A student perspective
Katrina Paton completed a full time BA (Hons) Child and Youth Studies,with UHI in 2011, as well as a , which was part-time. Katrina enrolled at Moray College UHI for the former and at Perth College UHI for her postgraduate programme.
1. What did you know about online learning before you enrolled?
I had previously completed a face-to-face course and I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the same level of contact and support from my peers. I’m not much of a ‘stay at home’ person and I didn’t particularly want to become a prisoner in my own home, with only a computer for company!
I found that a social space within Blackboard, called the ‘Cyber Café’, was a great place to engage with other online
students. During my third year, I also began to interact with a wider network of peers via Facebook, which was great because I now have friends from all over the Highlands and Islands region; we had our own group page, which was private so we could be more open - because we knew the tutors couldn’t see our postings!
3. What support did you get throughout your online study?
My tutors were outstanding and would happily go out of their way whenever I had a problem and to ensure that me and my peers were properly supported. It was also reassuring to know that the University helpdesk was available 24 hours a day if I ever needed it.
The UHI Career Centre was a great support service. I didn't know what I wanted to do when I graduated - the careers team really helped me to understand my options and decide which was right for me.
I wouldn’t have achieved my honours degree however without the support of my peers. It's no easy thing and my Uni friends were what kept me going!
4. What were the course materials like?
As well as written materials there were interactive tasks for each module. You would put in your answers or argue your point on the discussion board, then the tutors and other students would make comments or counter-argue. This is an important skill for essay writing and the online forum was a great way to practice. Tutors often held live discussions in the chat-room, especially when assessments or exams were coming up.
If you feel like trying a different mode of learning, you can pick an elective module from another degree programme. I did a Cultural Studies module in 2nd year which was delivered via video conferencing for an hour, once a week. It was strange at first but I use video conferencing (VC) all the time now!
5. How did you balance online study with other commitments?
During the part-time postgraduate course, I was also working full-time and had to carefully manage both workloads. I would study mainly in the evenings and at weekends so it was really important for me to plan ahead and to make sure my employers were aware of my situation. If I knew I had an assessment coming up, I would often book a couple of days holiday to make sure I had plenty of time to complete it!
6. Would you recommend online learning?
I would definitely recommend it; online learning has opened a door for me that was previously closed. I’ve also been able to develop IT skills and knowledge that I wouldn’t have got by studying a face-to-face course. I’ve made new friends from all over the Highlands and Islands and feel a real affinity to the area because of it!
Just like any other degree - you need to be prepared to dedicate yourself to it in order to succeed. Online learning with UHI is different but just as challenging - and there aren’t many courses you can do from the comfort of your sofa, whilst wearing your PJs, are there?