference was one of attitude."
"Writing is a hard way not to make a living."

"At the end of the second year of doing my PhD, I took the summer off to write a cricket book that I had always wanted to write. It was helpful, not because anything was going wrong with the PhD, but because it gave me a break. I was doing my PhD full-time and it was quite alarming to have a huge block of undiluted time on one thing, whereas normally I was so used to weaving my writing around work. My situation was different to some people's in that I was 28 when I began my PhD and I had already written three books. But even so doing the thesis was difficult. It was fantastically liberating having all this time but life being what it is you sometimes crave for distractions. And I think it was helpful to have a break for a few months, write a cricket book, and come back fresh."

"Obviously there are people who are enthusiastic about your work. I think it's really important to keep talking about your work to people in the area, but not really talking to people outside the area because you need the in-depth intellectual perspectives to keep your enthusiasm up."

"I think the lowest part was the second year, and I was considering ditching it and getting an MPhil. The ‘What am I going to do with a PhD?’ question really came up in my mind. And ‘Is it actually going to help me with what I want to do with my career?’ But I certainly didn't tell my supervisor this, so it didn't go as far as being a serious contention. I think people say that the second year is a difficult one: You're still putting together your research design; You don't really feel like you can get to a point where you've found something that's worth reporting; You wonder if you're actually going to discover this unique contribution to knowledge that is required of you."

"I was doing other research projects, but I don't think I could have done it any other way. I think that doing other research projects widened my perspective. It gave me something else to do. I could say to myself, ‘I'm being paid to do this research, I'm going to spend three months on this and leave my PhD for that time.’ I think it's very difficult if you don't have anything else to do. I have often heard from other students – students who've had a baby for instance – that they have their PhD in perspective; it's not the most daunting thing in the world. But of course it's very difficult to hold down a job and do a PhD. And the only kind of job you can hold down when doing a PhD is one like mine where it's within the same area, where the work and working hours are compatible. I could go back to my PhD when I wanted to."

Source: http://goo.gl/1Wbmc 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Consulting my Dissertation Supervisor

I am currently at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town to meet with my Masters in Education, Information Communication Technologies supervisor Dr. Cheryl Brown. I have been in Cape Town since 2nd February. I spent the first week using the University Library to fill up gaps in my Literature Review. The library is well stocked and has very good books suitable for my study topic: “Challenges and Enablers of e-Learning Policy Implementation in Vocational Training Institutions in Zambia”. In the second week, I have started my meetings consulting my supervisor on my dissertation updating her on the work I have covered so far and what my gaps are so far.

At the first meeting, my supervisor and I agree: that the focus for the work to be covered this week is: filling in the gaps in my Literature review and clarifying how I will approach my data analysis. Dr Brown said she would send me useful articles to fill in some gaps I have in my Literature Review.
  • During our meeting she noted that I needed to avoid mixing data collection with what is in my Literature Review.
  • I also need to check that the concepts and my research title are covered in my Literature Review.
  • There is also need to search for works by T. Unwin who has done a lot of work around surveying e-Learning in Africa.
  • My Literature review would also have to ensure that ‘Diffusion in Innovation’ is included in my Conceptual Framework.
  • I would also need to go back to research proposal and see how I said I would analyse my data.
  • Dr Brown also gave an example of how useful Excel can be used to organise and analyse the collected data. 

Today, my focus is on checking how useful the articles that Dr. Brown sent me are in filling my Literature Review gaps and also how think on how I will use Diffusion of Innovation theory to analyse my collected data. I will also need to ensure that all references for my Literature Review are uploaded to my Vula site. At my next meeting with my supervisor, I can then update her on my progress and any challenges faced. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Time for Reflection: 2012 in Review

At the end of each year, it is a good practice to look back and reflect on one's achievements. This enable's one to make remedies where they have been shortfalls and also make improvements on where one has done well. The year 2012 was quite busy for me work-wise and academically. In terms of work, I was able to facilitate the finalisation of the development of a Strategy Paper for Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in the Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training (TEVET) sector. I was also able to facilitate the training of about 40 staff in the use of ICTs in teaching ODL. The training was conducted by Professor Dick Ng'ambi from the Centre for Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town. Towards the close of the year, I also facilitated the development of the Entrepreneurship Training Policy in TEVET. I also took part in Training Needs Analysis for programmes to be offered at the institutions that will be established in Mwense and Lundazi. Other activities were conducting of M & E for the TEVET Financing Strategy in selected TEVET institutions and also M & E for implementation of ODL in institutions under my Ministry. I was also part of the team that finalised the national ODL policy under SADC sponsorship and the merged policies in Education, TEVET and Science and Technology. 

In terms of Conference paper presentations and publications, I presented a paper on: Analysis of e-Learning Policies in Zambia using Critical Discourse Analysis at the 7th eLearning Africa Conference in Benin. I also presented a paper on Analysis of ODL Policies in Zambia using Critical Discourse Analysis at the first International ODL Conference in South Africa hosted by the University of South Africa (UNISA). I also attended the 9th Annual Entrepreneurship Conference in November Uganda hosted by Makerere Business School of Uganda and also attended the official opening and closing of the Commonwealth Association of Polytechnics in Africa (CAPA). I also participated in an online conference called e/Merge 2012. It was one of the best online Conferences I have attended on issues of e-Learning. I had a paper accepted for presentation and discussion during this Conference.

In my part-time job with the Management College of Southern Africa in South Africa, four MBA students, whom I had supervised in their MBA research graduated in Durban and Johannesburg. It is always a joy when I successfully supervise a student up to the time they graduate because it is never an easy road for most students who have to juggle their time with being employers, family men or women and students. Some almost feel like giving up. But I am very sure the joy of them graduating makes them realise that it was worth persevering to the way to the end! 

In terms of my blog writing on my general blog: www.gabrielkonayuma.blogpspot.com, I wrote 10 blog articles which was not very good as that translates to an average of 1 blog per month. I would like to increase to 2 blogs per month this year. On my professional blog on issues in education and training, I wrote 4 blogs, 1 of them being from a friend. I need to write more this year especially on issues of e-Learning, Open and Distance Learning and Entrepreneurship. 

Lastly, as a student at the University of Cape Town, I passed my Research proposal and began working on my MPhil. ICTs in Education dissertation: "Enablers and Challenges of e-Learning Policy Implementation in Vocational Training in Zambia" supervised by Dr, Cheryl Brown. By the end of the year, I had started my data collection and my literature review. I had planned to have done my research methodology by the end of the year though. I plan to complete my dissertation and submit by end of March this year so that I graduate in June this year. That will mean better time management and fewer hours of sleep -:) . 

Festival of eLearning Conference kicks off

The Festival of e-Learning officially started yesterday. The Festival of eLearning is an opportunity to deepen the network of e-Learning ex...