Academic skills development for online Masters courses

Alison Clapp, Lecturer

Graduate School 

Faculty of Medical Sciences

What did you do?

I developed an informal online module for academic skills development for online Masters students, made available to students in the FMS Graduate School taking online taught masters courses.

Who is involved?

Mrs Alison Clapp, e-Learning lecturer and team member FMS Graduate School

How did you do it?

As part of my PhD studies into student development for online learning I created an online module in the FMS Ngage content management system as an informal resource for distance Masters students. It is available to all online taught Masters students in the FMS Graduate School via a link in Blackboard.

It consists of a series of topics designed to develop the academic skills of students studying at a distance. They include literature searches and management, academic writing, avoiding plagiarism and presenting to audiences. Also included are some resources for time management and more pastoral elements such as avoiding stress.


Screenshot from online course. The section shown covers pointers about academic writing. and gives a list of bullet points that students could think about when writing academically. This includes points about structure, acronyms and referencing.













It is designed so students have the information in one place and can dip in and out of it as and when required.

The resource will be enlarged and updated as needed.

Why did you do it?

Since 2013-4 I have been conducting action research on subsequent cohorts of students taking an MRes course with the taught component entirely online, run by a partnership of Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield Universities. After the first cohort, it was evident that some help for academic skills development was necessary online for students at a distance, unable to access on-campus offerings. Each year a further intervention was created to enable students to develop their identity as independent researchers, which requires competence in academic skills. This has led to an entire ‘’module’’ on Ngage being developed.

Does it work?

Students are generally enthusiastic about the resource, saying they find it useful, especially just before assignments are due.

Interested in finding out more?

Go to this link: and access using your university login.

Please do send feedback!

Contact details

Image of Alison Clapp 

Alison Clapp, FMS Graduate School





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