Tag Archives: study

Elevator pitch. Well, not really #MAEnt

Robyn Bateman waving shadowSo, the current module of my MA requires me to be the business. Literally. I’m full of creative ideas at home and at work (and with the kids… well, you have to get them to eat their greens somehow). But business? Well, that’s not my thing. Or maybe it is and I just haven’t tried it. We’ll soon find out.

The key part is coming up with an idea that is a) online, b) relates to the award for which I’m studying (damn, that food-related project I have burning a hole in my notepad will have to wait) and meet some political/social need. I.e I need to try and do some good in the world while trying to make money while trying to be a journalist.

My idea in its very barest form (the one I think I’ll stick with, at least) is linked with what I love and what I do. One of my work buddies describes me as abstractly creative and I’d never have put myself under that umbrella until he said it. It’s not that I come up with weird and wonderful ideas but I do try and challenge myself to think beyond what’s the easiest option. I don’t always succeed but I do enjoy a spot of creativity.

I also love content, as a creator, consumer and lurker. And I’m fussy, time-starved and suffer a short attention span so it needs to be good. I also love learning, both as a learner – in the direct sense, hence why I’m doing this MA; as a mentor, I love sharing my skills with others, it makes me feel good; and also indirectly too. I work for a university and know first-hand how education changes lives, develops careers, boosts self confidence, contributes to the economy and makes the world go round. And I know that being creative and learning new skills is beyond tricky when you’re spinning many plates: job or jobs, parenthood, carer, friend, sportsman, volunteers etc.

So, my idea is to offer a kind of mentoring service for small business who want to develop their brands without having to employ a large agency or cough up a small fortune to attend a workshop in London. I want to offer an online portal of bitesize content training in all things digital content, from creating videos, writing social media posts, re-sizing images, learning WordPress, web content, enewsletters etc. And that that ‘learning hub’ for want of a better phrase will allow people to put their learning into practice, try by failing in a comfortable, supportive space, and therefore contribute to other people’s learning. Or something like that.

My husband works with a lot of small businesses in his role as web designer/developer and knows first-hand how people struggle with the basics which, in this day and age are pretty essential if you want customers to engage in spaces they’re comfortable in. And they don’t have the time or budget to skill up in a more formal way, and neither do they have to. Although a traditionally qualified journalist, I was trained in print and much of my own digital skillset has come from being mentored by others, learning by doing and experimenting, and failing plenty times over. I’m still learning.

So, that’s the crux of it. It needs a lot of research, polishing and working up but I’m further on than I was last week: clueless.

Enterprise #MAEnt from Robyn Bateman on Vimeo.

All roads leads back to the workplace
It’s interesting to see how prominently my place of work features in my MA in Online Journalism. I’m not sure why, but I read a 2009  post from Paul Bradshaw last week when he was started to write the MA course. In it, he referenced Peter Horrocks, then of the BBC, who’d offered some though on the content of the course. Today, as I sit and type this, Peter is the Vice-Chancellor of The Open University (OU), where I work.

Then, while reading about social innovation, I stumbled on a paragraph that mentioned the OU and the Young Foundation, named after Michael Young, the man who helped to found the ‘university of the air’.

Now, I’m staying late after work to catch up on MA reading and access to the Taylor & Francis Online ‘portal’ has been granted because I’m logged on with the OU and the uni logo has popped onto the top of my screen. Being a distance learning student (live Milton Keynes, uni in Birmingham) can have disadvantages, but working for another university (particularly the ‘king’ of the distance learning tribe) seems to make up for the shortfall.

De Bono six thinking hats graphicHats off to de Bono
And already my work-life is benefitting from the MA. I’ve been reading up about Edward de Bono and his six thinking hats and would really like to try them out in a creative brainstorm session sometime soon. Brainstorms can often be messy, lots of people cramming in ideas, shouting them down and forgetting objectives for what seems like an age. The thinking hats sounds less messy but just as creative and I won’t know until I’ve tried it. I like the idea of sitting in a meeting wearing a hat too. Watch this space.

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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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My first post by email

Okay, am emailing this blog post from my mobile and hoping it works. And that it will be auto tweeted.

The picture shows how much my study work space has shifted since my pledge to work from the office, for the sake of my bad posture and resulting hand and arm pain. Bad, bad me. Tonight, sofa. Tomorrow, office.

Sent from Robyn’s iPhone

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