Career Development

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Tools for Tutors: Creative Writing is for Everyone

Ellie Danak : June 16, 2019 12:44 pm : Blogs, Career Development, Learners

How could budding scientists benefit from writing short stories? Or aspiring lawyers from reading and writing poetry?

As a teaching professional, maybe you want to ignite your students’ creativity and improve their communication skills while maintaining their passion for your discipline. One way to achieve it may be through providing entertaining lectures and long reading lists or you can encourage your students to make creative writing part of their learning journey.

By opening their eyes to a wide range of written works, some of them far removed from what they are required to read and write, you will help them improve their language skills and learn how to engage their audience which is crucial when it comes to working on projects and applying for grants and jobs. Also, sometimes students need permission to be playful. So, let them play with language as if it were a heap of Lego bricks waiting for them to build something fresh and unexpected.

Most importantly, by engaging creatively with the process of writing and communicating, students will have a chance to explore their inner voices, produce new ideas, perspectives and modes of expression. This will help them build confidence and persevere until they get the result they want.

If you feel brave enough to incorporate creative writing in your teaching practice, here are some activities to get you started. At the end of this blog, we have included some more ideas for you to explore:

  • Self-reflection: ask your students what fears they have when it comes to writing, how they perceive themselves as writers, and what they enjoy and do not enjoy about writing.
  • Make something new: give them a copy of an academic article related to their discipline and ask them to choose a few key statements. Use these to write a poem or a 100-word story which can be then shared among within the group.
  • Unexpected perspectives: plan a story from the perspective of a virus in your body. What does it feed on? What damage can it do? Have fun with the knowledge and discover ways in which you can make it exciting for others. Use various perspectives, depending on the subject. This technique will help your students develop a multilayered understanding of concepts and knowledge they have been learning.

Happy creative writing!

Read this:

Listen to this:

Watch this:

Reflect: now that you have read
this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below.
This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an
action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

How to Shine at Job Interviews

Ellie Danak : May 18, 2019 11:04 am : Job Interviews, Learners

in job applications and preparing for interviews are often filled with anxiety
and worry about making a good impression. While every interviewing panel will
look for different qualities in their candidates, there are two things you can
do to maximise your chances of having a successful interview: 

  • Reflect on your experience and prepare concrete examples to show you have the skills for the role you have applied for.
  • Use the STAR technique to help structure and focus your answers

is STAR?

Employers often use the STAR technique in competency-based
interviews to find out how you handled certain situations and problems in the
past and to determine whether you can excel in the new job.

For example, they might ask you to provide proof of effective
problem solving, leading a team, managing a project or dealing with failure.
Behavioural/competency-based questions normally look like this:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to manage a project under a tight deadline.
  • Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you lead a team. What worked well? 

How to prepare your STAR examples?

think of any situations when you might have used the skills and experience
required, then break them down following the instructions below. Essentially,
you will be asked to tell a story about your experience and for it to work you
need to follow a formula. Just remember that any experience, whether work or
volunteering, counts as long as you can prove that it is relevant to the skills
required for the job. STAR stands for: 

  • Situation: describe, for example, when you led on a project and had to prioritise effectively. What was the project? Why were you working on it?

  • Task: what was your role in achieving the task? What was the objective of the task?

  • Action: describe how you completed or went about completing the task. Focus on your actions, challenges and how you dealt with them. Always say ‘I did this, then I did that’ and avoid falling into the trap of saying ‘We did… We were successful.’ Remember that the recruiters want to know about you and your achievements, not about other people.

  • Result: explain what the outcomes were and reflect on what you learned from the experience or would do differently next time. Why is this relevant to the job you are applying for?

What are recruiters looking for?

The interviewers will be looking for very specific positive indicators of your past behaviours, such as:

  • A positive approach to challenges and change

  • Negotiation skills

  • Your willingness to learn from mistakes and grow from your experiences

  • Prioritising and managing your time effectively

  • Effective communication skills

  • Staying calm under pressure

  • Self-awareness 

  • Being a good team worker/leader

  • Clear and concise examples that are relevant to the job you have applied for

They will definitely not want to see any of these

  • Negative comments about your previous colleagues and managers

  • Seeing challenges and change as problems and something negative

  • Not prioritising effectively

  • Lack of communication skills

  • No or little self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses

  • Irrelevant and repetitive examples

With enough preparation and practice, you will feel
and come across as a more confident, and hopefully successful, candidate.
Before you go have a look at our final tips and the links to external resources

  • Research the company you want to work for, its values and the job description beforehand. You will spot what types of behaviours and attitudes they want to see in their successful candidates. 

  • If you can, get feedback from others about your strengths and development areas

  • Have an up-to-date list of short stories about the most commonly asked behaviours/skills. Focus on results, challenges you had to overcome and lessons learned. 

  • Most importantly,  be yourself! You’ve got this! 

Read this:

Watch this:

Reflect: now that you have read
this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below.
This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an
action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

How to Write a Great CV

Ellie Danak : April 27, 2019 11:29 am : CV Writing, Learners

At some point, most of us will face the dreaded moment of having to apply for jobs. Writing a killer CV and presenting clear examples of your experience and knowledge are key to being successful when it comes to searching for jobs. And as with any skill, you can always improve the content and format of your CV to make sure you stand out from all the other applicants.

While most of the tips below are fairly generic and are meant to encourage good writing practice, always make sure you are aware of the current requirements and norms in your own country and discipline (own research is key!). For example, in the UK you should never put your date of birth or marital status on your CV.

  • Spellcheck and grammar: pay attention to every single detail as most employers will inevitably be put off any CVs or applications that are riddled with spelling mistakes. So, proofread your work before submitting, and, if you can, get a friend to check it for you too. Put time and effort into showing the recruiters that you are a top-notch candidate.
  • Don’t overdo it: a standard CV is about 1 -2 pages long. Anything longer than that and you need to consider whether you have put too much irrelevant or repetitive information in. Remember that you will need different versions of a CV for different roles and employers. Every job is unique, so make sure you tailor your CV to the specific employer’s requirements.
  • Starting point: before you get down to writing your CV, make a list of all your skills, work experience, key projects you have been involved in, research and teaching experience, publications, presentations, grants and fellowships, professional associations and licenses, awards and honours, and any other information relevant to the position you are applying for. Often it is useful to make a mind map or use different colours for different skills or experience (only at the brainstorming stage, not on your CV!). Make sure you include key dates as well. Next, group all of these into categories and put the best part up at the top of the page. Always prioritise your expert level know-how.
  • Fancy fonts: choose a simple font and only use italics and bold for emphasis. If you can, do a test print and make sure your CV looks good on paper and on a screen. Make it more readable by using a mix of paragraphs and bullet points. Do not overcrowd your CV and, as mentioned before, choose the skills and roles most relevant to the one you are applying for.
  • Connect: if you have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile, add it to your CV.
  • Sell your skills: use a summary statement to showcase why you are the best person for the job. Make sure you have read the job description and target the specific skills the employer is looking for. Include all your successes, but do not list everything you have ever been involved in. Specific statistics and numbers, for example, budget savings, are CV gold so add them if you have any. If you struggle with numerical evidence, look at your skills and add context to your leadership or technical knowledge. Have you solved a major problem or me come up with a great idea?
  • Beat the bots: make sure whatever you include in your CV matches the job advert, as many online recruitment systems track CVs and search for keywords applicable to the advertised jobs. This is where doing your research and tailoring your CV are crucial. Yes, it takes time but the more effort you put into it the more likely you are to get to the interview stage.

Good luck!

Read this:

Watch this:

Reflect: now that you have read this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below. This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

How to Write Great Essays

Ellie Danak : April 7, 2019 1:37 pm : Learners, Revision and Essay Writing

Let’s talk about writing great essays. What it involves and what it does not. It does not involve you typing the last sentence at 5 am and clicking Submit in hope of getting a half-decent mark. It definitely does not involve you beating yourself up for not being one of those superheroes who can churn out a 3,000-word masterpiece in a couple of hours.

However, it does involve a lot of hard work (you cannot escape that!), strategic thinking and reading, good time management skills, and a focussed approach.

While different tutors and higher education institutions will have different expectations and guidelines which you should read and follow, our tips on writing essays will apply to most academic work and beyond:

  • Plan: generate ideas, explore the relationships between them and move on to drafting an outline before you write. You would not go on holiday without planning how to get to your destination and where to stay. Likewise, if you care about writing good quality essays, you need to put time and thought into their structure. Your initial plan may be as simple as this one: introduction, paragraph 1: topic 1,…, conclusion. 

  • Don’t overdo it: yes, you may be keen to write about everything you know on the given topic but you will not get good marks if your essay is a random compilation of your knowledge. Think about your tutor – they have little time and lots of essays to mark, so make it easy for them to follow your line of thought. Structure your arguments and paragraphs, stick to the point and do not waste your reader’s time. 

  • Get over the writer’s block: schedule a daily writing slot, even if it is just half an hour. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish if you switch your phone off and just write. Also, do not expect to have a perfect first draft. It is always better to have something you can work with than nothing at all. 

  • Read strategically and critically: oftenyou will not have time to read whole books on the subject.  Instead, focus on specific chapters and take clear notes to avoid plagiarism: page numbers, quotes, your thoughts about the central claims the author is making. When did they write this? Why? Who has responded to them? What did they say? Do you agree? Why yes/no? 

  • Have a notebook: it is always handy to have a notebook within reach for all those unexpected ideas that descend on us when we go for a walk, brush our teeth or are about to fall asleep. 

  • Nail your introduction: your essay is not a crime novel so make sure your reader knows immediately what you are trying to convince them of. Explain what you will argue and in what order and state what conclusions you will draw. 

  • Make your paragraphs perfect: follow a clear structure in each paragraph and order them in such a way that there is a clear development of thought from one paragraph to the next. Use the PEE structure which stands for Point (what you are claiming), Evidence (back up your claim with theories, statistics, etc.), Explain (why does the presented evidence help prove your point). Can you provide counterclaims? Wrap up each paragraph and signal that you will move on to the next one. Having discussed X and Y, I will now focus on…

  • Conclusion: tell the reader what you have just discussed and bring your arguments together to make a final point. Be careful not to introduce completely new ideas in your conclusion.

  • Take a break. Go for a walk. Meet up with friends: return to your essay with fresh eyes as this will make it easier to pick up on mistakes, inconsistencies and weak arguments. Check your spelling and grammar and proofread your essay thoroughly before submitting.

Before you go, check out the resources below!

Read this:

Watch this:

Reflect: now that you have read
this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below.
This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an
action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

How to Write Well

Ellie Danak : March 24, 2019 11:37 am : Learners, Revision and Essay Writing

The skill of writing well is often pigeonholed in the same way as, for example, creativity or maths. We keep telling ourselves that some people are just born being good at maths or creative tasks or writing.

Well, here’s the thing: it turns out that we all can be creative, but some of us become more self-conscious or possibly a bit lazy as we grow older. Take one look at children playing: they happily spend hours turning sticks into rockets. They do not give up until they get the result they want. And all of you are good at maths to some extent: you may need to control your budget each month, negotiate prices, and measure things. Often we do not even realise that these skills involve maths – we just do it.

Similarly, an effective and well-written text will seem effortless, as if the person turned on a magic word tap. This simplicity is misleading though – think about an essay of yours that got you a good mark. Now, ask yourself how many re-drafts and edits this essay has gone through. So, while the end product may seem very polished, most of us start with a blank page, progress to a very messy first draft and take it from there. Writing is a process, and every stage involves hard work which pays off as long as you keep at it. 

In this article, we will give you some advice on how to improve your writing in general, while the future posts will tackle such topics as writing essays, CVs and job/grants applications.

Read lots and lots: read whatever comes your way. Read widely, whether it is fiction or non-fiction. Challenge yourself to read books you would not normally pick up in a booksho. How about poetry, a play or philosophical essay? To get a feel for how language works and what constitutes good writing you need to read a lot and read critically. If you like a piece of writing, focus on it a bit more. Analyse it. What works? What can you learn from it? Likewise, if you do not engage with a piece of text, take time to reflect on how you could improve it. Why not re-write it yourself?

Write every day: write to-do-lists, jot down ideas, short poems and diary entries. Whatever works for you – commit to a 10-minute daily writing habit and see where it takes you.

Ask for advice: never aim for a fully finished first draft. If you can ask for advice at an early stage of your writing to know if you are going in the right direction.

Redraft: make sure that whatever you have written is clear and makes sense. Is each point unique? Does your argument flow well? Normally, it is good to give yourself a couple of days away from your text and come back to it later. You will then see it with fresh eyes and will find it easier to spot mistakes and inconsistencies. And remember to be ruthless when you edit your text: get rid of the waffle!

Enjoy it: play with the language and sentence structure. If you feel stuck, why not turn one of your paragraphs into a haiku or a short story? That way you can uncover new layers in your thinking, as well as learn to be economical and more creative with your language. 

Use technology: there is a wide range of online tools that can help you develop your writing. Check this list out as most of the recommended tools are free and can make your writing life much easier.

Remember your readers: whether you write a blog for your friends and family or aim for publication, do not forget about the needs and expectations of your audience as that will determine what writing style you should go for.

For more writing inspiration, click on the links below and watch this space for Part 2 in which we will talk about writing great essays!

Read this:

Watch this:

Reflect: now that you have read
this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below.
This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an
action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

Tools for Tutors: How to Become a More Reflective Teaching Practitioner

Ellie Danak : March 10, 2019 2:49 pm : Learners, Tools for Tutors

In one of our previous posts, we encouraged educators to get outside the teaching box and try out new activities. We briefly mentioned the importance of reflections, not just for students but also for those involved in teaching. Reflective practice is an important part of our professional lives; however, in order to be effective, it requires a consistent approach, time commitment, honesty and openness to change. Being busy is not an excuse though! You can easily schedule a 15-minute slot in your working week to sit down somewhere quiet, grab a pen and notebook and write your immediate thoughts about your teaching experiences, what you think you have done well, could do better and will change next time.

By developing a regular reflective practice, you will increase your self-knowledge and self-awareness so that you can become a better teacher, as well as advise others on their teaching methods. In this blog post, we have put together a few practical ideas to get you into the habit of constructing meaning from your own and others’ experiences:

  • Before you start: Have a notebook and pencil at the ready! Keep it simple.
  • What should I write? Begin by asking yourself what teaching means to you and jot down everything that comes to mind. This will help you discover what is really important to you and what values guide your teaching.
  • Define success. How do you know your students have engaged with your teaching? Do you pay attention to their voices? Do you ask for feedback? Have you ever considered involving your students in shaping the content of your tutorials?
  • Explore challenges: what has been difficult? Why? Keep asking yourself ‘why’ until you have explored all options. Record all the steps you may need to go through to solve this problem. What can you learn from your previous experiences?
  • If you prefer other activities, instead of grabbing a pen and notebook, write a blog, or an interview with yourself. Write a letter to yourself or create a mind map where you make a list of connections between your teaching and students’ experiences and learning.

  • Learn with and from others: while self-reflection is valuable, it is a solitary activity. So, how about asking your colleagues to observe your teaching and offer you feedback? By introducing regular peer observation into your teaching practice, you will gain input from your colleagues, who as ‘critical’ friends will help you increase your confidence and deepen your pedagogical knowledge. 
  • Organise peer group reflection sessions in which you and your colleagues share your thoughts about your teaching experiences To help you structure these discussions, you could use action learning sets. Hearing about other tutors’ challenges and helping them to find solutions may inspire you to improve your own practice.

We hope these tips will encourage you to take a step back and consider what kind of teacher you want to be and what really matters to you. By constantly questioning and reflecting on your teaching methods, not only will you become a better educator but you will also influence the learning experience of your students in a positive way.

Remember that we are always happy for you to use this blog as a platform to share your experiences with others. If you would like to write a guest post for us, just get in touch.

Before you go:

Read this:

Watch this:

Reflect: now that you have read
this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below.
This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an
action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

Fail Boldly

Ellie Danak : February 23, 2019 2:03 pm : Learners, Revision and Essay Writing

Nobody says failure is fun. Not getting the grade/job/recognition you wanted hurts. But recognising that failure is an integral part of your life, and learning how to become more pragmatic about it can help you become more reflective, resilient, and more likely to succeed in the future.

Not everything you do is destined to become an overnight success. Whether scientists, writers or entrepreneurs, most successful people will have eaten their fair share of ‘failure pies’ over the years, and their drive to pick themselves up after each setback and keep going is key to their success. So, next time, instead of binning your ‘failed’ essay, look at it again, read the feedback, and really learn from this experience so that next time you do better.

We have compiled a few tips, some inspirational talks, and articles to help you embrace your failures, as part of your personal and professional growth:

  1. Ask for constructive feedback: ok, your ego may hurt a little when someone points out what you should improve. But if you only hear how great everything you do is, you will never learn to work on your weaker points. After all, you can always do better!
  2. Push yourself: try to do things outside your comfort zone. They don’t have to be big! By daring yourself to do more and not always succeeding, you will strengthen your ‘resilience muscles’.
  3. Prepare: if you are worried about failing, imagine what it would be like. How might you react? What would you find helpful? Then, when it happens, you will know how to approach it in the most productive and positive way.
  4. Take risks: again, you never know what a failed risk can inspire in you! If you mess up, be honest with yourself and others, and start over.
  5. Discourage your inner perfectionist: see mistakes as learning opportunities, not failures.
  6. Stay curious: sometimes it’s ok to choose a different path and abandon your initial plan. See this inspiring story of a former doctor, now writer and comedian. Just make sure that you change your direction for the right reasons, not because you don’t like to have to work your way around obstacles.
  7. Accept bad days: sometimes we just need to acknowledge that things are not great, and that this is a phase. Instead of giving up, use this time to reflect on your values and priorities, stay focussed on your end-goal and keep going until you have bounced back.
  8. Find a mentor or make sure you have someone in your life you admire: think about what they would do. If possible, ask them for advice, and learn from their mistakes!
  9. Have your tool box at the ready: not the metal one with hammers and nails (although these are useful too!) but the one where you store your coping strategies. Consider what helps you relax and overcome difficulties. A walk? A note in a journal? A conversation with a friend or teacher?

If it wasn’t for failure, we would not have innovation and progress today. Consider Thomas Edison who failed hundreds of times before getting his light bulb. It took a lot of futile attempts to climb Mount Everest. So, don’t be scared of failing with a capital “F” because this experience will be as much part of your education as, if not more important than, straight As. It’s often our failures that shape us as human beings and help us succeed. Go ahead – fail boldly and let us know how you get on!

If you would like to share your story with others, get in touch in the comments section.

Read this:

Listen to this:

A plethora of fascinating and very honest accounts of all sorts of failures. This podcast will help you learn from other people’s experiences.

Watch this:

Reflect: now that you have read this article, take a few minutes and jot down
answers to the questions below. This will help you remember the most insightful
points and put together an action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

Tools for Tutors: Get Outside and Learn – the Importance of Experiential Learning

Ellie Danak : January 27, 2019 3:19 pm : Learners, Tools for Tutors

First-hand experiences play a crucial role in developing students’ skills and knowledge outside the traditional classroom setting by exposing the learners to a variety of situations where they are required to apply abstract ideas to real-life problems and projects. When students temporarily abandon their desks and books in order to gain new insights and develop innovative approaches to their studies, their learning experience becomes transformational.

Below are some examples of the types of activities that academic staff can facilitate outside the classroom:

  • Field trips
  • Guided/discovery walks
  • Internships
  • Community-based projects
  • Cross-disciplinary projects
  • Shadowing professionals

However, just telling the students to get out there and learn is not enough, and tutors need to consider what guidance and support they can give to make sure these activities are truly beneficial.

So, inspired by Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle, we would like to establish a simple framework for designing experiential learning activities and supporting students’ learning autonomy. Following the suggested format will encourage your students to trust their curiosity. Also, by asking them to critically reflect on what they have learned, how they could apply their newly acquired knowledge, and what they would do differently next time, you will help them place their skills and experience in a wider context and explore ways of showing the impact it has made on them. Moreover, we would like to add another dimension to the critical reflection and encourage you, the tutors, to reflect on the process as well: what went well, what you could have done differently, what you will change next time, your main learning points. With every new student cohort, you go on a learning journey too. Seeing problems and ideas through your students’ eyes can inspire a fresh approach to your own research and teaching practice.

How to design effective experiential learning activities?

  1. Design a concrete experiential learning activity: What is it? Why have you chosen this specific activity? Consider how you are going to ‘sell’ it to your students. For example, tell them what they are expected to achieve and how they can connect it with what they know already.
  2. Why should they care? As part of the ‘selling’ process, find reasons why your students should care about the project or cause. What can you do to make them want to engage with it?
  3. Build in interim reflection and self-assessment: Schedule prompts and activities for learners that will help them monitor their progress. How are things going? What impact have they made? What have they learned so far? How have they applied their learning to new situations and challenges?
  4. Tutor reflection: Don’t forget to reflect on your approach as well. Is everything going according to plan? How much support do your students need? Do they feel they can take risks and fail? Do you control their behaviour or encourage autonomy? What could you improve? What have you learned yourself?
  5. A final reflection on learning: Ask your students what they have learned and how they will apply this learning to future problems and projects. Make sure they offer specific and relevant examples. You could ask them to write a reflective journal or blog post.
  6. Learning shared is learning doubled: While personal reflections help learners to connect emotionally with their experiences, there is a great benefit in sharing one’s learning experiences with others while hearing how they may have approached similar tasks and challenges. You can facilitate this by creating a learning community as part of the experiential learning experience. How about asking the students to prepare short presentations on what their main learning points were. Be creative and ask them to represent their learning journeys through collages and mind maps.

To sum up, while the focus on attainment and exam results is important, it is equally crucial to remember that your students are individuals who are keen to pursue their interests, find practical solutions to great problems and want to get out there to learn by doing. For example, applying abstract concepts to current challenges facing society, such as combating the effects of climate change, will provide a lesson for life and connect the learners with their communities. So, by tapping into that individual curiosity and self-motivation, tutors can make a great impact that will last outside the classroom and may even change the world.

If you have facilitated experiential learning activities and would like to share your thoughts with others, please get in touch. We would love to write more about it!

Read this:

Watch this: 


Now that you have read this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below. This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

Find a Good MOOC and Succeed in It

Ellie Danak : January 13, 2019 4:50 pm : Learners, Professional Development

Traditionally, a lot of people make long and often overly ambitious New Year’s resolutions lists in January. Climb Mount Everest. Run 10 marathons in 10 days. Swim with sharks. Write a bestselling novel. A lot of them sound impressive but very few people will actually achieve them.

So, how about committing to something very specific and manageable, like your personal learning and development? Even if you are already a student, there is always room for trying something different and learning a new skill. Nowadays, accessing additional education is fairly easy, with Massive Online Open Courses being widely available. If you are an engineer in the making, you may find that studying literature helps you with creative thinking or writing. A future medic or lawyer may discover the perks of philosophy. The list is endless, and expanding your knowledge does not need to cost anything; however, it requires personal commitment and good time management – skills which will prove invaluable when you apply for jobs and want your application to stand out from the crowd. You will show your prospective employers that you are hungry for knowledge, determined and self-motivated. Ultimately, anything you do for your own development will benefit you and help you grow personally.

Why MOOCs?

We live in a time of incredible transformation with ongoing debates about the future of the global workforce and the role of education. Even if you are not fully certain about what you would like your career to look like, two things will always stand you in good stead: your willingness to learn and ability to talk about your learning clearly. So, in this post, we will help you stay motivated when learning is just another thing on your to-do list.

Completing a MOOC may feel a bit like climbing Mount Everest: much harder than expected and at times lonely. Also, life gets in the way or you get bored and move on to the next best thing. But if you stick with it, you can add another achievement to your list and you gain extra knowledge which you can apply in other areas of your life. Remember that a lot of MOOCs are delivered by renowned researchers and the technology allows you to engage with others’ thinking and innovative ways of teaching.

Interacting with teaching assistants and participants
from all over the world, will deepen your learning and offer you a unique
opportunity to continue the subject-related conversations way beyond your
course. You may even discover a completely new career and passion for a topic
you did not expect to enjoy very much.

Lastly, if English is not your first language and you feel stuck at the intermediate level, participating in a MOOC will help you improve your academic vocabulary and understanding, and reach the advanced level of English sooner.

to find a MOOC?

Here are some of the platforms you may want to check out:

These questions may be useful, when you
consider which MOOC to pick:

  • Does the course offer a certificate? Certificates of completion are not normally free; however, in a lot of cases, you may be able to complete the course for free, if you do not want a certificate.
  • Can you gain college/university credit upon completion?
  • Is the course accredited?
  • Is the course self-paced or scheduled? This is important as it will affect your time management and other commitments.
  • Do you have the technology required to, for example, stream videos? Is there an app you can use on your phone?
  • Can you join a student community?
  • What partner institutions does the course have? Can you access instructor profiles?

So, you have started your MOOC…

Read our few tips that will help you stay motivated and complete your course:

  • Check the syllabus before you commit and make sure the course covers what you are interested in.
  • Consider the time requirements for your chose course – how many hours do you need to study each week? Is it manageable for you?
  • The more effort you put into it the richer your experience will be – set time aside to contribute to the learning community. Taking part in a MOOC is not just about engaging with the course materials. This learning path is designed to be social and cooperative so make sure you participate in the discussions and comment on others’ posts. By supporting their learning you will improve your own experience and knowledge.
  • Ask questions!
  • Reflect each week on what you have learned, what inspired you and what was difficult. You can set 15 – 30 minutes aside each week just to go over your thoughts and feelings.
  • Stay connected with the subject outside the course: read articles, follow blogs, participate in discussions and share your learning.

Completing a MOOC is a fantastic achievement which can lead to unexpected new opportunities. For example, you can transfer your new skills to other areas of your life, such as face-to-face coursework and work. Remember that you will be required to manage your time effectively, stay motivated, communicate and network with others and be proactive in your education while developing strategies to succeed. So, why not give it a go? Trying something new, even if you decide it is not for you, is better than not doing anything at all. You never know where this may lead you.

If you have come across excellent MOOCs, let us know!

Read this:

Watch this:

Success in a MOOC 


Now that you have read this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below. This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

Tools for Tutors: Encourage Fresh Insights and New Knowledge

Ellie Danak : December 16, 2018 11:47 am : Learners, Tools for Tutors

In our last Tools for Tutors post we looked at working with feedback.  This time we would like to offer you some fun and unusual teaching advice. The process of teaching and learning, with its peaks and troughs, can sometimes be messy both for tutors and students. Sometimes it can be difficult to measure progress or excite students about certain topics. Sometimes it may be hard to translate ideas from abstract concepts to practical application or to find ways of getting students to generate fresh thinking.

Adaptability, thinking on one’s feet and creativity, alongside the thirst for lifelong learning, are often named as essential graduate skills. Today’s students are expected to be agile learners and skilled communicators, and universities play a vital role in equipping them with those skills. So, we have put together some ideas for lively and creative teaching that will bring new energy into your classrooms.

A word of warning: although we are passionate about creative approaches to education, please remember that some students may find it difficult to take these activities seriously.  Therefore, it is vital that you make the rationale for each task very clear by clarifying the expectations and learning benefits at the start of each exercise.

Try these activities:   

  • Lego (for the times when you hit the learning ‘brick’ wall) –use Lego bricks to teach referencing and storytelling and get the students to think about the consequences of their choices. Alternatively, ask them to represent their learning by creating Lego worlds. If you do not have access to Lego, you can use cardboard boxes!
  • Get the communication juices flowing and build great teams.  You will need 20 spaghetti sticks, a piece of string, sticky tape, one marshmallow and a stopwatch. 
  • Balloon towersthis fun activity teaches problem-solving and teamwork! If you do not have balloons, use old newspapers. Limiting the supplies and introducing competition will get your students to think on their feet and have some fun along the way.
  • Encourage creative academic writing through blogging or a regular learning journal so that your students practise linking cross-disciplinary ideas to their own research. They will also be able to practise communicating effectively and concisely about academic research. 
  • Pen, paper, scissors – how about drawing mind maps to summarise learning points? Or creating posters and collages to reflect on learning discoveries?
  • Boardgames – designing a board game can be a fun way for students to apply their learning and test the knowledge of their peers. Visit this website for some inspiration.
  • Top trumps split students into teams and get them to create Top Trumps cards. Great for teaching and debating history, politics, philosophy, and any other subject! 
  • Solve the mystery – how about coming up with a mystery scenario and turning your students into detectives? Use cards with clues and coded messages. Have a prize for the winning team!

Before you go: remember to add some reflection time, discuss insights and identify action points for your students’ learning at the end of each activity. The same should apply to your own teaching practice. While it is great to harness creativity and innovation in one’s teaching, it is equally important to make fun purposeful and effective. 

We hope that these tools will open up more opportunities for learning and generating new ideas in your classrooms. All activities can be easily adapted depending on the resources you have available. They are also widely  applicable, whether you teach business, literature or quantum physics.

Let us know how you get on! If you would like to write an article about your innovative teaching, just get in touch using the contact form. We would be delighted to share ideas and best practice. 

Read this:

Watch this:

Reflect: take a few minutes and jot down your answers to the questions below. This will help you put together an action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?

Leave a response »

Part 2: Create Brilliant Presentations

Ellie Danak : December 2, 2018 3:39 pm : Learners, Presentations and Public Speaking

In the previous post, we talked about using your voice and body to your advantage when you are presenting. But that’s not the whole story! Once you have found your voice and presentation style, you need to focus on the content of your presentation.

Being able to structure and tailor your presentations is an incredibly useful skill to have – it will serve you well in job interviews, academic presentations and whenever you want to engage with and inspire others. We hope that the tips and ideas below will encourage you to practise creating varied and exciting presentations that hook your audiences and keep them listening!

To use PowerPoint or not to use PowerPoint…

Let’s face it – PowerPoint is a bit of a Marmite-thing in the world of public speaking. Some people love it, some hate it. However, slides can be very helpful if you use them well to grab your audience’s attention. Or if you want to distill your message to a few bullet points. So, our advice is not to avoid using PowerPoint, but making sure that you use it for a good reason. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your presentations:

  • Avoid overcrowding your slides with lots of text: they will be hard to read and instead of listening to you, your audience will be busy trying to decipher the tiny text.
  • Have a strong image or a couple of strong bullet points and expand on them in your speech
  • Use a simple font such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman (no special effects!) and make sure it is legible (font size 24-32 at least)
  • Don’t just read out what’s on the slides – they are the icing on the cake. Remember that your speech is the cake!
  • Have a backup plan – technology is fantastic but it can fail you a few seconds before you go on stage. So, always have a backup plan. In the worst case scenario, you can always share your slides with the participants via email later.

The power of three

Rehearse delivering your message in three key points. If there was just one thing you wanted your audience to remember, what would it be?

To learn how to do this, try this exercise:

  1. Draft a one-minute speech about something you are passionate about and include the following:
  • Introduction: who you are and what you want to speak about
  • Your key message: three main points
  • Finish: summarise and include a call to action/ include a practical outcome
  • Stay focussed on your message!

2. Record yourself, note what went well, and what you could improve on.

3. Do it again! Do it better.

Hook your audience

Ask yourself why you are doing your presentation and for whom, then adapt it to your audience. There is no such thing as boring content, and there are lots of ways in which you can make statistics and facts exciting. Here are our tips and don’t forget to check out the additional resources at the end of this post:

  • Have a strong opening: tell us a story, use a great image, a chart or graph, or ask a thought-provoking question. Behind every statistic, there is a fascinating story waiting to get out. For example, if you need to deliver a presentation about levels of water pollution in a specific area, tell us what its impact is on the individuals and wildlife. Tell us what this area might look like 50 years from now if we do not take action. Then incorporate numbers and statistics into your presentation.
  • There are many ways to tell a story: you can take your audience on a journey towards resolving a problem or overcoming a difficulty or you can ask them to imagine a different world or way of doing things.
  • Positive language: do not put yourself down. Never begin a presentation by saying: ‘ I know this is boring, but…’
  • Whatever style and story you choose: keep it relevant to your audience.
  • Stick to your main points and do not overrun!
  • Give your audience something to take away: a call to action, an interesting fact or idea.

Try again

Even if your first attempt at presenting does not go well, do not despair. We think it is good to be bad at something because it gives you an opportunity to get feedback and learn from your mistakes.

Now practise re-drafting your content. Go back to your basic one-minute speech and try to improve it:

  • Introduction: who you are and what you want to speak about; find a hook (an interesting ‘Did you know that…’ fact, or ‘Imagine a world where…’)
  • Your key message: three main points; expand each point with no more than three additional ideas, and take your audience on a journey. For example, this was the issue, this is what I have tried/done, this is the outcome.
  • Finish: summarise and include a call to action/ include a practical outcome. Leave your audience with something to remember.

Now, compare this content with the previous one and see which one is more engaging. Next, make it a three-minute speech and try to use images or quotes. By building on your content slowly and re-working it, you will become more confident about your topic and create a memorable experience for your audience.

Happy presenting!

Listen to this: Viv Groskop’s podcast How to Own The Room. All you need to know about brilliant public speaking.

Watch this:

Read this:

Reflect: now that you have read this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below. This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?


Leave a response »

Part 1: Become a Confident Public Speaker

Ellie Danak : November 17, 2018 8:00 pm : Learners, Presentations and Public Speaking

Even the thought of standing in front of a crowd of people, whether it is 5, 50 or 500, and presenting your ideas is enough to get anyone’s heart racing and tongue twisted. But the good news is that public speaking is a skill which means you can always get better at it.

The slightly less good news is that there is no silver bullet that will make you a confident presenter overnight. The only way to make progress is through deliberate practice with lots of feedback and self-reflection. So, do not avoid it!

The great news is that there are lots of tools and strategies out there that can help you become a better speaker. Here, we have included a few that you can try out for yourself. In Part 2 of this short blog series, we will focus on structuring your speeches to keep your audience engaged.

Before you go on stage, consider this:

Who is your audience? Are you delivering a presentation to your peers, tutors or strangers? Reflecting on your audience will help you define what style is suitable for your presentation: formal, informal or somewhere in-between.

Where will you be presenting? Do you know the room layout and acoustics? Have you used a microphone before? If not, find out if you could visit the site and practise before your event.

Start at the beginning: your breath is your most valuable tool. It really matters how you breathe. If you learn how to make the most of your breath, you will feel in control of your emotions and anxiety. Try this:

• Stand up and place your palms on your stomach just below the rib cage.
• Breathe in through your nose and feel your ribs expanding with air.
• Pause for a couple of seconds.
• Breathe out slowly through your mouth, and repeat a couple of times. Try to focus only on your breath and nothing else.

Use your voice: have you ever wondered how your voice works? Are you aware of it? Your voice is your instrument, and like with playing any instrument, it takes practice to learn how to use it well. And it can be fun to discover your full vocal range while singing in the shower, reciting poetry and doing these fun warm-up exercises.

Body language: whether you have to present standing up or sitting at a table, make sure you stay grounded. Feel your feet on the floor, and make your body work for you, not against you! Reflect on what kind of impression you want to make on others. Do you like to use your hands a lot? What does your body language say about you? Relax your shoulders, stop crossing your arms and be yourself. And do not forget to smile.

Slow down: when you inhale you have time to think, so remember to close your mouth and breathe in from time to time.

Channel your nerves well: your enthusiasm will shine in your presentation.

Prep: there is no way round this. If you want to be a more confident speaker, you need to work on it. Use any opportunity you have to speak to your friends, speak up in tutorials, and in front of the mirror.

Find your public speaking heroes: do you know anyone who can captivate their audience? Reflect on why they are so charismatic and what you could learn from them.

Reflect: it only takes a minute! After each speech or presentation find somewhere quiet and reflect on what went well and what you would like to improve next time. Jot down a few ideas and smile. You did it!

If things go wrong: we all have been there and had to cope with technical problems or our minds going completely blank in the middle of explaining a very complex concept. What’s best to do when that happens? Take a deep breath and see what you can control. Can you improvise without your PowerPoint? Mind gone blank? Ask the audience a question and get them involved to give yourself a short break.

If English is not your first language…

We appreciate it may be stressful to even consider delivering a presentation in a foreign language but with a bit more work, everyone can be a public speaking superstar:

• Most people worry about their accent, but if you really think about it then you will realise that we all have an accent and this is what makes us different and interesting. So, instead of worrying about having the ‘wrong’ kind of accent aim for clear pronunciation.
Rehearse lots and lots: while walking, doing the dishes and brushing your teeth. Instead of memorising your speech, try to express your ideas in various ways so that you feel confident on the big day.
Record yourself: if you cannot get feedback from anyone, try recording your speech and listening back to it. Create a checklist to assess yourself. Is your pronunciation clear? Do you sound engaging when you talk about your ideas? Are you projecting your voice?
Pesky words: it is ok to admit that you may struggle with some words. If some are difficult to pronounce, especially when you feel nervous, can you replace them with easier ones? Check your understanding of any tricky words and terminology too.
Build your confidence by expanding the vocabulary within your field: read books and articles on the topic and listen to interviews with experts.
Enjoy the experience and do not worry about making mistakes. As long as your audience stays engaged, you are doing well!

While we are putting together Part 2 of this series, take your time to practise and watch this space!

Read this:

Watch this:

Reflect: now that you have read this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below. This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?
Leave a response »

Tools For Tutors: Practical Strategies for Working with Feedback

Ellie Danak : November 4, 2018 10:14 am : Learners, Tools for Tutors

In our previous article, we offered advice on how to make the most of the feedback we receive from others. Here, the focus is on providing a practical guide to successful feedback practices for academic staff members who also have teaching responsibilities.

How do you know your teaching is effective?

There are many ways in which you can assess how effective your teaching methods are: your students not dozing off in your tutorials and good essay marks are some of them. But is it enough for you to know you have made their learning experiences stick?

Why do you need feedback from students and how can you get it?

Most higher-education institutions have formal processes in which they collect student feedback and analyse it. This often happens at the end of a course, programme or academic year, and means that students complete surveys and questionnaires that capture their experience. However, there is no need to wait until the end of your course to assess how the students have responded to your teaching.

Here are some tried and tested ideas we have put together so that you can get some meaningful feedback from your students:

Get creative – as a quick icebreaker, ask your students to list the most interesting ideas/concepts from the previous sessions – they can record these on a flip chart and present back to the group. Alternatively, they can draw a mind map or you can go round the room asking for a summary from each individual (just watch your time!).

Over to them – this is another favourite! Split your students into smaller groups and ask them to teach back various concepts/ideas you have been covering with them. That way you will see whether they have understood various concepts correctly and you can learn something from them.

Surveys – you can run more formal and informal surveys to get more detailed feedback on your teaching methods. Your institution may govern this. However, if you prefer more regular feedback from your students why not split a flip chart paper into these categories (use as many as you want)and ask your students to add comments: What went well today? What could I improve on? What would you like to see more of in my tutorials? What would you like me to do less of?

One-minute lectures – at the end of your tutorial/lecture ask your students to spend one minute writing down their personal and anonymous answers to one or two questions, such as:

– What was least clear in this session?
– What was the main point of today’s tutorial?
– What are the most important questions remaining unanswered for you?

Collect the scraps of paper with the responses and respond to them at the start of your next session. It is an easy and quick way to get insight into what has worked/ is still unclear.

Make your feedback count – help your students learn from your feedback

This is about the feedback students receive after an assessment. It is important to make it meaningful and get it right so that they can really benefit from the time you have put into assessing their work. It is not just about giving marks, but also supporting your students’ academic journey. Boud and Molloy (2013) suggest that feedback used solely by teachers as part of the assessment process is not enough anymore. With students becoming more engaged in co-creating their learning, the shift is towards more creative and participative ways of providing feedback.

Here are a few ideas from The Higher Education Academy to get you started:

Become a ‘feedback SNOB’ – encourage your students to reflect on feedback in a more productive way:

o   Strengths – what they do well and should continue doing
o   Needs – what they need to improve on before the next assessment
o   Opportunities – things they missed/got wrong and should pay more attention to next time
o   Barriers – what could prevent them from improving

 Ask your students to self-assess their work and then compare with your mark – this can be useful if you want them to understand the marking criteria. You can also facilitate peer-led assessments and feedback to offer your students as much opportunity as possible to practice both giving and receiving feedback.

Get them to act on your feedback – encourage your students to keep self-reflective logs of the feedback they have been receiving. They could use simple headings such us: What I Did Well, What I Need to Improve, Next Steps

Comments first, marks second – often students are so blinded by the marks that they ignore or forget to engage with and reflect on the attached feedback comments. Can you try to give them feedback first and encourage self-reflection to promote a growth mindset before disclosing the mark?

Reflecting on what one really hopes to achieve with feedback is an important part of a teaching practice. Think about what it means to you to be part of your students’ academic experience. What can you do to make sure they leave the university as more reflective and successful learners?

The best thing about the strategies listed above is that they are easy to adapt to your needs. Try them out and let us know how you get on!

Read this:
Feedback toolkit
Top tips for providing students with meaningful feedback
• More feedback tips here and here

Watch this:
What students say about feedback 


David Boud & Elizabeth Molloy (2013) Rethinking models of feedback for learning: the challenge of design, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38:6, 698-712, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2012.691462



Let’s talk about feedback

Ellie Danak : October 21, 2018 10:27 am : Learners, Professional Development

Imagine a world where the members of a famous football club or an iconic film star had no one to advise them on how there were doing whether on a football pitch or in front of the camera. We would never witness some of the most memorable moments in sport’s and film’s history. These stars have one thing in common: throughout their careers, someone has offered them feedback, which they have taken on board and learned from.

The same applies to you. Whatever career you pursue, you will be consistently offered feedback that you will need to reflect on and put into practice. Easier said than done as sometimes things get personal and emotional – this is where we can help you ask for, receive and use feedback to your advantage.

In this article, we will define what feedback is and why it is important. We will have a look at different types of feedback that you can come across, both at university and at work and will offer you some tips for how to respond to it. Finally, have a look at the recommended links which will help you deepen your knowledge in the Read This, Watch This, Try This, and Reflect sections.

A brief definition of feedback

We define feedback as helpful information offered by an individual (your tutor, manager, parent, coach, etc.) about something you have done or said or written. It could be corrective information or encouragement, an alternative strategy to tackle a problem or a clarification of ideas (Hattie and Timperley, 2007).

So, feedback occurs because of your actions or performance and will include information about what someone expected of you and how you performed against these expectations.

You can then use this information to learn, improve and make better-informed decisions. You will know what you do well and where you need to put extra work. Everyone can benefit from considerate and helpful feedback, not just Premier League footballers or Hollywood stars!

What’s in it for me?

Without feedback, you might find yourself feeling at sea, unsure of what and how to improve. It would be like receiving back a graded essay without a single comment – not very helpful for any future assignments. So, here are a few reasons why it is good to welcome (even the difficult) feedback into your life:

1. It’s out there, it’s free (most of the time) and you decide what to do with it – people like giving others’ feedback, and it is up to you to reflect on what you have just heard or read. Pick what’s useful and reflect on what you find less helpful. Think about how you can use it to your advantage and run with it. Feedback will help you increase your self-awareness and see what impact your behaviour and actions have on others.

2. It will help you plan your life/study/career journey – through well-provided feedback you can figure out where you are going and what your goals are, ‘how you are going’ and ‘where to go next’ (Hattie and Timperley, 2007).

3. It will help you become a better communicator – in any interaction where you receive feedback, you will need to listen actively to understand the meaning behind the words. It is not always easy, but the more you do it the better you get at it – it’s like learning to ride a bike – once you get over the initial wobbles, the sky is your limit. But… remember that you can always get better!

4. It is part of your lifelong learning – yes, even when you have left your ‘formal education’, it is not the end of your lifelong learning. There may be no more official tests and exams, but to improve and grow in your future roles you will be required to stay motivated and keep developing your skills. It will help you feel actively involved in everything you do.

Not all feedback is the same

Feedback can come in many guises. Here are examples of what you may come across:

• One-to-one feedback with a tutor or manager
• Feedback from your peers and colleagues
• Informal impromptu feedback on for example post-it notes
• You may be asked to write a self-evaluation or reflection on progress in a graded assessment at university or an appraisal form at work
• Written comments on a piece of work
• Feedback on a group’s performance where you need to think about what applies to you
• Online surveys

Remember: Any feedback, whether you give or receive it, should be clear, specific, timely and objective, never personal.

What to do with it?

Well, it is up to you how you ask for feedback, and what you take on board. We have, however, a few helpful suggestions worth trying:

  • Don’t take it personally – well-meant feedback is objective and specifically focussed on a particular area of your performance and behaviour. Reflect on what you can take away from it so you perform better next time. Build on the positive comments and address the critical ones.
  • Practise asking for feedback – try asking specific questions, like ‘What is the one thing I could do better in this presentation?’ or ‘How could I improve my essay structure?’
  • Be prepared to listen and learn – feedback is not about judging, but helping you grow and develop so listen carefully to the meaning behind the words. Reflect on the comments and the main points from the feedback and put them to use by writing or agreeing on an action plan.
  • Know your triggers – if you take feedback comments personally then it may be helpful to self-assess yourself first (be honest!) against, for example, your tutor’s marking criteria and compare your score with that awarded by your tutor. See where you differ. Why is that? How would you comment on this essay if you were your tutor?

Last but not least

If you are interested in finding out more about feedback, click on the links to the resources below:

Read this:

Feedback at work
Tips for giving and receiving instant feedback
Feedback – a guide for students in higher education

Watch this:
3 rules to spark learning
How to use others’ feedback to learn and grow

Try this:
Assess yourself
More personal assessment

Reflect: now that you have read this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below. This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an action plan that works for you:

What inspired you?
• As a result, what do you want to do more of?
• And what do you want to do less of?
• What will you do next to achieve these goals?


Hattie, J. and Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. [pdf] Review of Educational Research, pp.81-112. Available at: [Accessed 11 Oct. 2018].

Leave a response »

Jacqueline Akello’s Advice For Starting Your Career: The First Step

Mary : August 24, 2018 1:49 pm : Job Searches, Learners

Professors Without Borders is committed to empowering students through education. Through our summer school programs in Sierra Leone, Thailand, Uganda, and India, we help students develop the skills that they will need to pursue jobs within their chosen career field.

In the final part of our career advice series, we asked Jacqueline Akello, the Pioneer University Secretary for the African Rural University in Kagadi, Uganda, to share her advice for searching and applying for jobs.

Please enjoy the following article from Jacqueline.

High school leavers join university or college with big dreams. Each one believes that having the college degree or diploma shall earn them a comfortable job in life. In the first few months before going to college, there are so many possibilities a freshman sees of life. In fact, they often think the adults just do not get it. Once they start the freshman year, there is a lot of catching up, a lot of socialization and the management of newly found freedom. There are no parents to decide by what time you should be home, done homework or sleep. Parents hope you can make responsible choices.

The world is an open ground for exploration. For some, the dreams die as fast as they came. Others nurture and water their dreams.
Indeed it is an open ground for exploration. What should be most important is that what are you exploring at? If it is that dream job you want, explore the possibilities that can earn you the experience to get to that job even while at university/college. Now how does one get to know the job opportunities while at college?

Know your primary choices in life. The primary choice is that which against all other choices are made. For example, if you want to be the most successful rolex (chapatti rolled with omelet and other fillings) trader in the region, what would you do? What must you choose to do to make it? What is involved in the making, pricing, what are the different flavours people like, what varieties must you have, what would make a customer comeback to purchase? All these guide one’s decision making.

Your associates matter. Whom you associate with is important to guide you in the choices that you end up making. Associating with staff of the college can enable you know the openings available. Perhaps a professor would want a research assistant. They are willing to mentor and train. These are short term opportunities. Assuming you want to be a statistician, you want to be as close to research associates as possible to give you opportunities to learn the tools of your trade while you get paid for it.

Ask the college Dean or Administrator. The Administrator and or Dean of any college always has a broader understanding of emerging needs. They shall always guide or recommend you. Notice boards often have leads, follow-up assume you are the first to read it. Volunteer if need be.
Business opportunities within the college. Your fellow students may be willing to purchase items or services from you. A number of college students have provided services such as graphics design, organize events, photocopy services etc. So many of these business opportunities are readily supported by the college students who become your clients and undertake free marketing for you. You must be willing to sacrifice a little pride. For some, such services are developed into full time jobs after college.

Participation in sports activities. Sports is often taken as a recreation engagement. All sports have rules and involve people. Soft skills extremely important for employment are developed through sports. People management, management of success and failure, time management, goal setting and strategizing etc. While it may not be an obvious linkage to employment, it provides experience useful in employment.

Whatever strategy you choose to take, remember, the skill and experience you learn from it shall be your stepping stone to the next level.

Many thanks to Jacqueline for her incredible insight. We hope that “The First Step” serves a useful resource as you begin your job search! Make sure to visit the Career Development Page to find advice and tips for how to start your next job search.

Click here to learn more about PROWIBO’s work.

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The First Step: A Guide to Searching and Applying for Jobs in Thailand

Mary : August 6, 2018 3:49 pm : Job Searches, Learners

Welcome back to The First Step, PROWIBO’s job search series. Through these articles, PROWIBO aims to present advice on searching and applying for jobs in Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Uganda. We hope these articles can serve as resources for the students of all of PROWIBO’s summer school programs.

In Part Two, we cover searching and applying for jobs in Thailand. We asked Sipim Sornbanlang, PROWIBO Asia Representative and Programs Coordinator, to give her advice for searching and applying for jobs.


Getting Started

When starting a  job search, it is important to stay organised and focused. At first glance, starting to look for a new job can seem overwhelming. However, it is very easy to conduct your job search online. “Searching online is the most convenient way for young people nowadays,” says Sipim. One website that may be particularly useful is JobThai. On the homepage, you can view JobThai’s most popular and most recent job adverts. Moreover, you can use JobThai’s search engine to browse for jobs by industry, category, and province. In addition to posting job adverts, JobThai offers users the chance to design and store their resumes on the website. However, if you are having difficulty finding a job online, Sipim suggests that you consult newspapers. “Sometimes jobs advertised in English newspapers like Bangkok Post, The Nation, etc. are more interesting and challenging,” says Sipim.

During the initial stages of your job hunt, it is important consider how you will present your resume and cover letter to a potential employer. Sipim suggests that resumes and cover letters should be as concise as possible. Remember that these documents present an overview of your skills and qualifications, so do not  overload the documents with too much information. Moreover, Sipim suggests that you maintain a professional tone throughout the documents. Remember to include a professional email address with your first and last name and, depending on your comfort level, include a professional and recognisable photo of yourself.


Skill Development

When applying for jobs, it is important to reflect on your own skills and abilities, so you make sure that you apply for jobs that reflect your skill set. Think about your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to soft skills, such as communication skills and time management and industry-specific skills, such as data processing. Skill development is a lifelong process. You can and should always make time to learn new skills and/or improve  your current skills. If you are unsure where to start, two key skills areas are language skills and IT skills.  “English communication is a plus when you are searching/applying for jobs,” says Sipim. It may also benefit you to learn another language aside from English, such as Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, and/or French. Moreover, Sipim stresses the importance of IT Skills and applications, especially Microsoft Office. Furthermore, Sipim  believes that individuals may also want to familiarize themselves with design skills. “I think having skill in multimedia or graphics can be very useful such as Photoshop, Video editing, etc. But this depends on which kind of organization you are working with as well,” says Sipim.


Work Experience

In a competitive labour market, it is important for candidates to stand out among other potential applicants. A great way to stand out is to have work experience in your chosen field. There are many ways to gain work experience. You can start by looking for volunteer opportunities and activities in university. Sipim also recommends applying to be an intern. Working as an intern will allow you to familiarize yourself with the industry and it provides great opportunities for networking. “According to my experience, many students could get job offers from organizations they intern after they graduate,” says Sipim. It is important to pursue as many work opportunities as you can. These opportunities not only help to advance your professional development but also help you understand how well you cope with problems and teamwork.


Interview Preparation

Throughout your job search, it is important to dedicate time to prepare for job interviews. To begin your interview preparation, think about how you would like to present yourself to your future employer. Sipim stresses the importance of being respectful and humble when first applying for jobs. It is also important to consider how to dress professionally  in order to create a good first impression. Finally, you should take adequate time to research the history and background of the organisation. “Do your homework about the organization you’re applying, study it well and give them good reasons why you are matched their requirements,” suggests Sipim. Potential employers will appreciate you taking the time to get to know the organisation.


Many thanks to Sipim for her helpful insight. Stay tuned for Part Three, where we will discuss searching and applying for jobs in Uganda. Make sure to visit the Career Development page to find advice and tips for how to start your next job search. To learn more about PROWIBO, please visit our website.



“” JobThai. Accessed July 20, 2018.

Weicht, Rebecca. “Education Systems Can Stifle Creative Thought. Here’s How to Do Things Differently.” World Economic Forum. Accessed August 20, 2018.


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Take Control of Your Future: A Guide to Action Planning

Mary : July 17, 2018 3:09 pm : Learners, Professional Development

Conducting a job search can be overwhelming. Luckily, Action Planning is a great way to stay organised and focused during your job search.

What is Action Planning?

The University of Kent’s Careers and Employability Service defines action planning as “a process which will help you to focus your ideas and decide what steps you need to take to achieve particular goals that you may have.” It is a cost-effective way for you to transform your aspirations into actions.

How do I create an Action Plan?

  1. Prioritise your interests. Think about the aspects of a job that are the most important to you, such as the starting salary, the available benefits, length of commute, hours, type of workload, etc.
  2. Set S.M.A.R.T. short term and long term goals. It is important to set goals for yourself. These goals should be specific, measurable, attainable and time bound. When developing these goals, think about where you want to be professionally and/or personally in the short and long term.
  3. Develop Action Steps. Action Steps are the specific actions that you will take in order to achieve your goal(s). It is important to make sure that your action steps are realistic and specific. The more clear you are, the easier it will be for you to complete each step. Action steps can include submitting a certain number of job applications each week, attending a career workshop, and/or developing a new skill.
  4. Monitor your progress keeping in mind your target dates. Record everything you do. This will help you stay organised throughout the process. If you’re struggling to stay on top of your Action Plan, try to speak with a career advisor. Remember,  you can always make changes to your Action Plan.

Why should I create an Action Plan?

Job searching is a self-regulated process. Even if you are a motivated individual, you should take time to think about your goals for personal and career development. What type of career do you want to have? Moreover, action planning helps to increase your productivity during your job search.In April of 2018, the World Bank conducted a study to determine the effect of action planning on job search efficiency for unemployed youth in South Africa. Participants attended career counselling workshops and were asked to complete weekly action plans. The study found that participants who made weekly action plans “received 24% more responses from employers and 30% more job offers, and were 26% more likely to be employed at the time of follow- up” in comparison to those did not complete weekly action plans.

If you need some inspiration when formatting your Action Plan, check out these templates from the World Bank, and  


Happy planning! Make sure to check out Prowibo’s Career Development page for more articles on how to make the most out of your job search.


Broad, Wendy. “The 5 Minute Career Action Plan.” Headspace National Youth Mental Health Network. Accessed July 10, 2018.

-“Career Planning: Career Development Action Plan.” University of California Berkeley Human Resources. Accessed July 13, 2018.

-Carranza, Eliana, and Svetlana Pimkina. Overcoming Behavioral Biases in Job Search: The Value of Action Planning.Issue brief. April 2018. Accessed July 14, 2018.

-Coleman, Rachel. “Simple Strategies That Work for Job Seekers.” Governance for Development. June 29, 2018. Accessed July 14, 2018.

-“MIT Global Education & Career Development.” Make a Career Plan | MIT Global Education & Career Development. Accessed July 14, 2018.

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Academic Funding Opportunities for African Youths

admin : February 28, 2018 11:27 pm : Grants and Scholarships, Learners

Here are 12 excellent opportunities for funding for African Youths!

1. Merck 350 Research Grants (up to EUR 350,000) Deadline: August 15th, 2018. Get funding to work on challenging research topics at the occasion of Merck’s 350th anniversary. Merck is all about Science and Technology. Check out this link: Merck

2. Africa Women Development Grants 2018 – $50,000 – Deadline March 7th 2018. The Africa Women Development Grants invites applications from African women’s organizations under it’s main grants programme. African Women’s Development Fund

3. UNAOC – United Nations Alliance of Civilizations – $25,000 – February 16th 2018 – Youth Solidarity Fund application – United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC)

4. Misk Grand Challenges – Up to $100,000 Grant for Young Innovators World Wide – Deadline – May 14th 2018 – Via the Misk Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Misk Foundation مؤسسة مسك الخيرية

5. IITA Research Fellowship on “Youth Engagement in Agribusiness and Rural Economic Activities in Africa” – Up to $10,000 – Deadline – February 28th 2018 –

6. Tanzania Sudden Opportunity Grant – Up to $200,000 – Deadline – Dec 31st 2018 – Voice

7. For Further funding opportunities, grants, scholarships, stay tuned on:

8. UK Network for funding organizations in International development, rolling deadlines, form $5,000-$500,000:

9. Open society initiative of East Africa – Open Society Foundations

10. IDEX Global Accelerator Fellowship 2018/2019 – for aspiring social entrepreneurs. Deadline – March 15th 2018 – IDEX Fellowship

11. Global Change-makers Youth Summit 2018 – 18 to 23 years old –  Fully Funded to Switzerland – Global Changemakers

12. All Bar None Scholarship to attend the 2018 One Young World Summit in The Hague, The Netherland (Fully Funded) – Deadline – 2nd April 2018 – One Young World

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Interview Tips that will Help you Land the Job!

admin : February 17, 2018 9:02 pm : Job Interviews, Learners

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the interview stage of your job hunting process! Now what do you do? Before you let the nerves kick in, check out this list of interview tips that will help you land the job!

Practice, practice, practice!

It can be very helpful to hold practice interviews with a friend or colleague before you go to the actual interview. This way you can practice responses to typical job interview questions and answers that will set you apart from the rest of the candidates. Make a list of concrete examples you can use to highlight your skills. A great way to do this is to construct a list of the job requirements and match them with your experience. When you provide evidence of your past success, it is a great way to promote yourself! Make sure you also have a list of your own questions ready to ask the employer.

For examples of the most commonly asked interview questions, follow this link.

Not sure what types of questions to ask the employer during the interview? Have a look at this comprehensive guide.

Research the Company.

Researching the company is part of the preparation process before the interview. Employers want to make sure you did your homework and understand what the company does and the industry that they work in. You need to be prepared for the question, ‘What do you know about this company?’ It is important to do research so that you can showcase and relate what you’ve learned about the company throughout the interview process. Take some time to visit the company’s official website and write down any key information you think may be useful during the interview.

Get Ready ahead of Time.

It is never a good idea to wait last minute to pick an outfit, print out a copy of your CV or find a notebook and pen. Make sure you have one great interview outfit ready so you can be prepared to interview on short notice without the stress of deciding on what to wear. The night before the interview make sure you have everything ready, your outfit is neat and appropriate for the type of company you are interviewing with. Bring extra copies of your CV and always bring a pen and paper for note taking as well as questions and information you prepared for the interview.

The Balance has a great article about appropriate interview attire for all different types of interviews.

Be Early!

Being early for an interview is crucial in the selection process as it shows that you are reliable and punctual. Make sure to arrive five to ten minutes early. If needed, take some time the day before to find the interview location to ensure you know exactly how long it takes to get there and where to go. Being early allows you to visit the restroom, inspect your outfit and calm your pre-interview nerves.

Stay Calm.

It is important to stay as calm as possible during the interview. Try to relax and remember that your body language shows as much about you as your answers to the questions. If you have properly prepared, it will be evident in the confidence you exhibit. If you feel flustered, take a minute to relax. All interviewers have been in your shoes at one point and understand that it can be very nerve-racking! Ensure to maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s), be active and listen to the entire question before you answer.

Here are some great tips for avoiding job interview stress and to help calm your nerves.

Share your Knowledge.

Make sure to relate what you have researched about the company when you are answering questions. When you speak about your career accomplishments, match them to the job description for the position you’re applying for. Use examples from your research such as, ‘From the research I did, I noticed that your customer satisfaction ratings improved when you implemented your new software system last year. I am familiar with the latest technologies from my experience at X-Company developing software.’ This is your time to shine and match the company’s requirements to your expertise!

Follow Up!

Make sure to always follow up with the interviewer(s) with a thank you note reiterating your interest in the position. If you forgot to mention any important details during the interview, this is also a time to include them. If you were interviewed by more than one person, do not send out a mass email, but rather send a personalised note. Make sure this is done within 24 hours of your interview.

Now that you know the top tips for a successful interview, start preparing and researching and relax! You’ll do great!



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Tips for Teachers

admin : January 17, 2018 11:48 pm : Learners, Tools for Tutors

This section on Career Development is not only useful to the students and alumni of Prowibo, but also to our teachers. Have a look at this inspiring article on tips for teachers written by one of Prowibo’s Research Fellows, Gabriel Inchausti.

Citizens of Solidaryland are known for their kindness and pro-sociality. One example will offer proof: their rate of organ donors is above 90%. The figure is seven times higher than their neighbours’ (the citizens of Egoland). Solidarylanders like to help others and they know the biggest way to do it is by giving the gift of life: donating to those who need it.

But what about Egolanders? Are they as cold, heartless, and individualistic as those figures suggest? Is it that they don’t care about others at all?

A small trick helped Solidarylanders to achieve such impressive rate of donors: all of them are automatic donors, unless they explicitly declare so. Can that seemingly innocuous fact be that important? Definitely!

Richard Thaler, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics , coined the term ‘nudge‘ to refer to those little elements in the context of a decision that have big impact in its outcome. We are not optimal, rational machines that make decisions always in accordance to our own benefit or our beliefs. We are just humans, and as Solidarylanders, we can use some help in the context to improve our decisions.

We know that education is very important. We are willing to put a considerable dose of effort to fulfil our academic goals. However, we rely on our human condition to make the right choices when the moment comes: Should I work now and finish this essay, or can I leave it for the weekend? In the end, my deadline is only next Tuesday. This is not an easy decision, and its outcome is not necessarily related to a specific academic mindset.

Professors can greatly improve the impact of their teachings if they become ‘choice architects‘. Lectures and course structure can have more effect if professors strategically place “cues” that condition students’ academic decisions in a good way.

Here a few suggestions:

Master the Deadlines.

Do students deliberately decide to rush during the last couple of days to finish their essay? Definitely not! But procrastination is one of the most difficult forces that students fight.

Although they know they tend to procrastinate, and they self-impose deadlines, they fail in building an effective mechanism to enforce their plan. Students may benefit more from externally imposed deadlines. (Ariely & Wertenbroch, 2002)

Help your students by splitting complex tasks into smaller ones with strict interim deadlines.

Build Habits.

We rely heavily on routines, in particular those that are proposed to us. Sometimes students build the proper ones, but sometimes they don’t. It is not enough to set how much time they should allocate each week in studying for a subject. They need to go one step forward. They need to specify when, where, and with whom.

The more specific the plan, the bigger the chances for them to follow it. As odd at it may sound, consider incentivising the first steps of your students’ plan. Incentives work great for short sprints and can be very useful when trying to build a routine.

Should your students earn credits just for showing up every Monday morning at 8 AM with their group? It may not be a silly idea.

Embrace the Golden Minute.

Other Nobel Prize in Economics, Daniel Kahneman said: “Our mind has a useful capability to focus on whatever is odd, different or unusual”. That useful capability can turn into something that is not always helpful, but professors can use it in benefit of their student.

Leave the last three minutes of your lectures for students to write what they have learned, what was most surprising in  your class and ask them to choose something they learned to tell to others.

These three questions activate  a mechanism that helps in retaining concepts. The “saying-is-believing” effect, (Hausmann, Levine, & Tory Higgins, 2008) refers to the influence in a communicator’s memories that has the process of tailoring a message for an audience.

When you ask your students to choose a single salient concept and to tell it to others they care about, the chance of them to fix it, increases.

Fight the Curve of Forgetting

Humans tend to forget, but they do it following a systematic pattern: we forget exponentially. Studies regarding the way we handle memories refer to the idea that the process of forgetting is linked with our growing inability to retrieve pieces of information stored. Memories appear to be gone because we can’t recall it, not because we lose it. (Anderson, Bjork, & Bjork, 1994) Mnemonic rules are tools to help in the process of information recovery.

Remind your students about the key concepts of your lessons the day after your lecture. Do it again in ten days. And do it a third time within a period of one month. This can help students  strengthen the “recalling procedures”, thus making the learned knowledge more available.


(1) Master the deadlines, (2) Build Habits, (3) Embrace the Golden Minute, and (4) Fight the Curve of Forgetting. These techniques won’t alter the beliefs of your students about the importance of education and the relevance of your lectures, but they will help them engage in behaviours consistent with high academic performance.


Anderson, M. C., Bjork, R. A., & Bjork, E. L. (1994). Remembering can cause forgetting: Retrieval dynamics in long-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20(5), 1063–1087.

Ariely, D., & Wertenbroch, K. (2002). Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Precommitment. Psychological Science, 13(3), 219–224.

Hausmann, L. R. M., Levine, J. M., & Tory Higgins, E. (2008). Communication and Group Perception: Extending the `Saying is Believing’ Effect. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 11(4), 539–554.


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Top Tips for Writing an Outstanding CV

admin : January 11, 2018 5:54 pm : Career Development, Learners

When it comes to looking for a job, a great CV is a necessity. Get it right and you will land an interview in no time, however, get it wrong and it will be difficult to score an interview.

This guide will provide top tips for writing an outstanding CV for 2018 and beyond.

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Exam Study Tips

admin : October 27, 2017 11:16 am : Learners, Revision and Essay Writing

Stressed about an upcoming exam? Take a look at these exam study tips written by our Uganda Team Leader, Ena!

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Tips to Aid in your Job Search

admin : October 24, 2017 1:13 pm : Job Searches, Learners

Regardless of the field you’re in, applying for a new job can be stressful. Filling out numerous applications and then playing the waiting game is an experience nobody enjoys. Receiving emails stating you have not been shortlisted for the position can be disheartening and leave you feeling frustrated in your search.

However, what if we told you that there are a few secrets to help you find the best jobs and land an interview? This post will provide you with the important tips to aid in your job search.

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Give your Referees the Treatment they Deserve!

admin : October 2, 2017 4:07 pm : Learners, Professional Development

When applying for university, scholarships or jobs, many times you are asked to provide references to ensure academic standing or the level of professionalism you demonstrate. Great references are very valuable, so why do we treat our referees so poorly? This post will present 5 tips on how to give your referees the treatment they deserve!

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Top 10 Tips for Applying for Scholarships

admin : September 26, 2017 9:07 am : Grants and Scholarships, Learners

Applying for scholarships can sometimes be stressful and confusing. But have no fear, we’ve got you covered! Here is a list of our top 10 tips for applying for scholarships.


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Free Software for Students

caro : August 11, 2017 1:41 pm : Learners, Professional Development

Software that is useful for students, all free, all online. Most of these need to be downloaded, but once done you can often use them offline.

I want to….

… write an essay


… add references to my essay

more »

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Free Software for Research and Teaching

caro : August 11, 2017 1:38 pm : Learners, Professional Development

Software that is useful for educators, all free, all online. Most of these need to be downloaded, but once done you can often use them offline.

I want to….

… write an article


… add references to my article

more »

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Online Courses for FREE

caro : August 8, 2017 12:58 pm : Learners, Online Courses

These courses are free but you are charged in you want to receive a certificate.

Coursera offers financial aid to students who want the official verification certificate and can’t afford it.

This is a fabulous help for curious students or those struggling with a course. Click the below links, chose your class, build your degree!


Image result for logo coursera
edX Home Page


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Do you want to study Law? Free online courses.

caro : August 11, 2017 1:25 pm : Learners, Online Courses


These courses have been cross-referenced against law degrees from top universities. If you want to study for free or supplement your knowledge, here are the courses you can follow online for free.

A Law Student’s Toolkit

English Common Law: Structure and Principles
University of London

An Introduction to American Law
University of Pennsylvania

International Law
Université catholique de Louvain

Introduction to International Criminal Law
Case Western Reserve University 

International Humanitarian Law
Université catholique de Louvain

International Investment Law 
Université catholique de Louvain

Introduction to Environmental Law and Policy
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

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Do you want to study Global Politics and Development? Free online courses.

admin : September 19, 2017 9:48 am : Learners, Online Courses


These courses have been cross-referenced against Global Politics and Development degrees from top universities. If you want to study for free or supplement your knowledge, here are the courses you can follow online for free.

more »

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Do you want to study an MBA? Free online courses.

caro : August 11, 2017 1:19 pm : Learners, Online Courses


These courses have been cross-referenced against MBA degrees from top universities. If you want to study for free or supplement your knowledge, here are the courses you can follow online for free.

Finance for Non-Finance Professionals
Rice University

Financial Markets

Maths Essentials for MBA Success 
Imperial College London

International Business Environment
University of London

Accounting Essentials for MBA Success
Imperial College London 

Corporate Financial Policy
University of Michigan

Project Risk Assessment
University of Michigan 


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