September 23, 2021, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham

Getting involved in the learning community

Jamie Green, a doctoral researcher in the School of Psychology, on working with the Researcher Academy.

As a part-time distance student, it can sometimes be challenging to feel fully involved in the learning community. Despite the global negatives in recent times, my journey and connection with the Researcher Academy flourished in 2020.

Prior to the events of 2020, I was living in Nottingham and had just begun to deliver the face-to-face presentation skills. Sadly, I was forced to relocate in early 2020 and thought my opportunities to facilitate would be over. I used the time to upskill and complete the PTTHE certificate. This certificate left me wanting more, and I was fortunate enough to attend and facilitate the Designing for facilitation and engagement course. This was a brilliant learning experience particularly as so many courses were subsequently redesigned for online delivery. This course delivery experience also spurred me on to seek fellowship with Advance HE in preparation for graduation.

During my period of upskill, the Researcher Academy were working tirelessly to redesign their courses for online delivery. Due to my prior face to face facilitation experience I was invited to participate in piloting the online presentation skills course. This was a fantastic experience. I was treated as a valued member of the team, giving snippets of advice from my perspective as a disabled student and recent facilitator on the Designing for facilitation and engagement course. From here it was all go. I was then invited to pilot and facilitate on the Problems with academic writing course and Time to write.

My experiences with the team have been incredibly valuable. Each team member, without exception, is warm, welcoming, respectful, empowering, and encouraging. Whether it’s a quick email question, or formal training session, I have found the team so giving of their time to ensure support staff are fully equipped and feel confident in their roles. I would recommend any PhD student seeking more teaching and facilitation experience work with the Researcher Academy.

Not only has my experience boosted my confidence, expanded my teaching skills, and assisted me in gaining internationally recognised qualifications, but it has also impacted my research. The Problems with academic writing course format is superb. It follows a pedologically sound approach that fits uniquely well with the interdisciplinary audience. As such I am emulating sections of the course delivery in a pilot intervention as part of my PhD research.

The courses I am fortunate enough to facilitate offer so much to those attending as well as me as a facilitator. With presentation skills I love listening to the range of research UON is producing and considering its real-world impact. It’s a privilege to be able to assist early career researchers to hone and convey their research goals and outcomes in the most impactful way.

Problems with academic writing offers a different reward still. Living and sometimes struggling with learning differences, I fully appreciate how challenging the writing process can be. It is a joy to be able to share hints and tips I’ve learnt along the way to boost the confidence of learners and help them feel a little less alone in their academic journey. We all struggle at times, we may feel feelings of imposter syndrome, we may even feel everyone else is achieving so much more. What this very human course offers is a level playing field for open dialogue about challenges. It shows students they are not alone, this is part of the journey, and with a little encouragement and a few tips, they can go on to succeed.

Despite the challenges of 2020, moving courses online has not only helped students stay engaged and feel supported, but has offered unique opportunities to distance learners like me to develop new skills and become part of a fantastic facilitation team.

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