Sunday, July 13, 2008

A New Chapter

I'm going to be a full time student again!

A small stack of books for religious studies

In October I shall start a Master of Studies (M.St.) in the Study of Religions at Oxford University. If you take a look at the few paragraphs describing the course (or the Course Regulations pamphlet) you will see that it's very broad in its scope, treating the subject from many different subject disciplines. I intend over the coming months to use this space to blog ideas, thoughts, impressions, experiences, etc. In fact it's going to be a good opportunity to see if I can investigate further various queries I had in one of my first official blog postings in which I was wondering how IT could support the processes of going from a simple idea to formal publication - such as a book (or see archived copy).

It's a significant change for me. As I type I am still working full time in the Learning Technologies Group at the University Computing Services. I've been there a little over 8 years developing and supporting e-learning systems. So why the change?

There are several reasons that together have convinced me that it's a natural choice and the right one:

  • First, I enjoy research and although I have tried very hard to sustain an element of this in my present job (most notably in the RAMBLE project and various thoughts on the Educause blog), in practice my day-to-day responsibilities have not allowed me much scope for this.
  • I have long had a keen interest in spirituality and religion, having been brought up in two traditions (Buddhist and Christian).
  • By working at the University for a long time and running a central system, I have come to support large numbers of academic staff and students, yet I never felt fully part of the 'collegiate University' because I never had a College association.
  • Furthermore, since leaving school I've had a lingering yearning to study at Oxbridge, feeling there was a bit missing (in the Sixth Form I applied instead to 'red brick' universities for my undergraduates studies and subsequently undertook research at non-Oxbridge institutions).
  • The M.St. course is particularly interesting to me because of its emphasis on world religions, especially on those from the East. It also has an interdisciplinary feel, which suits me.
  • I know one or two academics involved on the teaching side and students who have taken the course. Hearing about the course from them confirms my positive impressions.
  • I should be able to acquire new knowledge and skills that will enable me to help religious communities.
  • Most of my work at OUCS has concerned VLEs ever since my job interview! However, my enthusiasm has gradually dwindled and I felt it was time to move on. I have tried pursuing other avenues, most notably in mobile computing, but it's not been/developed enough to persuade me to stay put, though I shall still be retaining an interest in m-learning as a student. :-)

I shall be based at St. Cross college, which I chose largely because of the reasons on their Web site - I like the fact that it is friendly (which certainly seems to be the case from my dealings with some members during my time at OUCS :-), graduate-only, international in composition and interdisciplinary in nature, plus the fact that it is located quite centrally.

I don't know how it will go and where it will lead (though I have a few ideas), but as it is just a one year course, I probably have the option to return to the kind of work I've been doing. For those contemplating a similar transition, I should say that it's not something that has come about instantly, but rather it has been a gradual process. I've been particularly glad that colleagues have been supportive on hearing about my plans - whilst still hoping that I can keep in touch in case of the occasional technical VLE query, mobile consultancy etc!

I have a lot of reading and writing ahead...


Paul said...

I'm glad there's a Paul Trafford already doing his Masters at Oxford as I'd like to do mine there too (just starting my first year of university in Canada).

By the way, I'm Paul Trafford too.

Paul Trafford said...

Hi Paul,

So I have a student double by name, but I guess you may be more youthful than me!

Good luck in your studies.

- Paul