My distance learning journey
Professor Alex Forsythe shares her inspirational experience of being an online learner as the University of Wolverhampton launches a portfolio of fully online master’s.
My distance learning journey began when my daughter was born with serious medical problems. Her birth resulted in the very quick realisation of three things:
- It is possible to be both terrified out of your mind, and bored out of your mind at the same time
- The situation was not going to change anytime soon, so I would need to stop working and be at home full-time
- Things would get better faster if I did something to help myself
What may have looked to some as a knee jerk reaction to trauma and perhaps an overload of Hello magazine, I started studying business management with the Open University (OU).
Those closest to me had very real worries that I was taking on one more thing which would tip me over the edge. However, I was not prepared to sit about and let my thoughts occupy themselves with funeral plans. Sickness was all around me and death was a very real threat, but the outcome was in the hands of the experts so all I could do was regain control of my own thoughts.
My online relationship has now lasted some 20 years and during that time I have heard many similar student stories. I know this scenario is familiar to many of you who are thinking of starting your own online learning journeys. My advice is to hold your ambitions as close to you as a dearly loved child. Whatever your journey, online study will nurture thinking, foster your confidence, enhance yourself respect and realise your ambitions. It will be quite literally game changing.
When I started studying it was at a time when distance learning was largely comprised of large dull textbooks and the odd weekend tutorial. My baby’s hospital bed soon became surrounded by textbooks and post-it notes. Whist she slept I would read and think. That thinking was better thinking; not the dark destructive thinking that engulfs you when ‘stuff’ in your life is terrifying and out of control. My new thinking was a powerful, creative thinking that inspired and drove me forward, but also anchored me and gave me purpose when times were tough.
Three years later, my daughter was a little better and so was I, but then we had another devastating blow; our second child was born with the same condition. After the initial distress, my response was to reconfigure their life saving equipment so it would all fit into my very large overnight bag, come changing bag, come school room and portable office, and then sign up to another module. This module then turned into a full-time psychology degree, which turned into a full-time PhD with some part-time teaching with the OU on the side. By the time I had my first lecturing post, both kids were doing well.
By 2011 I had made a further leap to running the online programmes at the University of Liverpool. These courses were fully online, and could be studied anywhere in the world. No more chunky textbooks, no more two-hour lectures or badly attended workshops, rather I was leading on cutting-edge developments to support and educate our students globally.
By the time I moved to the University of Wolverhampton I was working with a network of dynamic students who were employed in such organisations as the United Nations, UNICEF and the Finish Defence Forces in countries such as America, Canada, China, Russia, Palestine, Sweden and South Africa.
Today at the University of Wolverhampton, our technology is slicker than ever before, our textbooks are smarter, and our assignments are grounded in a philosophy of answering real world questions that will support the careers of the graduates of tomorrow. Online distance learning is now a globally recognised as a powerful change agent for the future. Whatever your personal story or career journey welcome to the future.
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