Hello and welcome to my introductory blog which will serve to document my journey into higher education as I undertake a part-time, fully online degree in Graphic Design, which will hopefully only span over the next 6 years, and not the rest of my life. Every few months or so you will see me pop up, documenting my latest module adventures and letting you know what I’ve been up to.
For a bit of personal background, I went to college for 6 months before deciding it wasn’t for me, fast forward 4 years I found myself working at the University of Portsmouth. 13 years later I’ve worked my way up the ladder into the role of Online Course Developer, a role which I truly enjoy. However, over the years I have looked at my peers and silently wished that I had pursued an academic path after all, but I had accepted that life doesn’t always go the way you expect it to and buried the thoughts back down when they popped up, telling myself that I had too much going on in my life to consider trying to get back into education (and for those that know me will know that this is true for the most part, my life is nothing but hectic!).
In 2019, I gained my Mathematics GCSE, after attending night school for 9 months, which I had been putting off due to struggling with dyscalculia and the fear of failure. Succeeding in this triggered such a sense of achievement that I started to consider enrolling on a degree, for real this time. I spoke to friends and colleagues for advice and their thoughts as to what they thought I should do. Some felt that it was wise to add to my qualifications, when others would say, well you’re already doing the job and have the work experience, so what’s the point?
In the end I decided it was now or never, and time to just dive in – I’ve navigated so many major life events as a baptism of fire – so why stop now? I want to undertake this degree not just to better my job prospects, or to become better at the design aspects of my current job, but for me. Because this is what I’m truly interested in and I know I can do it and be great at it.
So where am I studying? After doing lots and lots of research, and becoming disheartened many times, I discovered the Open College of the Arts (OCA), somewhere I had never heard of before, and after learning more about them, I’m really surprised it isn’t more well known. The OCA was founded in 1987 by Micheal Young, who was one of the founders of the Open University. They specialise in creative degrees delivered entirely online, something that I’ve discovered is very thin on the ground. In 2016, the OCA became part of the University for the Creative Arts (UCA), which in 2019 was named Modern University of the Year by the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, and is ranked number #13 on the UK’s Guardians University League Table and listed as TEF Gold.
As the degree is delivered fully online, which is perfect for me work-wise, it means that my motivation and time management skills are going to have to exceed my usual levels by tenfold. I know myself well enough to know that my main challenges are going to be just sitting down and reading, and balancing my social life with study time … I’ll have to start taking the advice that I give to students, and like most people I am terrible at taking my own advice!
However, through the power of social media I already have a ‘study buddy’ that I met through the OCA student community Facebook group. It’s already been a huge help, regardless of the ‘real life’ support that I have, and we are helping each other by sharing ideas and just motivating each other generally. She’s started slightly earlier than me (I’m starting in April) so has let me know what the first assignment is, which is to design three postcards based on your interests and hobbies. Naturally they are going to be the nerdiest postcards ever seen, and I’m super excited about getting started on them.
I’m also very interested to see how this degree is delivered from a professional viewpoint. The only contact I will have with my tutors is via Skype or Google Hangouts, I will be sent my assignments online and will be expected to maintain a learner log. I’m not sure yet what Virtual Learning Environment will be used if any, but the feedback I have read from other students has been very positive, so I’ll also be feeding back on this blog on how the OCAs way of teaching could improve my own practice in certain areas as an Online Course Developer.
I’m under no illusion that this is going to be hard work, lots of hard work, but I’m ready for the challenge!
Image credit – Photo by Flo Dahm from Pexels