What a wonderful day we had on 30th June 2018! Myself, along with Katalin Hanniker(Development Editor/Quality Manager), were the lucky two members of the Online Education department to be part of the platform party at the UCEM Graduation ceremony!!
The ceremony was held in Reading Town Hall on a glorious sunny day and it was full with 154 graduates and their guests from all around the world. This perhaps seems a low number compared to other graduations but when you remember that UCEM is a completely online university and students come from all around the world, it is great that these students were able to travel to our home town.
It was a lovely occasion with the excitement palpable at all times; before the ceremony when the gowns and mortar boards were being fitted and official photographs were being taken, during the ceremony when the pride of friends and family was so evident and afterwards when the celebrations had just begun!! So many graduates, family and friends commented that it was such a wonderful ceremony. Was this due to the intimacy? Was this due to the exceptional achievements? Probably a combination of the two, who knows but everyone had a great time.
I have worked in HE for many years and graduation is always a lovely occasion celebrating success and achievement however the UCEM event is even more special as all of the students complete their studies online. This meant that for all but the occasional few they were all meeting for the first time. The tutors on the platform were making sure that they remembered the faces of students who they had taught so that they could meet the students that they had worked with in person later.
It is rather surreal to think that students have achieved our degree without meeting our tutors but it is testimony to the work of the students and tutors together with the Online Education department that, without meeting face to face, they are able to achieve.
So how does this happen? Well that is an answer too long for one blog post but it is about using the tools available to their best advantage. Our Virtual Learning Environment is the key to communicating with students, the analytics allow us to see who is engaging and who isn’t. The tutors can make sure all students are keeping on track. The Online Education department makes sure learning is broken up into smaller bite sized pieces to fit around a busy career and personal commitments. Different tools and applications are used to explain concepts in different ways and to test knowledge. But all of the digital tools in the world would not be enough if our students weren’t determined and focused!
This is just a mere glimpse into how we get to the point where we are talking to graduates and their families on this momentous day.
If there is one thing that I would love to be able to do, it is to bottle up that sense of achievement and send a little to each student starting their studies. For them to get a taster of that joy would, firstly make them realise why are they studying and secondly keep them going through thick and thin!
I would also love to be able to meet more graduates – I am personally offering to go around the world and meet our students!! (Well if you don’t ask ………)