College of College of Graduate Studies

Innovative monitoring for postgrads launches

In October 2020, we shared with you the exciting news about the approval of the funding for the development of the online Master's and Doctoral Students' Supervision and Monitoring Dashboard. This is a project of the College of Graduate Studies for quality assurance of postgraduate student engagements across all colleges. Fast-forward to February 2021 and we have even better news. The dashboard project has commenced and is underway to be completed by the end of February 2021.

Let us take a look at the project and what the dashboard is about.


What is the Master’s and Doctoral Students' Supervision and Monitoring Dashboard?

The Master's and Doctoral Students' Supervision and Monitoring Dashboard is an online interactive M&D students' progress monitoring tool. It allows M&D students to interact with their supervisors, upload their research schedules (contract) and research activities, and receive feedback on their research activities via the platform.


Why was this project initiated?

We realised that the monitoring of the master's and doctoral research activities was inconsistent and ineffective, which impacts the students' timely and quality completion of their postgraduate studies. Furthermore, the myUnisa application did not deliver the expected results.

A decision was taken at an executive level to implement a solution for open and transparent monitoring so that both the students and their supervisors can be held accountable for their activities. The key was to find a platform that would easily integrate with Unisa’s existing technology landscape with minimal disruption. In line with the ICT Solution Architects’ recommendation, a Microsoft SharePoint dashboard was found capable of addressing the requirements of the project. The work began in earnest in January 2021.


What are the main activities and their timelines?

The SharePoint dashboard project has the following three main phases:

Initiation: This started with a business case to motivate the project to be executed. Approved.
Planning: All the activities are planned and a project schedule compiled. Completed, but updated weekly.
Execution: 
  • Functional specification: The specifications of the dashboard are compiled based on user requirements. During this time, the integration requirements with other IT systems within Unisa was considered. Completed.
  • Solution build and design: The solution is being developed with all the requirements identified in the functional specifications. In progress.
  • User acceptance testing: Users will test the dashboard and the results will be used to justify the project going live and approval by the ICT Change Advisory Board (CAB). Not yet started.
  • Training: Users will be trained on how to use the system. Not yet started.
  • Going live: The dashboard will be made available online to be used by all indebted and impacted stakeholders. The system will go live through a staggered incremental approach. Not yet started.

A series of change management interventions comprising stakeholder engagement, communications and training have been put in place and are being rolled-out to ensure that all the stakeholders are informed, know what is coming and how it will affect them.


What are the benefits of the SharePoint dashboard?

This is how the SharePoint Dashboard will affect postgraduate students and supervisors.

The SharePoint dashboard will enhance student supervision:
  • The M&D Students’ Supervision and Monitoring Dashboard will enhance supervision of students as students will contract and commit to research activities within agreed timeframes. The contract will be uploaded onto the dashboard and alerts will be triggered when the scheduled activity between the student and the supervisor does not occur.
  • M&D students will be able to upload the contract with the schedule to the supervisor for approval, upload research activities and download feedback. They will be able to access the library, Turnitin and PG Bursaries links from the dashboard for relevant activities.
The SharePoint dashboard will enhance progress monitoring:
  • The M&D coordinator, CoD and departmental M&D administrators will be able to monitor the student’s progress regarding departmental requirements and act accordingly when receiving alerts before they can be escalated to the college level.
  • The college’s head of Research and Postgraduate Studies and M&D coordinator will react to escalated alerts and monitor or report to ICPGSC about the progress or non-progress of the college’s M&D students. They will strategise at college level to intervene where necessary. The college’s ethics administrator will upload the ethical clearance feedback, for example, a certificate. The college’s head of QA&E will extract reports for meetings and relevant SER information for reviews and quality audits.
  • The CGS PGAD administrators will extract reports for monitoring and meetings, and download relevant documents, like proposal result documents, to submit theses for examinations and V35s.
  • CGS QA&E administrators will monitor the general functioning of the M&D Students’ Dashboard (ICT reporting), extract relevant progress monitoring reports for meetings and attend to escalated alerts from college level.
  • The CGS-SIRGS director will access the M&D Students’ Dashboard for student engagement activities like research workshops and M&D research indabas. He will also be able to extract relevant reports.


What do I need to do to support the project?

As part of the change management interventions, you can do the following:

  1. Attend the brief overview information session via Teams for which invitations will be sent out.
  2. Complete the Change Impact Assessment questionnaire and return it by the indicated date.
  3. Attend the training. A training plan will be scheduled and you will be notified of the date.
  4. Provide feedback if you are selected to conduct User Acceptance Testing (UAT).
  5. Attend the launch of the SharePoint dashboard for which you will receive an invite.
  6. Use the system when it is uploaded and live.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Dr Memme Makua, Acting Head: Quality Assurance and Enhancement, College of Graduate Studies on makuamg@unisa.ac.za

* By Morongwa Makgamatho, Senior Manager, ODeL Change Management

Publish date: 2021/02/23