Interview with a blended learning student

Maria Luisa Tejada de Rivero Sawers from Mexico is in the fourth year of her MSc Public Health and recently completed two modules at the School by blended learning. We caught up with Maria Luisa to find out about her experience.

To begin, tell us a little about yourself

I have a medical degree from the University of Geneva and clinical experience as an obstetrician-gynaecologist. I am interested in sexual and reproductive health, in particular perinatal loss, stillbirths and abortion.

Why did you choose the blended learning option?

I liked the idea of getting two modules completed in five weeks as well as the opportunity to get a taste of the experience studying at the School in London. As a distance learning student, I was keen to meet professors, lecturers and students.

At which stage in the programme did you make your decision?

It was kind of a last minute decision last September when registering for this year’s modules. I never thought I would be able to do it with two young children and no family around in Mexico besides my husband. However, we figured it was a quick way to get two modules done. And after six years in Mexico, I deserved a break!

Which modules did you choose and why?

I didn’t hesitate at all in choosing Current Issues in Safe Motherhood and Ethics, Public Health & Human Rights as these topics lie at the heart of my research interests and neither was available by distance learning.

How did you prepare for your time in London?

To be honest, there wasn’t much preparation. I am lucky that my brother-in-law lives close to the School and offered to house me during my stay. I arrived the Friday before the modules began, thinking the weekend would be enough to get over the jet-lag. In retrospect, I would advise arriving earlier if possible as there is so much to take in during the first days: new place, routine, lectures, people and excitement!

How did you find the teaching in London?

It was fabulous! On my first day, I was ecstatic to find out that several professors whose work I had been following would be lecturing. I found all the teaching staff, professors included, very accessible and open to discussion. A lot of effort was put into making lectures as lively and engaging as possible. Some were deeply inspirational.

Were you able to network with staff at the School?

There are a lot of networking opportunities but it will be particularly helpful if you are planning to undertake a research project. I had earlier opted out of the project as I felt a huge distance between the School and myself in Mexico, without any local institutional support; so I was disappointed when several lecturers offered to help with a project. That face-to-face interaction would have been invaluable and given me the confidence to undertake the project.

How was it interacting and learning alongside our London-based students?

I had been warned that it might be difficult to blend within students who had known each other since September but I was happily surprised. It took me no time to meet people and everyone was nice and helpful. Some were curious about the distance learning experience. I had a great time and made friends with whom I hope to keep in touch.

What else did you enjoy about the experience?

One of the best parts of blended learning was meeting fellow distance learning students and staff. There were a couple of students I had previously held exam revision sessions over Skype with and we had remained in touch by Facebook. Finally meeting them in real life was great. A few graduated this year and we had a celebratory meet-up at the John Snow pub!

What advice would you give to other students considering blended learning?

I would absolutely recommend blended learning! On the first day (or even before), I suggest drafting a calendar of all the talks, conferences and workshops at the School and in London to make the most of your stay. I ended up staying an extra week following my modules as after the assignments there was still so much to enjoy at the School and in London.

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