Approximately three times a year, a Research Day is offered for students of the Beyond Distance Research Alliance at the University of Leicester. Student presentations provide updates on research to date and the planned direction. Supervisors, research staff, student colleagues, and invited guests ask questions and provide feedback. We can anticipate presentations by others, and this day included updates on our department, critical writing, social media research tools, and methodological perspectives.
Usually joining online from home in Canada, I can participate subject to the limitations of technology and obviously missing the traditional evening dinner together. This time was different, as I combined the event with a couple of extra days at the university and a vacation that included visiting relatives not seen for a long, long time. I don’t feel this needs to be done with a physical presence, but there was added value. First and foremost was the ability to see everyone at one time. There was not the opportunity to speak individually at length, so perhaps the follow-up will be one-to-one conversations by videoconference–at least as needs are identified.
I am a believer in, and supporter of, distance learning, but there was something special about this visit. Beyond the opportunity to develop relationships and meet new people, such as PhD students from the School of Education that we recently became a part of, it was the academic setting. It reinforced the journey I am on and the academic nature of it. With three tutorial sessions during the first and third days (the research day was in the middle), I emerged with a fresh motivation to research and to write. Plans started to come together for the next stage which is a pilot study. I even had a chance to meet with a senior representative of an organisation that confirmed an interest in participating in the research.
One of the most important things for me to do right now is to write and to write regularly. I came away making a commitment to myself (shared with supervisors) that I will aim for a written output every two weeks or so. It is up to me to keep on track with this, but I know a colleague or two in the PhD student community will hold me accountable.
It was wonderful meeting everyone in person, many for the first time. I look forward to returning again.
A.E. (Tony) Ratcliffe
PhD Research Student, BDRA