My online student experience…

…by Vanessa / from Scotland / studying Carbon Management / 2nd year MSc

Photo Vanessa castle

It was with cautious steps that I finally decided to apply for the Masters I had wanted to do since completing my undergraduate degree, an alarming 17 years ago.  I have been working full time since then and although I’ve completed lots of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and online courses, they didn’t provide me with the level of academia that leaps a person’s skills onto new career trajectories.

Deciding whether to study online or on campus was easy…I worked full time and decided that the travel time saved by doing the course online, rather than travelling to campus could be added to my overall study time.  I started on the 3 year part time MSc in Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh.  Since starting the course, I haven’t looked back.  The level of support I have received over the last year and a half has left me in no doubt; I am in no way disadvantaged by not going into class in person.

“The whole experience has been inspiring, studying with like-minded individuals based in different parts of the world”

My tutors and lecturers are fantastic.  They have great enthusiasm for the subject area and in delivering a high quality experience for online students.  All the students ‘meet’ via an online portal for face to face tutorials with our teachers, which allow open debate and discussion time on what we are learning.  Lectures are all pre-recorded so I can start and stop them as is convenient or download them and watch them on the train or even in the garden on a summer’s day…much more pleasant than a lecture theatre.  The whole experience has been inspiring, studying with like-minded individuals based in different parts of the world.

The key difference about studying online is that you don’t have that ‘let’s go for a coffee and a chat’ rapport that you might develop doing an on campus course.  As we are sometimes up to 10,000 miles away from each other, it’s a bit tricky to go for coffee.  However, studying entirely independently risks isolation and to avoid this, our tutors recommended that we create our own Facebook group and keep in touch via messenger services and emails.  This has brought us all together and has increased our knowledge through sharing of useful links and stories.  It doesn’t take long and has improved my engagement with the course material too.  In my case, as I don’t yet work within a climate change context it has been especially useful to get to know my student peers who are working in the area already.

In terms of further support, I have dyslexia and this had been a worry for me as I didn’t want to embark on this journey and stop half way through.  However, the support from the teachers has been remarkable.  They also referred me to the University’s Student Disability Service, who completed an assessment and have supported me with regular contact throughout each term.

If you are considering doing an online Masters, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this course.  I have no regrets and look forward to each stage of the course as I move along it.  The teachers started my enthusiasm but now I have the added bonus of a great circle of online friends who keep each other motivated.


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