General help – FAQs

Frequently asked questions

What computer skills do I need?

Every course unit on the MA DTCE assumes you have an everyday level of familiarity with: browsing the WWW; accessing and playing multimedia content through the WWW (e.g. video clips); moving, naming and organising files in Windows (or similar operating systems such as Mac OS or Linux); basic skills with Microsoft Word and Excel (or similar packages, for instance, Open Office); and email and other communications tools. Beyond that, no specific skills are required prior to starting on any course unit.

However, certain course units may introduce you to new skills (such as designing web pages, or using SPSS for data analysis) which you will then be expected to practice.

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What kind of computer equipment do I need?

If, in your everyday life, you regularly use a computer to access the Internet, including multimedia content such as video clips, then it will be good enough to use on this course. PCs using Windows, Linux, or Macs can all be used. However it should be pointed out that not all web browsers are compatible with all of the software used in parts of the course. Firefox should work with everything, however: we recommend the use of Firefox for both PCs (rather than IE) and Macs (rather than Safari): you can download this from http://www.mozilla.com.

A broadband Internet connection is desirable, but content has been designed to be accessible to those of you with dial-up connections. If you are on dial-up, let us know: it may be that we can supply bandwidth-heavy content to you on a CD-ROM, but it will help to let us know about this in advance. Some course units will send you such a CD as a matter of course.

You will need access to a printer. A microphone and headphones (or loudspeakers) are also essential. A web cam is helpful, but not essential, as is a digital camera (including those integrated into mobile phones). The only course unit which has additional requirements is the Introduction to Educational Video Production course unit, which requires you to have some kind of video recording device available.

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What about textbooks and other reading materials?

Occasionally, we will suggest you buy a copy of a particular book. For example, the teaching in the Researching DTCE course unit assumes you have access to a copy of Cohen, Manion and Morrison’s Research Methods in Education. This is only done rarely. If you have any difficulty acquiring copies of a set text, please let your course unit tutor know.

Mostly, access to reading is secured through electronic means, through the JRUL site or other electronic catalogues. However, please remember that most university libraries will grant access to their collections, at least for reference purposes (that is, you may be able to read books in the library, but not take them home). If you live reasonably near to a university then it will be worth asking them about this. Public libraries may also prove helpful, although they will take longer to get hold of more specialist books.

The JRUL offer a postal loans service known as DELIVER. As they say:

The service aims to send library materials to students and staff of The University of Manchester when it is not possible, or convenient, to call into the library in person…. [you can request] photocopies of journal articles or book chapters, which you may keep. We will supply these from the Library’s own stock or via the British Library [and] Book loans from the Library’s stock, which must be returned to the Library by you, and at your cost. If you live in the UK, we may also provide loans of material not held by us but available from the British Library Document Supply Centre.

Note the payment options. We can subsidise a certain number of these requests from distance learning students each year, to the tune of 8 free uses per year. After that, you need to meet the costs yourself.

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How much time each week do I need to spend on my studies?

The standard workload for a postgraduate course, as defined by the university, is 10 hours per course unit credit. So a 15-credit course is supposed to take you 150 hours. This includes everything: reading course materials, completing online activities, completing your course work, and so on. A taught course lasts around 15 weeks (12 teaching weeks and some time for assessment preparation at the end). Very roughly then, you can expect to spend an average of 10 hours per week per course unit on your studies. For full-time students, then, it means what it says – you will be working on the course at a number of hours per week which is the equivalent of a full-time job. We do not recommend anyone study on the course full-time and try to hold down a full-time job simultaneously. It cannot be done: we have seen enough people try, and fail, to do this, and not a single person has ever succeeded in even making it to the end of the first semester. A part-time job while studying full-time is feasible, however, though note it will need to be evening, weekend, or very flexible hours of work.

For part-time and distance learning students, we advise that, at a minimum, you try to put aside a full day each week and one additional evening if you are studying one 15-credit course unit in a given semester. If you are studying two (or one 30-credit course unit), at least two full days – or one full day plus three additional evenings – is advisable. Of course it may be that these 10 hours are found differently depending on your circumstances. Maybe you can do an hour a day each way on your daily commute, say.

This may sound a lot, but bear in mind things are not necessarily spread evenly throughout the semester; you may get away with less time per week earlier in a semester, then try to find more at the end (for instance, during the Xmas school vacation, if you are a working teacher).

An early Learning Essentials session in semester 1 will help you with time management and planning.

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What do I need to do to enrol on the course and pay my fees?

All this information is included in the Joining and Induction Booklet which you will receive upon registering for the course.

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What optional course units should I choose?

All course units are now available to both online and face-to-face students. Remember that full-time students must take 120 taught credits in a year. Part-time on campus students normally take 60 in a year and distance learning students, 45 in a year. (These latter two figures can vary according to circumstance, however.) Most units are 15 credits, though one is 30.

All course units are outlined on the course units and teaching page. As to what you “should” choose – it really is up to you: the MA: DTCE can be studied with different emphases, and where one student can graduate by taking mostly the technical courses (e.g. Multimedia Design and Development, Blended Learning in a Digital Age , Introduction to Educational Video Production) another might focus on the more philosophical and organisational parts of the course (e.g. Media and Information Literacy, Theories of Teaching and Learning).

We also promote the use of Independent Supervised Study and Client-Based Projects to give you even more flexibility both in terms of subject matter and time. This is particularly for the benefit of our many part-time students who want to study and apply new technological solutions in their everyday working life. See the course units and teaching page for more information on these.

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Can I change my mind about my options?

Yes. You can change from one option to another at any time, even once teaching has started – up to the end of week 2. Once week 3 starts, you are deemed to be enrolled on the course unit, and you will be expected to submit an assessment in due course.

It is possible to change your mind about doing a core unit, but remember that if you do so you will still need to complete it in a later year. The exception is The Development of Educational Technology, which all students must complete in their first semester of year 1.

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What if I need extra time to complete a course?

Deadlines exist for all assessed work, and if you miss a deadline you will automatically fail that assessment. (The School of Education operates a zero tolerance approach to late submission; even a few minutes late will result in failure.) It is therefore in your interest to apply for Mitigating Circumastances if you think you will miss a deadline. Information will be available once you join us on the course.

In the longer term, we do expect you to complete a course unit in the semester that you start it, but sometimes, serious personal or medical problems may require you to interrupt your studies for a longer period. We will endeavour to accommodate this as much as possible. Again, contact your personal tutor in the first instance.

Full-time, on campus students should submit all work within 1 year of initial registration but it is possible to defer submission of the dissertation for a further year. The university may charge a fee for this, and it is substantial (£500); but note that this fee will be waived if the delay is not in the student’s control, that is, it is due to illness, personal problems, etc.

Part-time on campus students are expected to take two years and distance students, three years (both including dissertation submission). However, study time of up to five years is possible, but again, a fee will be charged in subsequent years once the standard course duration has passed.

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What if I fail a course?

The pass mark for a course unit at Masters’ level is 50. (Incidentally, though course work grades are often expressed as percentages, they are actually fairly arbitrary numbers. A first-class piece of work is defined as 70 or more.) If you do not achieve a mark of 50 you are deemed to have failed that course unit, and if you want to pass the MA, you will need to resubmit that assessment.

Resubmissions should normally be completed within 3 months of the original deadline date, although in certain circumstances (particularly if we took a long time to return your original mark) this can be negotiated. The maximum mark achievable by resubmitted work is 50. In other words, work that would have been given a pass mark of 50 or more had it been submitted first time will be brought back down to 50.

If, however, resubmitted work is still not of a passable standard, you will be deemed to have failed that course unit. You can still attain the MA (with what is called a “compensated pass”) if your marks in other course units are considered good enough to compensate for this failed unit. However, should your overall spread of marks not be good enough – or should you fail 45 or more credits at the first attempt – you may be downgraded to the award of the Postgraduate Diploma or Certificate in DTCE.

Note that you will not be permitted to resubmit work marked at lower than 40 at the first attempt. Such a poor mark is really quite rare, but that is why it is important that you understand what is being asked of you in a course work and what the basic requirements are. If in any doubt, check with the course unit tutor.

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What if I forget my university username and password?

The short answer to this is – refer to the IT account Manager which has an Account Recovery System whish will allow you to retrieve your password.  IT advise never writing down your password at all, but if you do, keep it safe, and preferably somwhere other than by your computer .

If a disaster happens, however, see the relevant advice from IT services.

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Can I change my username and password?

You cannot change your username. This is assigned to you by the university. You are asked to change your password the first time you log in  and you can repeat this process on later occasions, should you wish.

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How can I gain access to schools or other educational settings in order to do research?

An excellent question, to which we wish there was an easy answer. More details on how to develop and conduct an effective programme of research will come in the course of your studies, but it is worth being aware early on of the access problems which can arise.

The MA DTCE is a research-based Masters’. In your dissertation – perhaps sooner, if you take certain optional course units – you are expected to conduct some kind of research work “in the field”. This can take many forms but one route that many students wish to take is to investigate the impact of digital educational technology in some kind of actual educational setting: in other words, a school, college or training room.

The main problem with such research is securing permission to do it, particularly if you want to do research with children. It becomes easier if you choose to do this in an organisation for which you already work, but even then you should seek permission, and this may still be a time-consuming task. Do not underestimate the difficulties and delays which can be caused by this. The problem is not so much gaining the access, as how long it can take, particularly for access to schools. If you think you will want to do research in a school we recommend that you start making enquiries at least six months in advance of when you think you will need access.

To a certain extent, we can help you with this, but only for those students based in and around Manchester. Even then, bear in mind that busy teachers and administrators are no more likely to reply to an email from us than they are one from you. Patience and politeness are valuable in this process. However, we have retained contact with some ex-students who may be able to help, so do ask if you are having difficulties.

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