To be or not to be an online student

The decision to engage in online education

[Image: J. Schnobrich - Unsplash]

In writing this, I’ve been asked to share what it took for me to decide ‘to be’ an online student? Well, I’d seen the Master of Ageing advertising in a number of places and been interested for some time. However, it wasn’t until last year that I seriously considered enrolling. Why? Because, although I’d had a successful career as a health professional and senior policy advisor, I’d lost confidence after a redundancy and subsequent period of ill-health and was looking for a new challenge. I’d studied at post-graduate level before. But this course was fully online!

I’m an extroverted thinker, I said. I need to meet people, I said. I met with the course coordinator. I was captured by the possibility but still I hesitated! I enrolled in a single subject last year but withdrew before census as the subject didn’t engage me enough to push me through the online environment!

2019 arrives and I decide to enrol in ‘Shifting Paradigms’. A big subject that seemed to fit with my broad-based personal and professional experiences of the health and aged care systems. I bought a new laptop, I set time priority aside in my diary, I was ready. In fact, I was excited to get started. In my introduction to my ‘class’ mates, when asked why this subject, I shared that my recent professional and family experiences of aged care had left me wondering whether society had abandoned its civil and humanist responsibilities in favour of ‘conveyor-belt’ or ‘herd’ thinking for citizens in their elder years? And that as a ‘young senior’ I felt it essential for my cohort to bring our voices to leadership and design tables to ensure our views shaped ageing narratives and influenced our future options. I noted that I wanted the frameworks the subject offered to assist me to step up to become a leader. I also noted that I expected the environment to challenge me both technically and intellectually! So, what happened over eight weeks?

The technical stuff actually wasn’t a problem. The new laptop was ready for the job. If I had any problems, the online study-assist team quickly got me back on track. After a couple of weeks, I found myself really comfortable with discussion boards.

And yes, I was definitely stimulated and challenged by the subject content. It’s indeed a big subject! It’s given me a new set of lenses and offered lots to think through. And while for me, I’d still love the opportunity to sit in a room with my fellow students, I found the online environment actually gave me more space to reflect! I found myself drawing on my and other students experiences. I’ve got really interested again in policy thinking and the challenges being highlighted through the Royal Commission into aged care.

Beyond the subject content, I’ve found big shifts in my personal narrative. In writing my final essay, I felt comfortable really challenging the ‘ageing in place’ paradigm, suggesting it needs a complete re-think for baby boomers/ young seniors …. I’m keen to research this more. But, not only have I embraced the online environment through this subject, I’ve found my online voice. I’ve started to speak up in the Twitter sphere!

I’m already enrolled for next term and can’t wait to see what happens next? So, to anyone hesitating I say: ‘embrace the online challenge, the pay-off is so much greater than the risk of missing out’.

[Source: Kathryn Bramwell, Student, Master of Ageing, University of Melbourne]