3 Years Today.

Today is my three year anniversary with my blog.

Yes, that’s right. Exactly three years ago, I started this mish-mash of collected junk I like to lovingly refer to as a “blog”.

It’s not much, but it’s mine.

And, in celebration of three (sometimes) glorious years, I would like to write a post to highlight how far I have come and the current state of thing.

Enter, the sponsored post that has been driving me nuts for the past week or so:

Curtin University Facebook post

 

Yes, Curtin. I AM dreaming of a better career. I have been for a number of years now. In fact, I have been working toward said “better career” for more than three years now.

But, pray tell, dear learning institution, what good is all that learning if there are no jobs?

What if the money I earn isn’t enough to live on?

Or enough to pay back the exorbitant interest on my student loan?

Or what if I become homeless because I cannot find a home to rent or purchase, even if I could afford one?

You see, Curtin (and other unis spruiking their wares at the end of the financial year after an incredibly harsh and damaging budget has been announced), there is no amount of learning that is going to matter if what we are striving for does not exist.

As much as I admire and strive for lifelong learning, there are sometimes strong currents in the murky waters of life that seem intent on pulling us down.

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A Simple Comment to a Video…

or Why You Don’t Ask An Internet Communications Student For A Comment On A Video Off YouTube, Because You Might Just Get What You Asked For (but that was too long for a title on my blog, so you get the simplified version).

So, it appears I cannot retire my “political hat” any time soon. If you haven’t seen it yet, here is a link from the Vice Chancellor of Curtin University, Professor Terry. All in all, it’s a good delivery of an update on the goings on around campus and what she is doing to keep up-to-date with the various campuses. I, however, have the following email which I am about to send to the Vice Chancellor, as per her invitation for comments.

And now for my extensively long comment. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Dear Professor Terry,

Thank you so much firstly for posting your video on YouTube, and for inviting comments. It is rare to hear someone in an actual position of authority openly ask for, and encourage feedback in such an engaging medium as the Web.

I was happy to hear you speak of the restructuring of the academic teaching system within Curtin University. As a current student, completing my Honours thesis this year with a view to going forward to higher degrees by research in order to join academia and the teaching profession, it is a relief to hear that you will not be cutting numbers of teaching staff. I do, however, offer my story as a view from the other side of the fence that you may not have considered in the implementation of these changes.

I began my undergraduate degree as an Open University’s Australia student, not because I wasn’t as committed to my studies as on campus students but because, as a mature aged, single parent student without high school completion dependant on public transport who was working full time in order to make ends meet, it afforded me the best possible opportunity to fit me life and study together in the same 24 hours everyone else had.

When I made the realisation that this degree I had undertaken was giving me a more rounded sense of accomplishment and personal pride than almost anything else I had undertaken, I decided that I would be furthering my studies. The staff of the department with which I was studying afforded me every opportunity to obtain the necessary information, facilitated my education with a shared passion for the learning material and concepts of study that I thought were a myth amongst academics.

This department was that of Internet Studies, out of the school of Media, Culture and Creative Arts at Curtin University – a group of academics whom I owe a great debt of gratitude and thank no end for the development of a lifelong love of learning.

This inspiration is, I’m afraid, in spite of almost being erased from the history books due to a proposed cancellation of on campus enrolments last year. This move would have seen the end of this department – the first and only dedicated Internet Studies department in Australia. The students of this department lead and won the fight to retain the opportunity to attend on campus classes, despite opposition from the chancellory of the university, through online and offline means of protest.

But my story does not stop here.

As a current Honours student in the Arts, I have seen more uncertainty regarding the offerings to students already this year than I feel is acceptable. This is absolutely through no fault of the teaching and support staff who have done the very best with what they have had available.

I am attending classes on campus, having made arrangements with my family and employer, as an off campus option has not been made available to students this year. I have been lead to understand that this is due to a revision and restructuring of the unit material and teaching method. This, in spite of having been offered as an off campus study stream in previous years.

Class timetables were finally made available to students, in order to select the  days and times of their classes, only a few days before the beginning of the semester. We then received automated confirmation that our chosen times and days would be made available, only to be told the following week that they were not, and that the classes would be combined and only available on a single day of the week. Thankfully for me, I have a moderately flexible employer who understood that these changes to my schedule were not under my control.

We were then told, just a few weeks later, that the previously possible day and time for class to be held was still available and that the consensus of the class would be the deciding factor as to whether or not the day and time of our compulsory-attendance class would be changed in the middle of the first term. While it only took a matter of an hour or so for the decision to be made by the students that keeping the current day and time would be best, the moments of panic were felt by more than just myself, I can assure you.

I was probably not the only student who felt that continuing studying would be jeopardised if the class were to change circumstances again.

I was probably not the only student who felt that their employer might not be so understanding if study circumstances were to change again.

I was probably not the only student panicking that the Honours we had invested ourselves in might be taken away from us before we had the opportunity to really get started.

What I do know for certain is, I am the only student from my department currently studying Honours with Curtin University. Why? An unofficial poll of my fellow online students puts this down to the inability of enrolling off campus.

With so many Internet Studies students currently enrolled in off campus or online only study of the Internet Communications degree, it makes no sense to not have this further education offered online if, as you say, numbers of teaching staff have not been reduced.

It makes no sense to not offer Honours online or off campus, especially with the fine online access to Curtin Library resources we now have available.

It makes no sense to not offer Honours online or off campus with the degree of control and interaction possible through the Blackboard system, which served as my lecture, seminar and tutorial space for three years quite sufficiently.

It makes no sense to not offer Honours online or off campus, when the Internet Studies department of Curtin university have shown that this mode of study facilitation can create future scholars that will, one day, make Curtin University proud.

This, Professor Terry, is why I find it difficult to believe that the current restructuring at Curtin University has no negative impact on the numbers of teaching staff available to students of Curtin University. I have seen the ability of the teaching staff of Curtin University to traverse space and time to deliver a world-class degree second to none in the world. I have also seen the trials of trying to deal with university bureaucracy when staffing changes, restructuring, budget cuts, reforms and proposed denial of access take place.

Please, if you want to be sure that these staffing changes hold no negative impact for the students of Curtin University, both current and future, I suggest you ask the current students if they are seeing any ramifications from the initial changes today. You may be surprised to hear what they have to tell standing in direct opposition to what the numbers and figures suggest.

I may be just one student telling my story today, but this is not my story alone.

Many thanks for your time,

Melissa Nile.
– current Honours student of B.A. (Internet Communications)

 

TL;DR:

I didn’t write all that so you could cheat and look for the Brodie’s Notes (and if you don’t know what they are, you’re too young!) version of my email. Go read it! And get off my lawn!

#savenetstudies – How will you make tomorrow better?

Firstly, a disclaimer:

I am very proudly a student of the only dedicated Internet Studies department in Australia. I am proud to be studying with such an amazing group of forward thinking individuals who see the sense in making a current study of the very real future. I am proud to be nearing the end of my undergraduate studies, and am looking forward to honours and post-graduate studies in the future.

What does not make me proud, however, is the fact that the powers that be at Curtin University have seen fit to implement a phasing out of university admissions for the degree and major in Internet Communications. They will, despite this, be keeping the course open through their affiliate Open University Australia.

Yes.
I’ll give that a moment to sink in.

They are dropping on campus and external admissions in favour of online admissions through a third party.

ImageCost cutting? Well, not really. When you consider that they still need the same number of tutors and lecturers to teach and online group, and that in an ever-changing subject constant research is needed, there’s no real way to save money for this.

But, I hear you ask, if I study online (as I have stated elsewhere) what’s the problem?

Good question. Why should I be getting fired up about this? Well, let’s make it simple.

When I started this degree, I wanted to just get a magical piece of paper. I just wanted a piece of paper that said I had stuck it out for three years. I didn’t even want Honours. I wasn’t looking to do any kind of Higher Degree.

One year in and I knew this was what I wanted. I wanted Honours. I wanted a PhD. I wantd to revisit that desire to teach I had back in high school. I wanted to lecture, and I wanted to lecture at the only Internet Studies department in Australia.

Now, let me be clear. This move is not shutting down the entire department. It is simply removing the option for students to enrol either on campus or externally through Curtin University. This means the only way you will be able to enrol in this degree from 2014 onwards, is through Open University.

But, let’s look at the patterns here.

They are removing an option for students to enroll into a course. This will mean that some people who might have looked at this unit as a way for them to improve their life, will be turned away. I know. But everything is online these days!

Let’s get real. Some people, even in this day and age of web-mediated everyday life, feel that left to their own devices to study at home, alone, without class times to meet and tutorials to attend, they will not be successful in their academic endeavours. I, for one, have had people look at me like I’m some sort of time management empress and super disciplined because I can study at home.

So, less people in your course. This will mean you have less money to spend on the course. If you have less money to spend on the course, you will need to make more and more cuts until there is no course to offer at all. I don’t think it’s that far a stretch to follow that.

Now, back to what makes the Internet Studies department, and the Internet Communications degree, so special.

There is no other course of study like this. There are other degrees (Communications, Media, Cultural Studies), sure, and some of them even have units that brush on the particular skills necessary for writing online. They do not look into the sociological issues surrounding internet and web use. They don’t look into the application of theories and concepts as applied to web use.

So what? The internet is just a thing we use. So long as we have people to make everything online work, what’s the problem?

So, internet addiction isn’t something that requires a definite working knowledge of how people and the internet work together?

Marketing online can just have old school marketing principles reworked to it?

Communities that work online don’t need people who have a specific skill set to manage them?

Copywriting for online audiences doesn’t require specific knowledge?

I think we get the point. You can’t just take a physical world idea and plonk it onto an online platform. It doesn’t work like that.

There is a petition. There is a Facebook group. The twitter hashtag is: #savenetstudies.

Want more information? Keep an eye on these groups. This is all the information we currently have. As more comes to light, it will be shared.