In 2017, Chitkara University subscribed to the Nature Masterclasses online course in 'Scientific Writing & Publishing'.
Chitkara University is renowned as one of the best private universities in the North India region. The university offers multi-disciplinary programs in a wide range of fields including business, engineering, health sciences and education, all of which are designed to be industry-relevant.
The university has established a research centre of excellence, known as the Chitkara University Research and Innovation Network (CURIN), to foster a culture of research and innovation and enable its researchers to work collaboratively across disciplines.
To support their research mission, Chitkara University became a subscriber to the Nature Masterclasses online course in ‘Scientific Writing and Publishing’ in 2017.
Nature Masterclasses online course
The ‘Scientific Writing and Publishing’ online course is delivered by editors from the Nature Research journals and gives a first-hand insight into how to publish in top journals. The editors share their editorial and scientific experience and give practical advice on the writing and publishing processes. In addition, interactive activities enable researchers to apply and solidify their learnings.
Chitkara University has a site-wide subscription, which enables all members of the university to access the course simply by connecting to the university's internet or wifi. Students who are off campus can still access the course by connecting to the university's internet remotely.
Mandating the online course
Upon subscribing to the Nature Masterclasses course, Chitkara University decided to make it mandatory for their postgraduate students. Describing their decision to do this, Dr Rajnish Sharma, the Dean (Research) of Chitkara University, explained:
“We realised the need to sow the seeds of research at the very basic level, rather than limiting it to only a handful number of senior Professors. To achieve that objective, it was a requirement to engage undergraduate students and help them learn the craft of embarking on the journey to research.”
As well as mandating the Nature Masterclasses course for postgraduate students, the university decided to create an elective for undergraduate students based around the course.
The elective, called 'Publishing Research', comprised 45 contact hours, spread across one semester. During the contact hours, students watched and discussed the videos from the Nature Masterclasses course, and engaged with case studies, presentations and activities.
This type of blended learning (combining online digital media with traditional classroom methods) can be very engaging, efficient and collaborative for learners.
Chitkara University also used the Nature Masterclasses course as part of a workshop it conducted for 500 faculty members during the summer. The faculty members used the course to learn the basics about writing good quality research papers.
Including the Nature Masterclasses course in the faculty workshop was beneficial to the faculty members and also ultimately to the students:
"As an outcome of the summer workshop, this pool of faculty members could draft a significant number of research papers, which would be communicated to reputed journals and conferences. We further believe that knowledge acquired by faculty members will be passed on to the students.”
With regards to the 'Publishing Research' elective for undergraduate students, the university evaluated its impact by assessing students at the end of elective. The students were asked to complete 3 tasks:
- A multiple choice test, based on the Nature Masterclasses course videos
- Prepare a draft research paper, with a Title, abstract and brief Introduction only
- Prepare a fully-fledged research paper with all sections
As a result of the third task, the students prepared 19 draft research papers.
“Although the students had not formally conducted any lab work to write the papers, through the process of learning they familiarised themselves with the whole life cycle of a research paper – right from the inception of an idea, through to the final publication of the paper.”
Talking about these results, the university concluded:
“It gives us the confidence that we did a fairly good job. We could kindle a desire among young minds to engage themselves in research and publish good quality research papers.”
To date, over 240 students from Chitkara University have registered on the Nature Masterclasses website and are using the course – with more joining every month!