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
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.