Supporting online learners
Brian Burgon's role puts him in direct contact with the University's online learners, ensuring they receive an authentic Edinburgh experience from a distance.
I studied English and Religious Studies at the University of Stirling. After graduating in 2008 I started working with the Intercollegiate Specialty Board/Royal College of Surgeons Scotland as an assistant administrator for Paediatric, Cardiothoracic and Otolaryngology surgery. From there I went on to work for the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS), working as a case officer for postgraduate funding and disabled student allowance. I didn’t expect to be working within administration but I love every minute of it. I enjoy working with people and I am glad that I can help our students reach their goals.
Every day I see how our programme and teaching can have an impact on the world.
In 2014 I started working for the University of Edinburgh in the Medicine and Veterinary Medicine Graduate School as a Postgraduate Clerical Officer, specifically dealing with Clinical Sciences applications. I am currently the Postgraduate Administrator for the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences as well as the Programme Administrator for our Stem Cells and Translational Neurology Online Learning MSc.
Here I am the first point of contact for all student enquiries and for all our students who are on programme. It is important to create a rapport with potential students from the beginning of their student journey. As soon as they make an enquiry about our programme I make sure that they feel welcomed and are receiving the best customer care. A good first impression really helps with getting students on to the programme.
I am proud that the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine offers the greatest amount of online learning programmes compared to other colleges. Online learning is definitely the way forward for many reasons. For me the most exciting reason is that our programme is also extremely flexible and perfect for people who are working full time. An MSc can be completed within 3-6 years which is perfect for the working professional. You choose when and where you study and there is no fixed schedule. Read textbooks, watch lectures and contribute to discussions at times and locations that suit you. This is an incredibly special part of an online Masters programme.
Because our programme is taught purely online I have to be mindful about creating an online community for our students. As often as I can I try to talk to students on the phone or have catch ups via video conference calls. We also make use of virtual reality and have created several virtual reality spaces of the labs where we carry out our research, as well as my office space and some of the well-known hot spots in and around Edinburgh such as the Old College Quad, and a ride across the Forth Road Bridge. And just because you have completed your MSc online doesn’t mean that you can’t attend our graduation ceremonies - if they are unable to travel to attend we hold online virtual graduations.
I also help produce and develop programme materials that will be used to teach our students. With the programme being online we are able to make our learning resources incredibly engaging through online lectures, discussion boards, interactive student poster presentations and quizzes. I also run the programme Twitter and Facebook pages making sure that the content is always relevant.
All of our students are inspirational to me. We have people on the programme from all corners of the earth. They are all studying not only to expand their knowledge and give them better career opportunities, but also to better their countries. Through online learning our students mix with people from all over the world, there are often times where someone has learned about a new technique or has been given a new perspective about an issue that they have with patients in their local clinics. It is not unusual to hear that a person’s life has been saved due to this new learning experience that our students have had. Every day I see how our programme and teaching can have an impact on the world.
My aim for the future is to increase the number of students on our programme, to work on new and exciting courses and to eventually be able to work within Student and Recruitment and Admissions for the whole University.
Something I know...
Administrators have a great depth of knowledge. If you don’t hear about any issues or problems arising then you know your administrators are doing a good job! We are the real Swiss army knives of the University.