Gareth’s blog, The E-Learning Experience is where he shares his experiences of studying technical communication and e-learning.
What is your current area of study?
I am finishing the Master of Arts in Technical Communication and E-Learning (MATCEL) at the University of Limerick.
What previous qualifications have you obtained?
I have a 2.1 Bachelor of Arts in Joint Honours (English and Sociology) degree from the University of Limerick.
What made you decide to pursue a postgraduate course?
During my undergraduate degree, I fell in love with writing. I enjoyed writing my essays and assignments. Also, my favourite part of my undergraduate degree was my Final Year Project because I had complete creative control of a writing project. During the final year of my undergraduate degree, I decided that I did not want to give up on my passion for writing. So, I began looking around for possible career paths and Masters degrees that would help me keep this passion for writing. The MATCEL was the only degree that I found with a specific writing focus but also trained you for a specific writing role.
Covid had a small influence on my decision to pursue the MATCEL. I had an idea that I wanted to do another degree straight after my undergraduate degree, but I also contemplated working for a year because I was not 100% sure what I wanted to do after my degree. But when Covid stopped the world, I decided to keep going with my education because I knew that I would have nothing else to fill the time otherwise.
Did you take time out and work or go straight into your postgraduate course following your undergraduate degree and why?
I went straight into my postgraduate degree. My parents always said that once I started earning money, I would never go back. I did not believe my parents for the longest time, but I look around at my friends who are in the working world and they have no intention of going back to the “poor student life”. I did want to work but I decided that it was best to keep going and just finish my education in one run. It does mean that I am still a “poor student”, but I think it will be worth it in the end.
What factors did you take into consideration when selecting which course to pursue?
The duration of the course was a big factor for me. I was not sure if I had it in me to do another two years of university work. I am lucky that the MATCEL is only one year long. Also, the MATCEL always gives students the option of doing the course completely online. So, I was not worried about any transitional problems from in-person to online teaching that may have occurred in other courses. Overall, the course just seemed ideally suited to my current situation.
Did your course meet your expectations and why?
Yes, the course did meet my expectations. In fact, the course went beyond my expectations. I had little knowledge of the worlds of technical communication and e-learning but the MATCEL has given me so much knowledge and skills within these fields that I feel comfortable talking about either field. I feel that I have gained several transferrable skills that I can use in multiple job types.
The course immediately teaches you the skills and knowledge that you need for a career in technical writing or instructional design. The course starts with the basics but quickly progresses to more complicated topics. But the course progresses at a comfortable pace so that you are not overwhelmed. My favourite part of the course is that the lecturers give you the tools that you need to pursue a career in technical communication or e-learning. You set up a professional Twitter account, blog, and e-portfolio. These are tools that you can integrate into any job application and make yourself stand out from the crowd.
I do not wish that I picked a different course. I took a chance with this course because I was not sure if I would enjoy it. But I did enjoy the course and I like to think that I am doing well in the course too. I feel that I have found my niche.
What role do you hope to go into once you complete your postgraduate course?
I would like to be either a technical writer or an instructional designer. My course has taught me to do either job. But the content of my course has not limited me to either of these two jobs. The content of my course has given me so many great skills and knowledge that is transferrable across several careers. One great way that my course has helped me is by getting us to set up an e-portfolio. The e-portfolio allows us to house the work that we think employers would like to see when they are considering our application. The e-portfolio is a great way of showing examples of skills that employers are looking for in a candidate.
Also, sometimes employers do not realise that the MATCEL exists and so, employers are immediately blown away that you have an official qualification within the field. You are placed into a great starting position within the hiring process if you do this degree.
What advice would you give to someone unsure as to what they should study at postgraduate level?
Firstly, I would say: Do your research. Postgraduate courses can be expensive and so, pick a course that you will enjoy.
Secondly, I would tell people to follow their passion in some form. I fell in love with writing during my undergraduate course and so, I decided to do the MATCEL so that I can write as a career.
Also, I would tell students to contact students who completed the MACTEL because they will give you the student perspective rather than the lecturer’s perspective. They will talk you through the pros and cons of the course from their point of view and this information can help understand if the course is for you or not. I am always happy to talk to anyone looking to do the MATCEL.
Lastly, I would say that sometimes you just need to take a chance. There is no guarantee that you will like the course but sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith.