Case study

Masters graduate — Dr To Yuk Shan Mary

Dr To Yuk Shan Mary completed her Master of Education with the University of Essex Online followed by a Doctorate before eventually setting up her own language school

Why did you choose this postgraduate course and institution?

Degrees are awarded by The University of Essex, which ranks within the top 40 universities in the UK. In addition, the Master of Education is highly regarded in the industry and is supported by years of experience.

How did you fund your postgraduate study?

As the course was online, I was able to study in the evening and work full-time during the day. This was quite difficult but possible with effective time management and determination. The years were exhausting but fruitful.

Tell us about the course…

It is a two-year course and lectures are delivered via Zoom.

There were student forums so we could do peer reviews for different modules and each student is assigned an adviser who we could contact for academic support.

My dissertation is a case study concerning 'The Shift from Onsite Learning to Online Learning during COVID-19 Social Distancing: Perceptions from Teachers and Parents at a Language School in Hong Kong'.

Studying online was a bit challenging at the beginning as there was a lot of screentime. However, I got used to it and found it convenient to study anytime and anywhere. I studied by reading course materials and watching recorded lectures whenever I was free, such as on my way to work or waiting for my colleagues.

How was the course assessed?

There were peer reviews which involved commenting on each other's work with evidence of existing literature. For instance, we each designed a course according to our interest and explained the design with the support of theories. Then, the students examined each other's work and critically identified the effectiveness of the course design.

We also held Zoom debates where we were given a topic and suggested materials to work on before the debate section. Then everyone took turns to speak up and we could actively exchange ideas.

The dissertation accounted for more than half of the final mark.

How did postgraduate life differ to that of an undergraduate?

It was very different. Undergraduate students in Hong Kong produce work according to specific examples or frameworks. Students are all waiting for the guidelines and are comparatively passive in studying. Postgraduate life allowed me to think critically and be responsible for my own learning. Teachers were there to stimulate my interest in learning rather than telling me what to do. Studying has never been so much fun.

What do you wish you'd known before embarking on postgraduate study?

Every assignment requires a full reference list and at the University of Essex Online, this is done through Harvard Referencing. If you haven't studied before, this could be confusing.

I had to ask my student adviser to make sure what I was doing was correct as any mistake could affect your grade. It's best to make sure you’re fully prepared before starting the first assignment.

What tips would you give to others choosing a Masters degree?

Make sure you know your goal before choosing a course. Do you want to study because you're simply interested in something or because it's necessary for your career development. Remember, what you like and what you need are two different things.

Choose a programme that provides support throughout not just at the application stage. Having administrative and technical support is important so you don't lose time trying to solve problems and instead can focus on studying.

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