The Great Hall at the University of Leeds is actually pretty small and so we do not have huge graduation ceremonies. Instead we have a week (winter) or two (summer) of back-to-back small ceremonies each lasting about 45 minutes. For the entire graduation period the campus is full of happily robed people proudly accompanied by their families. Our December ceremony is when the majority of our MA students graduate and because I work with distance students this is a particularly special moment for me. Often I meet my students in person for the first time when they graduate and, in this photograph, I am with people that I have never seen before. These students have travelled from the Cayman Islands, from Malta and from various parts of the UK. However, although we have never before been in the same physical space I feel that I know my students. We have been chatting and sharing work for at least two years and it is truly wonderful to be able to shake their hands and congratulate them in person. Students, I know that you don’t come to your ceremony especially to meet me but I really to appreciate your coming to Leeds. It is a privilege to meet you at last!
It’s not easy to study by distance. We do our best to support our students with weekly online seminars and with regular one-to-one tutorials. Our students also do a lot to support each other, for example, with Facebook groups. However, studying by distance still involves juggling study needs alongside personal and professional commitments. In addition, our students live in different time zones so the online seminars make take place at challenging times of the day. Lack of campus contact means thatmay take longer to become accustomed to routine tasks such as browsing and searching for source materials and uploading assignments is more scary when you are several thousand miles away from the university. Nevertheless, we can be sure that, barring exceptional circumstances, the students who started the MA this semester will be able to don their gowns in two or three years time. Completing a master’s degree by distance requires dedication and that is something that our students really demonstrate. When I sit on the stage to watch the students collect their degrees I feel immense pride in their achievements. Very well done, all of you!
This degree ceremony was especially full of pride because it was the graduation of a wonderful doctoral student, Moses Odongo. For his PhD Moses developed a talk and technology intervention for secondary school chemistry teaching in Uganda. The teachers and students used a digital simulation of chemical rates of reaction and this was supported by dialogic framework developed from the work of Mortimer and Scott (2003). The results of the intervention were extremely impressive, not only in terms of the post-test results but also in the way that teachers and students engaged in dialogue about the scientific ideas. It is clear that Moses will be able to make real contribution to the teaching of science in Uganda and, hopefully, elsewhere in Africa. Phil Scott sadly passed away two and a half years ago but he would have been very proud of Moses and his achievements. Congratulations Moses!
Thanks to Richard Badger for the photograph.