Interviews with five distance learning MA students at the 2009 Summer School.
Barry Arnst, TEFL/TESL
Hi, I'm Barry, I'm doing the TEFL/TESL MA course. I've actually completed it, I did it all in Brazil. What I can say about the distance course, one thing that I really liked was that you can do things on your own pace. Especially if you're working full-time, you don't always have the time to go to class somewhere so you do the reading materials on your own time. You find when you have time for it, time to do the assignments. For me that was, I know some people have said 'I don't think I could do it without being in a class with a teacher there'. For me it was the opposite, I found it really helpful that I was able to do things on my own and at my own speed.
You do have a lot of support. One thing that I found very useful support-wise was the mailing list. A mailing list of all students, alumni and staff I believe. If anyone has a question - 'I'm having a bit of trouble with this. Does anyone have any ideas?' - anyone can respond.
As for trouble with more administrative things. Generally I got answers right away. I remember one year I had a problem re-registering, I sent off an email and I got a reply right away. One thing that I know that happened, I wasn't able to take advantage of this but all the materials I believe have just been re-done so that they've all been re-written. All the material is new, it's all available online I believe as well.
Here at the summer school, for me one of the more interesting things was meeting all the different people who are at different stages of the course. There's people here who are doing the teaching-orientated one, the translation, the applied linguistics, so people have their different views, their different interests and it's really been interesting talking to different people. Of course the lectures that we've been seeing on a variety of subjects are also interesting, it's been a fun time being here.
Christiano Lima, MA Translation Studies
Hello, my name is Christiano Lima and I am a student on the open distance learning MA for Translation Studies. I am a professional translator and interpreter and I'm in my third module. I've been enjoying it quite a bit. It's hard work but, for me, it has been a very interesting programme. Because I work, it allows me to study at the same time. Unfortunately for me to just stop everything and have a year or two out from work is just something that I cannot do at the moment. That's why this programme is actually quite good for me.
I'm over in Birmingham at the moment at the Summer School, which if you get a chance to come I would highly recommend it because the lectures were very good. Some very interesting presentations as well. Yes, it's been a very good experience.
Lois Thorpe, MA Applied Linguistics
My name is Lois Thorpe. I am in the Applied Linguistics programme. I am from the United States but I'm currently teaching in Kiev, Ukraine. I really found this programme valuable to push me to read more areas, to study more areas that I really need to go more in-depth with and open up some things I hadn't thought of before.
The Summer Seminar itself has been good because there's been some good ideas, good applications and just encouragement also to network with other teachers and the challenges you face. We've talked about some of those and that's been really good.
Panagiota Frytzala, TEFL/TESL
My name is Panagiota Frytzala and I come from Greece. I am currently doing my TEFL/TESL. I'm here for the Summer School for the first time which I consider to be a great idea. It gets us to get to know the people that we're electronically communicating with. To know them in person and of course to get to know the other people that are involved in the same MA and to socialise with them, exchange ideas.
I also love the fact that all these people come from all sorts of places or they are people who come from one place, work in another. We can exchange teaching tips, ideas, everything. This Summer School has been very well organised as the whole distance learning programme has been. The people here at CELS have been more than friendly and welcoming. I didn't expect them to be that friendly and welcoming!
The lectures, most of them have been quite useful and they give us an idea of how it would be were we to actually attend classes here at the University.
As far as distance learning goes, I wouldn't have been able to do my MA if it weren't for a distance learning programme because I've been working as a teacher of English in Greece for quite a few years. I have a good position that I don't want to give up just to go on with my studies and that's why I delayed doing an MA for about 15 years after graduation from undergraduate studies. For me it was a great chance. I believe that a person that does have teaching experience has a lot to gain from it but recognises at the same time many things that he or she has done wrong or right so this is great because it is directly applicable to what we're actually doing in our jobs.
Bennet Vincent, MA Applied Linguistics
My name's Ben Vincent. I'm doing an MA in Applied Linguistics on the distance course with Birmingham. I live and work in Turkey, in Istanbul.
One of the things about doing the distance MA in Turkey is that there aren't many other people. There's no-one else I know who's doing it. It's sometimes a bit lonely although the WebCT messageboard is quite helpful for that.
That's part of the reason why I came to the Summer School - to meet other people. Obviously to meet the people that are responsible for the course too. I think this is a great way to meet well-known people in the field and to talk to them about current issues in Applied Linguistics or whatever field you're studying. It will be the same for Translation, I'm sure.
It's fantastic, a real value-added part of the course, to have this Summer School. It's not just about meeting Lecturers and Professors, etc. It's about meeting the other people on the course and going out and discovering that you have similar interests, similar difficulties with your assignments, etc. Lots of things to talk about. It's a fantastic thing socially as much as academically.