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Post-graduate Collaborative Assignment. Terri Grant Professional Communication Unit School of Management Studies . BACKGROUND. PG Dip Programme regarded as mini MBA 4 major specialisations on offer Many non-Commerce undergraduate degrees

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Post graduate collaborative assignment

Post-graduate Collaborative Assignment

Terri Grant

Professional Communication Unit

School of Management Studies


  • PG Dip Programme regarded as mini MBA

  • 4 major specialisations on offer

  • Many non-Commerce undergraduate degrees

  • Disparate group of students in terms of race, gender, age, nationality, language (many ESL students)

Problem for pcu

  • Our course is a 2-credit core course offered across all 4 specialisations

  • Focus is on business communication and career development

  • Seen as ‘soft option’ and ‘extra’ to the diploma

  • Mediocre quality as priorities shifted to special field deliverables


The collaborative assignment how to

  • ‘Work smart’

  • Build collegiality

  • Align and integrate PCU course

  • Focus on WAD

  • Simulate the work environment

  • Build capacity

  • Provide support and ‘scaffolding’ for weaker students

We needed a good idea!

Pcu could act as a pivot this would
PCU could act as a pivot: This would:

  • Centralise course (& communicative competence) as a hub for all diploma special fields, thus foregrounding the importance of communication in the course & workplace






Collaborative assignment topics how this worked
Collaborative assignment topics: how this worked

  • Mixed groups were established (race, gender, language, etc.) within 4 specialisation areas

  • These groups stayed intact across 3 semester core courses [Business Communication & Career Development (PCU), Entrepreneurial Strategies (ES) and Business in Context (BIC)]

  • PCU negotiated topics with 2 other course convenors to devise an ‘a’, ‘b’ & ‘c’ for each topic

  • Topic areas displayed on notice board and online

  • Groups had to select focus area on first come, first served basis and put down 1st and 2nd choices

  • Once finalised, groups were given the go-ahead!

Example one focus area 3 topics for 3 courses
Example: one focus area = 3 topics for 3 courses

  • 3 a. ES: Analyse the extent of economic development from 2 major recent sporting events (e.g. Olympic Games, Soccer World Cup). What can we learn from these two cases and how can lessons be applied to the 2010 SA World Cup. (Report)

  • 3b. PCU: The advent of the World Cup in South Africa brings with it a myriad of business challenges and opportunities. As a SA entrepreneur, how could you take advantage of this sports event? Outline your concept / product / service to the organisers and include how your proposal will contribute to the success of such an international event. (Business proposal) 

  • 3c. BIC: The World Cup is meant to bring upliftment to the poor in South Africa while at the same time servicing the needs of wealthy foreign sports fans. How have major sports events brought poverty alleviation in the past to other countries, and how have they also failed in this mission. How can a South African company ethically benefit from the World Cup? (Paper or essay)

Facilitaton process

  • INPUT LECTURES (Guest speakers) leading to…..

  • WORKSHOPS (PCU staff) resulting in ……

  • GROUP MEETINGS (on their own or with staff by arrangement) giving rise to……

  • REPORT BACKS leading to ……

  • FEEDBACK and eventual delegation of


    Written projects Group oral presentation

Pcu results

Figure1: Lowest marks obtained in 2004 – 2006 with examination improvement being the most dramatic.

Box diagram comparison 1
Box diagram comparison (1)

Figure 2: A comparison of mark range from 2004 – 2006 in all three assessment areas

Box diagram comparison 2
Box diagram comparison (2)

Figure 3: In final examination as well as oral and written year mark, the 2006 mark

range was shorter with no students getting below the cut-off of 40% and no failures.

Course assessments
Course assessments

Over 80% of course assessments were positive with students using descriptions such as “valuable to course and career”; “worthwhile”; ”learnt so many new things”; “realistic”; “powerful, relevant, supportive course”; “structure was perfect”; “comfortable” “helpful and inspiring”; “excellent” program.

Just over 10% had mixed feelings as found approach quite daunting and about 8% found course more stressful than helpful. (Most of these had team problems.)

2006 beyond
2006 & beyond

  • Sport Management replaced HR as a Diploma (2006).

  • Collaboration has grown to include most core course convenors who contribute research areas to me at the start of semester.

  • We separate these into assign-ment components and manage the programme and process.

More work for me at

the outset but far better integration and alignment with core course subject matter.

Suspected and real problems
Suspected and real problems

  • Too much of a good thing? (complacency)

  • Boredom with same research topics -they may “re-hash” topics rather than “re-engineer” them intelligently

  • If group conflict / boredom, etc. this carries over into other courses as groups remain the same

  • Although weaker students supported, can this be construed as “riding on the coat tails of stronger students”?

Find a balance
Find a balance

  • Assignment type (What makes up the portfolio?)

  • Size of work unit (Is it individual, buddy or group?)

  • Assessment criteria (Who assesses? How? When?)

Post graduate collaborative assignment

Thank you.

Any questions?