The end of the first semester…

First comes the stress, the panic and the constant waking in the night to write ideas down, then comes a wave of relief on completion, followed by panic that it’s not right, then the underlying worry until you get your mark. Yes folks, MA assignments bring with them a rollercoaster of emotions. And it’s not like you can ride the wave of relief for too long either…  before you know it another one is lapping at your toes, threatening to drown your social life and sting your brain cells.

Despite the workload and constant fear of failure I’m really enjoying being a student, particularly as I got to see campus for the first time last week. Having been a student since September, albeit a distance learner, I had yet to tread foot on BCU soil.

That said, I have email contact with my fellow students and know they’re only an email, text or Facebook message away. I speak regularly with my tutor and, equally, know numerous ways to quiz him if I get stuck or need support. As a distance learner I digest my learning via a series of weekly AudioBoos, video clips or filmed guest speakers, presentations on Slideshare and blog posts, as well as a long reading list and time spent dabbling with the very tools we’re learning about. It’s a very practical, just get on and do it, type of course, and that’s one of the reasons I like it; there’s a lot of flexibility in the way I tackle my study and that’s appealing. As someone who works full time and also likes to cling onto a social life and other hobbies, it’s important to be able to fit study around everything else.

For some, distance learning may feel isolated but I don’t feel that way. I’ve made an effort to attend some of the courses and conferences with my fellow students – so at least I know what they look like and where they are if I want to chat – and because I work at The Open University, the kings of supported distance learning, perhaps I feel more at ease about the process of independent study and less physical hand-holding.

And I think, so far, BCU are doing a pretty good job – particularly as it’s the first time they’ve offered the course via distance learning. Some of my fellow students are doing it full time, others part time, and just three of us via distance learning. But we’re all in similar boats, doing our best to stay afloat.

What I do miss, perhaps, is the sharing of experiences which most likely happens during weekly tutorials. I don’t know, for sure, because I have never attended one. And my learning journey may suffer slightly for it. But for now, I’m just getting on with it.

I’ve just slaved over my second assignment of semester one, which ate up a lot of time, and I’m now full of dread as I await the result. It’s worth 80 per cent so I need this one in the bag. But soon I’ll have other assignments to focus on as semester two rolls around – and the whole process starts again.

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