Monday, 23 December 2013

Looking Back 2013...

Photo: Kat from
It is the Christmas and New Year break at the University of Reading. What better time to reflect on the year passing and make resolutions for the new year.

Since completion of my PhD I have been working at the University in the same research group as a Post Doc researcher, so nothing changed in 2013. But I moved to my new office, OdinLab, from my Postgraduate workspace, which I now share with three colleagues. During the year we had a new PhD student coming in and one MRes student finishing.

The year 2013 started with a dreaded disease - chickenpox. My son contracted it first; after exactly two weeks my daughter got it; after another couple of days I got it (for the second time!). I was out of office for most of February but managed to work weekends and cover work because I had the flexibility. This is a great advantage of being a researcher especially when you have poorly twins.

Early in 2013, through the University I got the opportunity to take part in a women's development programme called 'Springboard'. I made new friends there and ultimately moved into a house where my next door neighbour and neighbour down five doors are both my Springboard buddies. Through these contacts I also got the opportunity for the first time to take a lecture at the University. The programme was a great eye opener for me.The book 'Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway' recommended by the coach has certainly made a change in me.

Because I am working on research projects it is vital to find funds to sustain my post. 2013 was a mixed year in that respect. My research proposals went to second rounds with two most competitive funding bodies but unfortunately we did not get either of them. On the other hand, I succeeded in winning my first ever research grant from ELESIG Small Grants Scheme and we had two other successful proposals. I applied for couple of jobs, which I secretly hoped would not materialise because I love my job and colleagues I work with. But when you have short-term contracts there is always that 'what if' when it comes to the end of contract. Luckily for me and thanks to my advisor the contract always got extended.

 In terms of publishing, I couldn't ask for a better year. I have published 5 journal articles and two conference papers in 2013. Two other papers were accepted for journal publications and I thought they would appear in 2013 but now it seems unlikely. But in terms of publishing I think 2013 will always be an year to remember.

 I love to travel - especially to escape from the routine that you have to follow when you have young children. But I am limited on my ability to travel due to other commitments. However, in 2013 I had the opportunity to travel to Cape Town for the Unisa Cambridge International Conference on Open Distance and eLearning. Best of all my paper presentation was sponsored by the Commonwealth of Learning so I did not have to worry about finding funding. I explored the Table Mountain, Cape Pennisula, and Penguins during the little time I was in Cape Town. It was a memorable trip especially being able to see the Cape of Good Hope and so on that I learnt in history lessons - which made the learning suddenly feeling like 'relevant'.

The most important work engagement came when the University became a partner of the FutureLearn. Because we had already published work on MOOCs and my advisor is well connected, I got the chance to get involved in University's first ever MOOC, Begin Programming: Build Your First Mobile Game #FLMobiGame. In June and July I worked mostly on creating learning materials for this course. Along with Prof. Shirley Williams, the front man of the MOOC - Karsten Oster Lundqvist and editor and cameraman Luke Micaliff we offered University of Reading's first MOOC on FutureLearn Beta from 28th October for 7 weeks. The course was oversubscribed within 24 hours of launch on FutureLearn and we will be offering the second run in February 2014.  For the first time since having the twins I worked full-time as the lead facilitator for the course. We had a great team of student mentors supporting our learners on the MOOC. Throughout the MOOC I've worked weekends not because I had to but because I wanted to. It was so addictive - sometimes I found Shirley, the professor overseeing the MOOC, and I replying at the same time very late in the night! All in all I think we have delivered a great course, supported our learners far better than any other course I have been on or heard and extended our University brand.

 Looking back at 2013 the obvious highlight is my involvement with the University of Reading MOOC. But I think Springboard also played an important part. As the twins are due to start school in Autumn 2014, there is lot of things I hope I will be able to do in 2014. Tomorrow I hope to write Looking Forward - 2014 and now it is time to put the twins to bed.

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