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In our ‘Study with’ series, we hear from Crawford’s students and graduates about their time studying public policy. Despite it bringing many challenges, COVID-19 has also opened up fresh opportunities for online study. In the coming weeks, our students will talk about their experiences studying online, and share their tips about how to make the most of it.
Crawford student Chloe Davison talks about what is behind her ‘Climate change and chill’ approach to remote studying, and dreams up what the future of university classrooms might look like.
Chloe had just secured her dream job at a development and global sustainability startup in London, when COVID-19 thwarted her plans to move overseas.
So, instead she started Crawford’s online Graduate Certificate of Environmental Management, a course supported by the government’s COVID-19 educational relief package.
“I signed up to the course with the knowledge that the course would be online. For the technical side of things, online learning didn’t faze me. I am always diving into new software and training my colleagues on the latest tools.”
Having studied at five different universities across the globe, she was surprised by how interactive and diverse each of the ANU courses were.
Being someone who enjoys connecting with other people, she was relieved to find that the classrooms were also incredibly social.
“The classes varied in size, but many were only around 25 students per tutorial, which meant everyone got to actively participate in conversation. In tutorials, we were split into small virtual working groups of four or five to discuss and document our thoughts on the readings for each group. The discussions were always dynamic, varied, and full of complementary and opposing views.
“Another aspect that took me by surprise was the diversity of ages, experiences, and expertise of the students. There were students ranging from just having completed their undergraduate to those that had retired and wanted to return to study. In one group assignment, I recall our group comprising two ecologists, a journalist, and myself, a management consultant.”
Chloe also enjoyed interacting with her lecturers who she said were “passionate, charismatic, caring and incredibly knowledgeable”, and did their best to create a positive learning environment.
“They all knew us by name, and really took the time to provide opportunities after class to answer questions or even to just have a chat. In quite a few classes, a rolling and humorous commentary ran parallel to the class in the zoom ‘chat’ function, which provided a lighthearted and memorable means of entertainment.”
Taking classes such as ‘Environmental Policy and Communications’ with Dr Bec Colvin and Associate Professor John McCarthy’s ‘Food Wars: Food Security and Agricultural Policy’ marked two highlights for Chloe.
“Dr Colvin is an absolute delight, a ray of sunshine and a pocket full of passion, complimented with an incredible repertoire of knowledge. The course content was detailed, relevant, thought provoking, varied and most importantly highly actionable.
“The course was an exploration of the sociology and psychological nuances of public opinion, and of course a dash of insight into the factors and influences that drive policy decisions behind closed doors.
“I would also like to do a shout out to Associate Professor McCarthy’s class. A course that ended up being slightly different to my expectations (in a good way), but which opened my eyes to how supply chains and the changing climate affect the world’s most vulnerable.”
With a large number of papers waiting to be studied for each class, Chloe found a way to make reading time more enjoyable.
She also recommends making local connections, and getting a pair of noise cancelling headphones.
“My weekly to-do list includes reading numerous and sometimes lengthy research papers to prepare for my classes each week. So, this semester I came up with what I like to call ‘Climate change and chill’. I combine relaxing by the pool, getting some much-needed vitamin D, and reading my climate change research papers. Who doesn’t love some poolside learning?
“Find out who from your class is based in your city, reach out and grab a coffee (sustainably sourced and in a KeepCup of course) and invest in a good set of noise cancelling headphones (or even better buy a secondhand pair to reduce our society’s e-waste footprint).”
Beyond COVID-19, Chloe said that she can certainly see the advantages of merging online and in-person learning experiences.
“I see in-person lectures as a thing of the past, and for those that wish to learn remotely, they may choose online tutorial times without the fear of compromising their learning experience.
“I see the value in coming together in person at the beginning and end of the semester for intensive in-person learning to build those relationships and trust. While during the middle of the semester, having the flexibility to study from wherever you want, whether that be with your family in another city, by the beach, or while traveling around Australia in a van. That’s my plan for next year. “