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What Is Studying Surveying Online Really Like?

We learn more about one of our distance learning student's experience on the course so far.

We caught up with Gemma Cornwall – a student on our Surveying MSc –  to learn more about why she chose to study online, how she structures her day and what she’s enjoying most about the experience so far.


Why did you choose to study Surveying via distance learning?

After spending a decade as a teacher, I wanted to leave the profession and start a new career in surveying. But financially, I could not afford to simply resign and return to being a full-time student with a mortgage to pay and a young child to sustain. I had a look at other universities that offered part-time courses taught in the evenings, but the thought of having to commute into lectures after a full day at work and missing my daughter’s bedtime wasn’t appealing. With that in mind, I knew online study would be my best option.

What does a typical day look like?

On an average day, I’m at work from 8am – 4:30pm. I usually have time to have a quick session in the gym before picking my daughter up from pre-school. Once she is in bed at 7pm, it’s study time! I spend an hour or so on Blackboard accessing the interactive lectures and recommended reading, all of which is digitised. Every few weeks I manage to get a free weekend day, thanks to grandparents babysitting, so I often use a few hours of that to work through more material. I have found it a good use of my time to try and get ahead of schedule with the work, so that if I end up having a particularly busy week with work or family, I don’t get stressed that I am falling behind. I make sure I assign time to study regularly, so far about 12 hours per week, to be able to work through the lectures and tasks. However, I don’t feel like it has taken over my life in a negative way and the mental stimulation I get from the course has made me much happier.

Where do you study best?

I have commandeered our dining table so I can get on with my work without being too far from the kettle!

Online learning best studying set up

What do you like most about studying online with Northumbria?

It has been brilliant so far. I feel like I’m working towards an exciting goal in a new career and Northumbria has made it extremely accessible.

There are regular knowledge checks with immediate feedback so I can check I have fully understood the content, and message boards on Blackboard means I can discuss thoughts and questions with the other people on my course. I’ve found the course tutors really quick to respond to queries and there are interactive webinars too, all of which are made available later if I cannot join in live. The fact that I can dip in and out of the material at convenient times just makes it so easy! The assignment deadlines are more than reasonable too, acknowledging that the majority of people on the course are doing it alongside other jobs, so there’s no stress surrounding assignments. 

My Student Success Advisor calls every few weeks to offer guidance on things like how to manage time, and I feel like I’ve been well supported since my initial enquiry about the course. If I need any help with any aspect of university life, it’s only a phone call or an email away.


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