Overcoming challenges in online learning…

…by Mark / from the United States / MSc Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases / Online Learning Graduate 2018

Mark Alday current bog picture

Hello everyone,

Today’s post is actually from a while ago. I had started the draft, but did not have much time to write it until I was on holiday in the Philippines. To my luck, my pocket wi-fi failed due to staying at a remote province where I grew up, so I am submitting this only now.

I hope you all had a wonderful and restful summer. As we approach the start of the new academic year, I hope you are excited to dive right into the new courses.

In my case, I struggled to reach the finish line with my second year courses. Although the content was enjoyable (I really enjoyed Clinical Syndromes of Disease), a whirlwind of activity at my current place of employment made completing the assignments on time challenging. Wrapping up a rough influenza season, preparing for summer projects, making do with departing staff, all the while keeping up with my own licensure training has been a handful! I’m honestly surprised I was able to complete what I could, and I certainly could not have done it without my Tutor, Dr. Medhat Khattar. He encouraged me to do my best even at times when I had wanted to give up. Certainly that’s not something you would want to hear from a graduate student, but it is part of the very real emotions I experienced while under such intense pressure. I’m glad I was able to pull through and finish my courses.

Looking back, I know there were many things I could have improved on course-wise and work-wise. Time management is the number one item I would have liked to work on. I had difficulty in staying focused due to the sheer number of tasks I had to complete, and it caused me some problems with assignments such as discussion boards. However, I also experienced some success, such as during one of my more difficult units in training, Parasitology. Here is an example of the schedule I followed for an entire three weeks, Monday through Friday:

04:30 – wake up
05:15 – leave for the metro station
06:45 – arrive at work
07:00 – 12:00 – work
12:00 – 13:00 – lunch
13:00 – 16:30 – hands-on parasitology training
18:30 – arrive home
20:00 – 21:30~22:00 – listen to parasitology lecture
22:00 – 23:00 – listen to CMID lecture
23:00 – sleep

Regrettably, I almost always fell asleep between 18:30 until 20:00 due to exhaustion, otherwise I would have started the lectures earlier. It was certainly a challenging time, but it was worth it in the end, especially since I passed my unit exam, lab practical, as well as my CMID course. I felt extra proud when I received a recommendation from the instructor, all the while knowing no one else at my program knew what I was undertaking.

I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far about overcoming challenges in undertaking a master’s program while working full-time is to not be afraid to ask for help. There is absolutely no shame in doing so and I am thankful the University provides ways to make up for extenuating circumstances. For example, during my mycobacteriology unit training, I was required to travel to distant labs (about 2 hour drive away) for training and as such virtually had no time to dedicate to my CMID courses. I was afraid I would fail, but Dr. Khattar encouraged me to apply for special circumstances, which were granted, and I would not have known about such a program had I not approached my Tutor and asked for help. They are there for a reason, so if you ever need any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact your Tutor, course instructor, and the like. They want to help you succeed!

For any new students starting off, I would like to give some advice: set up a schedule for completing course assignments and lectures. It is very easy to put things off last-minute or even forget about them when also working, taking care of family, etc. At least with a structured schedule, you know where you stand and can manage tasks as you complete them (or if something comes up). Then, you get the satisfaction of ticking items off your list. Give it a go!

Until next time,


(This blog post was originally written in August 2018)

One thought on “Overcoming challenges in online learning…

  1. It’s good to hear from you and
    sharing your experience. It so encouraging that amidst your fears and challenges, you managed to succeed and graduate. To be a role model to people such as I who have never done an online course is a privilege and it has motivated me to look forward to great time of experience. Thank you for sharing your experience.


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