Hazel Woodhall, an enormously capable and determined student, graduated from the Advanced Diploma of Industrial Data Communications, Networking and IT, in the latter part of 2013. She praises the course for filling her knowledge gaps. In 2008 she joined Alstom UK (a French multinational company which holds interests in the electricity generation and rail transport markets), having garnered significant experience in IT support in a corporate environment. In her new role as IT Project Engineer she was tasked with delivering generator condition monitoring solutions for power stations worldwide. Hazel felt she had been thrown into a new world – one where the line between information technology (IT) and operation technology (OT) systems was blurring. The IT domain has always been disturbingly fluid and certainly now, in business critical environments, IT/OT managers require the knowledge to remotely monitor and manage physical devices, control systems and IT resources. Despite her strong IT background she felt the need to find a course which filled her engineering knowledge gaps. She admits that the program did indeed accomplish this. For the EIT this is excellent news. She mentions that the course content “has enabled me to troubleshoot and implement technology that was previously foreign to me”.
Hazel’s remarkable fortitude is well worth mentioning. Apart from her long work hours, which include the rigour of regular travel, she embarked on this course despite already working through a BSc in Information and Communication Technologies. (She completes this qualification in a couple of months). Yet she remains undeterred; she has a Master of Science or an Advanced Diploma in Instrumentation in her sights!
As a college we are indebted to our students for a variety of reasons, but one stands out: We are able to continuously improve all that we do because of their feedback.
The flexibility of our live, online approach to education facilitated Hazel’s studies, as it does to all students who are working full-time and often remotely. Inevitably, however, there are trade-offs.
Hazel mentions a couple which need to be raised here because they can act as a heads-up or early warning for future students:
- Work out, early on in your course, how much time you need to dedicate to your studies, preferably on a weekly basis, to avoid falling behind.
- Do not take on too much! As Hazel says, “I would not put myself in the situation of doing two courses simultaneously again!”
- You may feel disconnected from the other students in your cohort. Hazel did, and mentions that this was, “a pity as we are all in similar industries”. To ensure you bond with your class and exploit the national and international networking opportunities consider the following advice from our eLearning Manager, Paul Celenza: “In my day to day role at EIT I am fortunate to communicate with a range of students who are professionals at many different levels and doing some amazing jobs. The opportunity for our students to network with each other, study together and to share ideas about the latest technologies and work practices are immense. We have students from all over the world who have a great deal to share and this can be easily achieved through the use of the technologies EIT uses in all programs. Each course has its own webinar room. This room is used for the live, interactive webinar sessions that the students regularly attend and during which they get to know each other. The webinar room is also available for use at any time, day or night, to meet up and chat. Access to our Learning Management System (Moodle) also provides students with a meeting place for sharing ideas; in the chat rooms and through the forums.
I would encourage all students, from all regions of the world, to be inclusive and interact with each other. You all have much to offer and fantastic experiences to share. We all have common goals, but different ways of achieving them. Through your interaction with your classmates you will learn from their experiences and ultimately achieve your own goals”
- Feedback from another graduate shows that it is indeed possible, despite studying online, to feel included: “It may be hard to believe of a distance learning course, but I felt a real sense of camaraderie with the other students on the course – I think that the ability to chat in real time with them during the webinars fostered this bond.”
We would like to extend a big thanks to Hazel. Her input was integral to the telling of this tale from one of EIT’s study trenches.