An interest in helping students learn through technology brought about a career change for Dr Paterson, who now leads one of the Vet School’s popular Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
Dr Jessie Paterson’s journey from growing up on an Ayrshire sheep farm to working at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is not as straightforward as you might expect. A love of animals goes without saying, but it was her expertise in e-learning that guided her towards her current roles as lecturer in student learning and lead instructor for the popular Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), EDIVET: Do you have what it takes to be a veterinarian?
Jessie’s academic interest started off centred on agriculture; pursuing a BSc in agricultural chemistry before exploring cobalt deficiency in cattle and sheep for her PhD. 11 years at the Scottish Agricultural College followed, initially as a specialist advisor and then as manager of the Analytical Services Department. At this point, her attention shifted towards IT and she joined Edinburgh’s School of Divinity as a computing officer.
While there, she was given the scope and time to develop her interest in IT, specifically in using technology to help students learn. Combining her job with part-time study allowed Dr Paterson to earn a PGDip in e-learning from Edinburgh.
A more academic role then beckoned and Jessie joined the Vet School 3 years ago. In addition to teaching professional skills, Dr Paterson places a lot of importance on her student support responsibilities. One project she is particularly proud of is VetPALS. Under this new scheme, senior year students mentor first years on specific topics to help them adapt to university study. Jessie is eager to see its growth continue.
The students I see and work with inspire me all the time – they are a tremendous bunch…I would like to continue to be part of the great student experience of the Dick Vet!
It is not just students in Edinburgh who will recognise Dr Paterson, however. Thousands of learners in the UK and around the world will know her from the MOOC, EDIVET: Do you have what it takes to be a veterinarian?
MOOCs give learners the opportunity to study something they are interested in, at no cost other than time. They represent a space to experiment in a subject that learners may not have been able to try previously. The idea behind “Do you have what it takes to be a vet?” was to provide insight into the first year of the vet programme. It is a chance for those unsure of whether the vocation is for them to gain greater understanding of the syllabus. Even if they decide it is not for them, this in itself is a useful step.
As Jessie explains, the MOOC preparation was “very much a team effort” with several course instructors contributing towards its five sessions, which included content that came directly from existing teaching materials, albeit adapted to suit the delivery method.
The initial run of the MOOC in May 2014 was scheduled to fall during a quieter period for Dr Paterson and her fellow instructors so they could devote enough time to any arising issues. Fortunately though, the course ran smoothly. A second run of the MOOC took place in January 2015 before moving to the on demand platform in summer 2015. Learners can now choose to start the course whenever they want, instead of waiting for a set start date.
In total, over 20,000 learners signed up for the MOOC during the first two runs with over 12,000 actively participating. The positive feedback from these runs reflects the enjoyment that the learners gained from the course. And for Dr Paterson, that makes it all worthwhile.
EDIVET: Do you have what it takes to be a veterinarian? (external link)