on January 18th, 2017

Another student tale; from another part of the world and another field of engineering – and one that will clarify the alliteration used above – words that have been selected very carefully, as you will discover.

Paula Palmer graduated from the EIT’s Advanced Diploma of Applied Electrical Engineering (DEE) in May of last year, 2012. Paula’s cohort of students, DEE04, was shepherded through their eighteen months very ably by Online Learning Coordinator, Holly Adams.

Paula works in Barbados (a sovereign island country east of the Caribbean Sea) for the Barbados Light & Power Co. Ltd. She is an electrical engineer in the Distribution Department. At the time of her course enrollment, she was working in the Substations Section, supervising its maintenance and the construction process of a new building to replace an outdoor substation.

One of Paula’s colleagues recommended the course to her (a fellow engineer with good taste! The EIT is grateful). The course outline in the brochure, however, was the convincer, Paula said, “I realized that it would provide me with knowledge which I would not have necessarily gained while studying at university or in my day to day tasks. I especially liked the fact that most of the modules could be applied in my job in the substations section.”

Here comes the “Steeliness”. Paula’s time management involved discipline and resolve. She attended webinars directly after work – the 5.00pm sessions sometimes necessitating a rather fraught dash to login – and she dedicated weeknights to assignments. This left her weekends free to spend with family.

“Steeliness,” you may scoff, “That is our lot when we choose to study and work!” Yes, but read on. Paula became pregnant while on the course and believed she would have to put the course ‘On Hold” once her son was born (a sensible option one would think). However, apart from missing the odd webinar as a result of travel and work, she missed only one which was pregnancy-related – the day she went into labour. She then determinedly continued with the course, completing it in the allocated eighteen months.

This is where the “Support” comes into play. At one of the recent EIT Graduation Ceremonies, the partners and families of the students were commended for the vital part they play in helping the graduates over the line. Paula would have had her work cut out for her, but an accolade must go to her mum and husband. In Paula’s moving words, “I had strong support from my family. My mother and my husband would take care of my son for the hour needed to attend the weekly sessions and anytime I needed to work on my assignment. It was a bit hard at times but together we made it.”

Paula also employed a quite clever strategy – worthy of consideration for would-be students. She explains, “At the end of each session, I attempted to answer those questions in the assignment which related to the session I had just completed. This effectively gave me a week to complete those questions. I sometimes used my lunch hours too.”

This course offered Paula her first on-line education experience. She found Moodle (an on-line learning management system) handy – uploading assignments as soon as she had completed them and accessing her information at any time, including her grades. The webinar software Paula said, “…reminded her of being in a classroom, except for the inability to see the lecturer and other students. I liked being able to raise my hand and ask a question, answer multiple choice questions, view the slides and drawings or additional writings/notes the lecturer would add on the ‘blackboard’ during the sessions.”

Paula’s comments on the EIT staff are heartening. Her words describe a scenario that is essential to the learning experience of any student, but particularly to those who are studying in a virtual classroom. “My experience with the EIT staff was always a pleasant one. Regardless of my queries or concerns, they always assisted me in a very professional and expedient manner. Whether it related to my inability to attend a session, problems experienced during the online sessions or issues arising with the assignments, I was always satisfied with the outcome.”

And her attitude to the course? Did the hard work pay off? Her words below speak for themselves and bring us to the “Success” bit. “I was exposed to information which I have not yet encountered in my job, but I also gained strength in areas which I am currently involved in. To me, all of the modules taught delivered valuable information, but the most valuable aspect of the course was the knowledge I gained on transformers, circuit breakers, switchgear, power system protection and energy use and efficiency. This knowledge has resulted in me gaining an understanding of a lot of things which I am faced with on a day to day basis including the equipment used”

“My approach to my work has not changed, I still try to approach my duties with safety in mind, but now I would say I am more aware of why I do some of the things I do.”

The last word – Despite her unusually tough trench experience, Paula received the second highest grades in her cohort. Very well done. All of us here at the EIT thank Paula very much for her assistance with this article and wish her everything of the best.

Engineering Institute of Technology