Learning Hub

LAB FOR LEARNING AND LIFE SKILLS (L3)

Goal :

Providing support for students on academic programmes is one of the key roles of a University teacher.  It is not just about providing students with an engaging learning environment in which the conditions have been established for engaging students with the teacher, the content and with one another. It is about looking more specifically at what individual students might need by way of support. It is very important that you identify the learning needs of students in order to provide the right level, type and amount of support. Typical areas for support may include study skills (such as revising, planning learning, time management, using the library and online databases), academic writing, numeracy and data handling and writing in English. L3 – Lab for learning and life skills serves as a space for temporary or prearranged meetings and discussions with peers—perhaps to work on a project or group assignment, or to provide mentoring and support through the sharing of experiences and expertise. In short, L3is a room designed and created for students, especially the post graduate students and research scholars to sit, relax and work in a relaxed environment, with all the infra structural and technological facilities. As far as a postgraduate student is concerned, it is highly mandatory that, they need to do seminars, presentations and have to identify their research areas and prepare research designs for a good research work. This requires a flexible and inductive learning environment other than a classroom where one can freely discuss her/his ideas with one or two friends and can correct them. Not all students are self-motivated and confident learners; some require more time to understand a subject and may need concepts defined in new ways or to be shown another approach to learning the material.

Understanding the necessity of such smart learning spaces in our campus, a group of FLAIR faculty members, who were interested in bringing innovations in classroom management and those who underwent an international internship, sat together and framed a 25 hour module programme on “Research Skills & Practice”. They represent the facilitating team of the hub. The aim of the programme offered through L3 ,is to assist the students to have sound knowledge in research and to develop in them professional competencies needed for a researcher. Following learning objectives where thus identified:

  • To familiarize the post graduate students about the research process & impart specific skills required to conduct research and life skills.
  • To assist the students to gain knowledge to conduct independent research.
  • To equip them for making research presentations.

A student who undertakes a programme on “Research Skills and Practice”, is expected to develop certain Key skills such as Critical thinking for research; Problem solving related to research; research & writing and communication skills, and certain life skills such as Critical thinking, Problem Solving, presentation and communication skills.
The Context:

Lab for Learning and Life skills is the first of its kind, among the Government Arts and Science Colleges in the State of Kerala. It was conceived and developed as a best practice by Dr.Sithara Balan V, Dept of Home Science and a FLAIR International Intern, who underwent her international internship at University of Southampton during 2013-14. Further it was developed as a project with the help of the Department of Home Science and College . It was funded by the Directorate of Higher Education Govt of Kerala and guided by the Office of the New Initiatives of Govt of Kerala and FLAIR Secretariate. L3 was officially inaugurated on 24, August 2015 by the then Director of Collegiate Eduction- Shri. M.Nandakumar IAS. Prof Sabu S Padmadas, Prof of Demography and Global health, University of Southampton, United Kingdom was the chief guest of the programme. The lab was designed and constructed by Habitat Group of Technologies, led by Padmashree R.Shankar.

All FLAIR Interns of the college, who underwent an international internship of four week duration, are voluntarily acting as facilitators for the programme. The facilitating team has been restricted to international interns, only because of their specific knowledge in developing and designing courses, the nature of training programmes that they underwent, interest and initiatives in bringing innovative changes in the classroom management, their willingness to work extra time without any additional benefits etc. However, any faculty who is genuinely interested for the welfare of the hub, can act as a resource person, to exchange their research ideas, share their experiences and facilitating the students to involve in the research process, are free to join.

The Practice:

A student who attends the programme on “Research Skills & Practice” should be able to:

  • Frame a research topic
  • Conduct literature review
  • Identify and apply appropriate research methodologies
  • Construct and implement a realistic research timetable
  • Deliver a presentation on a chosen research topic
  • Critically reflect on data produced & to disseminate the same
  • Critically reflect on the ethical considerations of their chosen research topic

Postgraduate students from third and fourth semesters are the target group of the L3. The hub provides them a flexible learning environment to sit, relax and work with peers in the preparation of seminars, presentations, research proposals, reviewing the literature, understanding the audience for scientific writing and preparation for student projects.

All postgraduate students of the college, who has a flair for research can apply to the programme offered by L3, irrespective of their discipline. However, the selection shall be based on the following criteria’s:

  • A proven track record of academic excellence
  • Strong aspiration towards research
  • Needy and deserving
  • Positive approach and commitment
  • Nominated by Head of the Department (one or two student from each department)

The final selection of the student will be done based on an Aptitude test and will be purely on the discretion of the L3 Facilitating team.

As a pilot phase, students from the parent departments of the facilitating faculties were given training during the academic year 2015-16 and the feedback was motivating. More and more students started approaching the hub and it was decided not to limit the programme to any disciplines, instead any student who is really interested in knowing more about research are given a chance. Five students each from the Department of Home Science, Economics, Psychology, Commerce and Philosophy were selected through the selection process.They were given 25 hour training on research skills, research review and presentation skills. A team of 5 faculty members from the University of Southampton, United Kingdom visited them and interacted and exchanged their ideas with the students. The students prepared charts and posters on research and they actively participated in all the deliberations carried over there.

During the academic year 2016-17; the module developed was redesigned using the principles of ADDIE model. Due to the over whelming responses from the students and frequent enquiries, all post graduate students who have flair in research, were given a chance to apply for the programme. A total of 18 applications were received this year. Six students from the specializations of Chemistry, Psychology, Economics, Business Economics, Commerce and Philosophy were selected through aptitude test and interview. Each facilitator has been assigned a day for meeting the students and she is in charge for a particular module. Together with the students, they share, discuss and debate on the processes involved in research. Two Students were taken to St Teresas College , Ernakulam to attend the Interdisciplinary Research Fair,2016. Majority of the sessions were activity oriented and were given hands on experience on identifying a topic, reviewing the literature, scientific writing etc.

The present facilitating team:

  • Dr. Sithara Balan V- Home Science
  • Dr.Nimi Dev R- Commerce
  • Dr. Sruti Ramachandran – English
  • Ms.Indu Rajashekaran – English.
  • Mrs. Deepthi K.S- Industrial and Microbiology

Essential infra structure of the learning hub:

A computer, internet connectivity, comfortable working chairs, tables/ desks, quiet spaces, and screened-in areas for small work groups.

Future activities:

  • Discussions with faculty members from both inside and outside the campus,who underwent higher studies on research through fellowships like- Raman fellowship, Fulbright, Kothari etc.
  • Virtual collaboration with faculty and research scholars from both the Internship departments of the FLAIR Interns as well as through collaborations.
  • Publishing annual newsletter based on the students insights on research.
  • Talks with research scholars of the college, and also sessions on research methodology by the L3 students for other students of the college.

Evidence of Success:

Understanding the necessity of smart learning spaces and the need for introducing skill labs in the Colleges, many more colleges started replicating the concept of L3. The Academic Skill Hub of Govt College, Kottayam and the Skill Hub of All Saints College, Thiruvananthapuram are few examples.

Problems encountered and resources required:

Power supply failure and lack of permanent facilities and arrangements for internet and wi-fi are a major constraint for the hub. Since, the room was designed in the already existing space of a department library; the seating capacity for students is limited to 6 at a time. The number of students who are interested to attend the programme is increasing day by day, but the spacing and resources are a real matter of concern. A high speed internet facility and an LED TV for display are very essential for establishing and arranging skype interactions with eminent faculties across the globe. Lack of multidisciplinary journals is also a matter of concern.

List of students selected for the 2016-17 batch:

  1. Jiji V- II MA Economics
  2. Sushmitha L – II MA Economics
  3. Simi V-II MSc Chemistry
  4. Anjana – II MA Philosophy
  5. Aswathy II MCom
  6. Gauthami Nair- IIMSc Psychology
  7. Sreelekshmi- II MSc Home Science