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Current students Martin Imlach (MSc Engineering Management) and David Shipley (MA Creative Writing) provide insight on what it’s like studying online with the University of Hull, including the impact the courses are already having on their careers. 


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Read the transcript for this video Grey


- I would like to introduce myself first. I'm one of the course advisors with the University of Hull online programs. And today, we will be having, Martin and David. So Martin, would you like to offer a brief introduction of yourself, please?

- Yeah. I'm Martin Imlach. I'm studying the engineering management MSC course on language, a two-year course. I currently work as an SPS systems Subs engineer for an oil and gas company in the UK. I'm [INAUDIBLE] through the course. So I'm ready to do my dissertation. So we'll go into more depth with that. I would highly recommend coming here to study going forward.

- Like Martin, I'm near the end of my course. I'm a 39-year-old man, and I'm doing the MA in creative writing. I've finished all the marked modules, and I am now starting the final portfolio project. I think I've probably got quite an unusual background for a mature student here. So actually, when I applied for the MA program, I was in prison.

I'd been jailed, having been an investment banker for a fraud document. And so I was coming to the end of my sentence, and I knew I wanted to be a writer. So I was looking around for courses and found the Hull MA program. I really liked the syllabus and the range of topics it featured. Yeah. And so I applied for it and was delighted to be accepted back in January of last year.

- Yeah. Well, I as said, I'm Martin. I'm 47. I work in the oil and gas sector. I came into this course with probably a lot more trepidation than a lot of people are here in this segment. I left school at 15. Served as a mechanic, and I had no, well, buck. Same as David, 47, back learning how to do engineering to mostly better myself.

I've now come to the point where I can't go any further without having the letters after the name. So basically, that's why I came here to do this, and engineering is what I do. And with the course and with my research on the course, this can open up so many doors, into so many different sectors.

It doesn't mean you have to oil and gas, it could be a construction. It could be anything. The course that I'm doing with energy and management has just been a total mind changer for me. So from that, I've basically come from basically just being a hands-on person to work my way up through the ranks and have now come to the natural progression that, to go further, I need to have the further education. So that's why I've done it, and that's why I've come here to do it.

From start to finish, it was made so simple. Funda, your colleague, Victoria, who I dealt with, I can't speak highly enough about Victoria. She was more than helpful.

Any kind of questions, just phone-- give you the right required information, helped you as much as you can. I mean, the student advisors are there to help you. Funda, you've helped me in the past, and it's been great. It's normally within a maximum of 48 hours.

Going forward from that, your first week, hey, trust me, you are breaking it for a better world. You don't know what you're going into. But Canvas is so simple to navigate through. You just pick your week, and you start doing your reading.

And it starts you off with an introduction. It sets up the topic for the week. Then we go into what we call the warm-up, where the warm-up is mostly geared at seeing what knowledge you have of that specific topic for the week.

You do that, and you then put it into Canvas. Then your cohort, they all got their answers. And then you're encouraged to ask questions about your answers to the question for the week. And some of the chats and some of the stuff that you get is actually quite interesting.

It can be quite enlightening, too. And going from my own experience, the tutors learn a lot from people from other aspects of engineering, business and stuff like that because we've all got different ways of doing things from different parts of the world. My classes, guys from the Far East, guys from West Africa, Canada, Europe, England, Scotland, whatever.

So as you go along the training courses, take the time to go through your dashboard, go through all the training courses. The library is amazing. The training, how to do academic writing is amazing.

Your tutors, the access to your tutors is done through the email. It's a quick assemble dropdown box. Whoever your tutor is, you just put it in the drop, name, you put in your subject, and your tutor comes back within maximum of 36 hours. It was very simple and highly, highly, highly easy system to use. If I can use it, anybody can use it.

- The Canvas system is really, really intuitive. It lays it out very clearly. I did feel pretty daunted. I hadn't been in academic studies for 20 years. And I was unsure if I'd be able to cope. And I was unsure what to expect.

Canvas each week lays out the content in a very well-thought out way. It progresses very sensibly. For the creative writing program, there'll typically be a ice-breaking exercise to begin with where you might have to write a couple of words spurred by some particular idea. Then there'll be a lecture, there'll be readings from published works, there'll be longer pieces of writing.

And throughout it all, there's a really strong emphasis on peer feedback. So we are put into small groups, large groups. And we all feedback on each other's work. And just as much as the programs develop my writing skills, I think it's absolutely made me a much better editor as well, which is a crucial skill for any writer.

Yeah. And I think it's funny that the material gets released every week. I got to the stage where in every Friday, I'd be refreshing it at midday to see if the new content was up, yeah, because I so excited to see it, which is a wonderful way to feel about studies.

One of the really good benefits of this model of study actually is that you can do the work when it suits you. So you can fit your study each week around your own schedule. And I think that actually is really helpful rather than being tied to particular lectures that you have to attend or something.

But in terms of why I wanted to study this course and why I chose how I think-- I said I had decided I wanted to be a writer. I think a lot of people who have a novel in their mind have started writing one. But I was very aware that my writing skills were all self-taught. And I really felt I could benefit from getting some serious academic input to actually become a competent writer.

And I looked around at various courses. And obviously, being able to study remotely was important to me because I was in a custodial environment at the time. But also I really liked the breadth of the syllabus and how I think the great thing about the MA program is it's taken us through the first module, which is all about the basics of being a writer, actually how to deploy languages at all. And then we've looked at novels of short stories and nonfiction.

And I think the result of that actually is a really well-rounded syllabus. And that was very appealing at the start. I've been really, really impressed by it over the last year and a half.

- But most of the motivation for studying was to try and progress. Project management, I've worked my way up through the ranks as I've said before. But now, I talked to [INAUDIBLE]. Everybody's going competency-based. So well, the course I'm doing, I had a look within.

The time when I joined last year, there wasn't a lot of engineering courses. This one there's many-- there is a lot more now, by the way, on this course actually, which is going to cover the aspects of engineering in a way that I thought would be suitable to myself then with-- ours is probably the same as yours, David, broken in four thought modules, then it goes into your dissertation. And some of the modules on some of the universities are six modules.

So with hindsight, the best move I made was go to Hull. Actually with Hull and the background, they've actually listened to what we've said. And there's going to be further qualifications either going into the course with speaking to the cohort and the project director as well that the university have listened to us. And they've added on these extra qualifications.

Why Hull? It's easy. And I'll be quite honest. I've applied to the Aberdeen University, and I was told I didn't have the academic capability to do it. And that's after having interviews with people.

I had the interview with Dr. Angeliki, the tutor who runs this course. And I was made to feel at ease. And I'll be quite honest, and I'm a lot more confident this year. And that's that the cohort and the tutors are actually allowing more from myself. And it's a two-way street.

So honestly do it. That's all I can say. That's why I'm doing this, to progress my career, but also Hull, it's probably one of the simplest and most laid-back in systems in the entire firm for the research I've done for this course.

Really quite drastically actually, and I'm not just saying that for the sake of being here. It is actually-- from a personal point of view, it's made me more confident. It makes you question things. I now question in my boss quite a lot, knowing he absolutely hates it.

And it's like Mr. Uni Chops speaking again. When we've got problems about the various things about logistics, or personnel, or this or that. Oh, no, you can't do that because of this.

So on a personal level, it's wonderful. On a professional level, it's out of this world. I've had a promotion already. I've gone from one thing to the next.

But my boss has said-- I know because I've sat down with my boss. And we actually went through the course because he was quite interested in the course himself. And he's like-- and we were just speaking last week. He says, the difference in your work, and how you write, and how you present things is 50, 60 times better.

And you can speak to people. Things that maybe I wouldn't have said to people before I'm now saying because I now know by my experience what I've learnt personally and then through my own career in different aspects of the industry is that I've gotten and I know that I can safely say, yeah, I am on the right lines. And I'm more confident to say it's this, and this is what we need to do, or look, guys, sorry, I don't know. I'll go and find you, and I'll come back to you. And it's given me the chance to learn how to go and find out things.

And I've personally taken a lot from this course. And that's why, I'll be quite honest, that's why I do this because I want to give something back. So maybe it aids you guys because I'll say it again, I came here with nothing, and I'm going to walk out here hopefully with a masters.

I mean, to give you an idea, I spoke on the first day-- or the first few weeks speaking to [INAUDIBLE], I would call my friend, and we always said for the assessments, which are like-- there's normally two assessments per module. And we always said the goal is 50. 50 is the goal. And when I got my first marks, I got 86 and 84.

Now I have never done anything like that before in my life focus. I obviously scraped by. But I got 85% and 84% in a master's. And that just blew my mind, the numbers, and quality, and the business improvement. So if I can do that, anybody can do it. Trust me.

- What I've learned from this is that in its own way, writing is just as technical as engineering or as any other kind of creative process. What's been really eye-opening for me is to realize that the way we construct sentences, the way we choose words is actually a very specific, technical process so that you can elicit different kinds of responses and feelings from a reader, depending on how you construct your sentences.

And I think that technical aspect of writing is something that I just hadn't even thought about before I ended up with MA program. I just thought it was a-- you kind of had a flair for writing, and you just wrote. And that's amazing.

- The structure of the course. During the course, the interaction between your tutor, your cohort is amazing. I mean, some of the stuff that I have learned from this I've taken and I've used it in my professional and personal life.

And also the good thing about it is that at the end of the module, they have a review. And I've had a couple of these, the actual tutors come back to me and ask me for my opinion and what we could change. Everybody gets the chance to change it. They're constantly changing the course to change it to make it more suitable to everybody.

And what people need to remember, the engineering module course is a very generalized course over a massive sectors. And I actually think you've actually got it spot on.

- The big thing that really stands out for me is the diversity of the course. And that's in lots of ways. The range of texts we've studied and talked about is incredible, covering hundreds of years, writers of every different ethnicity, cultural, and religious background. And that's amazing.

But also the other students are an amazingly diverse group. I think we have people in my cohort from every continent, apart from Antarctica, all different ages, backgrounds, sets of experience, professional, educational. And the result of that is an incredibly stimulating group of people to study with.

Everyone has really valuable interesting different takes on things. And that is wonderful. And I think it would be nowhere near as diverse if I was studying in person at a UK university because clearly people who live in India, or Australia, or New Zealand, or America, or South America, or Palestine would not be able to participate. So that to me is the most wonderful thing about the course.

- The more you put in, the more you get out, if your tutors will do everything in their power to make sure they push you to get the maximum out of this course. And I will say again that the support I've gotten from Dr. Angeliki, she's the course director-- it sometimes feels like I'm the course pet because when I spoke to her, we had an anniversary interview, and she went through x, y, and z. And she says, well, I can see you doing well here.

So from the first get-go when I met my project director, I felt so at ease. And she wants you to do as well as you possibly can. They will push you to get a better grade.

When it comes to the academic learning, I've done a lot of reports for technical reports, but I never done academic reading. So I went to the courses for the academic reading. I went to the course how to use the library, and where to go and find the research, and where to find all my citations for my readings to give me x, y, and z.

The financial team are really good. I have a problem, explained, they listened, sorted that out for me.

- Back in end of August, early September, I had a deadline looming because of a lot of stuff going on with leaving prison, moving house, but also things I just was really struggling to meet it. And the process for getting an extension couldn't have been simpler, more supportive, more understanding. That was great.

And another example, this was the last week actually, my last marked assignment, I managed to upload the wrong file for the first time on the MA program. So obviously-- and I realized after about half an hour when I've gone out for a run to let off some steam, running along with the dog, and I'll just stop and just check something in the thing I submitted for some reason, looked at it, and realized I'd sent the wrong file, [LAUGHING] which was obviously slightly different. So I ran back very, very quickly.

But actually the Student Services, and the lecturers, and the IT guys were all really, really helpful in getting that resolved super quickly. And what I thought was going to be a horrible disaster was actually fine. And every time, whether it's a big problem or a small problem, everyone I've had to ask for help from at university has been brilliant.

I think throwing yourself into it with enthusiasm is really important. I was really scared. Like I said before, I hadn't studied in 20 years. I think I worried a bit.

So I'm nearly 40. Will my brain be up to it? Will I be able to learn lots of things quickly and the way I could when I was a teenager or what have you?

And I think just coming to studies, particularly if you're a an older student like me, is interesting because I think we've probably made a really active choice to study. And therefore, what we might have lost in speed of thinking we've probably made up for any commitment to what we're doing.

And I think I would say if you're doing an MA with Hull or anywhere, yeah, throw yourself into the materials, trust the process, particularly in the creative writing program. I sometimes couldn't quite work out why we were doing certain tasks and why we're doing them in a particular order. But actually there's a real method to it.

And trusting the process, trusting the feedback and really embracing all the exercises, even if they feel a little bit uncomfortable-- if it's a writer, I think you can include exposed or a bit vulnerable. That's probably a good thing because you're actually writing about stuff that matters. So be brave, and you will get the most out of it all.

- I would say guarantee [INAUDIBLE] guarantee. Set some time aside every week. I said [INAUDIBLE] 9 o'clock. That's what ultimately we got the section and away from the minutes at about half past 9. It's peace and quiet. That's my time to go and do it.

I'll do it Friday evening instead of going to pub. I've sacrificed the pub for maybe a couple of years. But, hey, [INAUDIBLE] brought a lot of beer [INAUDIBLE]. You can still have a beer where you study.

And for me, it's all about just finding time to do it, and same time to do it. As David said, you've just got to embrace it, just take it all in, read it. As you go along you will find that you need of less and less time. And you will find you can do x, y, and z at different times.

Best thing I ever done, folks. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Trust me, I wouldn't waste my time speaking to you guys. It's honestly one of the best things you can do.

At the end of it, you're going to come up with something here that not many people have. I'll say it again, guys. I left school, mechanic, worked my way up, and I'm 47. I don't have a degree. I've just got learnings that I've learned through things.

A lot of folk have experience that I've got. They've taken it into the course and allowed it into the course. And I got the tutors asking me questions. You don't have to have the experience. The learning you will receive.

And how you feel about yourself you will work to allow you. You will walk straight, and you will have that bit of more confidence to deal with situations you will face in engineering for my case. Probably the same for David because he's writing, they'll learning how you-- by writing of reports and how I use words, as David has alluded is saying, is powerful.

They change how you do things. You will become a better person. And that's all I'll say. I would highly recommend this university.

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