Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's a matter of perspective

It's been one heck of a week. I got back from my residential course with the Open University mid week and then it was straight back to work. Boy was I bushed though. These courses are always hard work and incredibly intensive. Still when I got back Bob the cat was pleased to see me. He sat on the sofa and headbutted me lots, purring like some sort of pneumatic drill and then demanded to be fed before throwing up a fur ball. Yep, you don't always get a welcome as fine as that!

I returned from my Masters' residential with several things:
  • The tired look of someone who had been stuck in a room to brainstorm, mind map, deconstruct and analyse and reflect
  • A suitcase of dirty washing
  • Several flip charts covered in Post-It notes
  • The rest of the free toiletries from the bathroom
  • A blister on my foot where my shoes had been rubbing
  • A moment of clarity
The last one is the most important and was as a result of all the brainstorming and mind mapping and caused the tired pallor.

When you are involved in distance learning it can be a lonely experience. It's just you, a pile of books and a computer. Sure you get the occasional tutorial but never often enough to really bond with the tutor or the other students, and once you start a new module it's all change. That is why the residential courses are good. They are intensive but they cocoon you in a learning experience away from other distractions, like work and chores for the time you are there.

The course really helped me sort out my final project. It went from being a big messy heap of issues in my head to being a scoped and bounded problem that could be investigated further. All the key issues were teased out and stakeholders identified. We looked at the issues from the perspectives of different functional stakeholders to identify where tensions might exist. Uncertainties and ambiguities were highlighted for further exploration and research.

It's amazing when you work with others and they bring a whole new perspective to something, and with it a clarity that was proving elusive. All of a sudden you can see the wood that is made up from all the trees. What is more, you get the chance to help others sort out their issues in the same way.

This is something that isn't just the preserve of business studies though. It is true, that a problem shared is a problem halved. If you discuss something with someone then they can often see something from a different perspective as they are not in the middle of all the tangled mess of stuff in your head. I had more than one 'Road to Damascus' moment in the last few days and not all of them were 'in session'. Some were in discussions in the bar afterwards. Sometimes it's nice to know you're not the only one who has been struggling with a concept, dropped behind in their reading or is finding it hard to fit everything in. It's easy to feel alone when you're studying via distance learning. The residential course provides an opportunity to show that there are plenty of others in the same boat. It's reassuring.


Wordnerd said...

Sounds like a heck of a course -- and certainly not a waste of time. Here from Michele's!

Linda said...

That's some great insight. My husband is doing a distance-learning doctorate, and he's just about finished with his second course. It's been a challenge, as you've stated. I, of course, have the dirty job of being "mean mommy" when I'm trying to keep the kids quiet so he can get some work accomplished. I also get to be editor-in-chief of all his papers (I have an affinity for proofreading...weird, huh?). They have been the most BORING papers - but then again, I don't have the level of education OR the interests that he has, so he finds this stuff quite interesting. He'll have that one week intensive residence class closer to the end of his program and the start of his dissertation. Your insight is great for ME, since I will know more of what to expect!

kenju said...

Try that Bob-kat welcome with 2 cats head-butting you and vying for attention. When I retuend from my trip, my cats were determined to sit on or near me for the next 72 hours, at least!

One of the things I liked best about college was discussing stuff after class. Too bad we didn't do much of that....LOL

gautami tripathy said...

Michele sent me here to wish you good luck on your course and work. It can get kind of hectic but don't let that bother you. Just give your best shot..

mar said...

Glad you had that reassuring experience and valuable interaction! Topped with a unique feline welcome!

rashbre said...

This sounds like you had a brilliant time and have made some great progress with your thinking too.

Those 'white space' times when nothing is scheduled often 'after hours' are so much a part of the type of session you've just attended.



rashbre said...

...oops I forgot to say that Michele sent me this time!

Melody said...

I know all about having a full-on time away! It is rather tiring. But my time away was spent ctching up with family and friends, not studying like yourself. I couldn't imagine doing that.

Madseason said...

Greetings and Happy Friday!! Here from Michele's!

I empathize with your feelings about the benefit of 'community' while pursuing furthering education. I obtained my Associate's degree via distance learning and although I did really well, I missed being able to work things through in discussion with other students. Others perspectives are very helpful sometimes! Best of luck to you!!

Awareness said...

I can relate to your insights because they can be applied to any endeavour dont you think? I do remember the synergistic feeling of being surrounded by others studying and reading the same topic and I miss it. I love the opportunity to be with a group of "sparks" who are really capable of listening and offering a slightly different perspective which in turn will point you down a road that may just provide clarity.

I also have had a chance to be on the other side, facilitating these sessions and love to see the group and the individuals move outside of their own realm to stretch and grow and learn. It's tiring, refreshing and invigorating all at once.

Michele sent me......and I'm thrilled she did

bon chance.

MissMeliss said...

Oh, thank you so much for the birthday greetings and the blog visit.

I've flirted with distance learning, but never managed to try it...yet.

My wish for you is a blister-free life, with many opportunities to connect and learn.

Oh, wait, you already have that...mostly. :)

Janet said...

I love moments of clarity...they don't come often enough, do they?

Hi, Michele sent me :-)

Heather said...

Hey, thanks for stopping by my blog. The Bob-kat welcome with the headbutting is always my favorite. Of course, if I'm gone too long I can expect a hairball or destroyed toilet tissue as a welcome as well.
Glad the residential gave you that much needed moment of clarity. Hang onto that over the coming days of work on your final project.

Little Miss Muffet said...

oh i agree so much...i wanna go back to school!

Mr. Althouse said...

I totally agree. Although I don't like working in groups or "teams" per se, I do enjoy the classroom atmosphere, especially if it is populated by vocal, inquisitive students.

Michele sent me,


Moogie said...

On of the things I loved when I went to college was the group projects. It was amazing what a group can do together, vs having to do it all on your own. And you are spot on with carrying that same principle over to your job. Another persons eyes and experience bring so many new and wonderful ideas on how to handle situations. It sounds as though it was a great class.

Niall said...

I have really enjoyed reading your last few posts..I, am envious of your learning situation. It's the way you sound full of life..stimulated.I've also been amazed reading about your WMA..fascinating! sound so much more possitve than when I last visited your site!.

wordnerd said...

Since this is my second visit from Michele's, I took some time to look around and read some old posts. I didn't realize you were so close to getting your MBA -- woo hoo for you! Have a great evening!

Paul said...

You have a great weekend, ok? Rest up a little.

Here from Michele's. A random spin of my mouse wheel and I landed on you.

Carmi said...

I am thrilled that you have gotten so much out of the experience - and have chosen to share it in such thorough detail.

No doubt your education will make you an even more precious asset to the world of business. I LOVE reading about your experiences as you move toward graduation. Please know that we're all pulling for you! You're hardly alone...but you already knew that!

Howdy from Michele's today. I'm reeeeeally late - sorry!

PI said...

It sounds like a really positive, if exhausting, experience. After a couple of residential writing courses - although maybe I didn't learn any specific thing - I found it a shot in the arm and inspiring, and I enjoyed the camaraderie and the laughter.
Did you meet anyone you want to keep in touch with, or am I being nosey? Moi???
Michele sends her best.

'B' said...

I/we know how it is to study via distance. L did her MBA and I am doing another Masters vie distance. It is a lonely old thing to be doing...

Oh, I can agree with you regarding your Bob. Our Jasmine is just the same, headbuttng me demanding to be fed and all... Even the furballs!!

Here from Michele's tonight!!!

Shane said...

i like cat head-butts. That's a cool greeting. got a good chuckle on the hairball.

happy brainstorming from michele's

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

How great that this week was so productive for you my dear...! Working in a sort of 'vacuum' can be lonely and difficult, depending on what you are working on...Sharing your problems and others sharing theirs...Well, that is so helpful and the comraderie is so very meaningful!

JAM said...

Wonderful post. I love school and miss it. I wanted to start on a Master's degree this year but health stuff and deaths in the family have hindered that.

I'm glad you got a lot out of the experience.