I decided to do an MA in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching for both personal and pragmatic reasons. I have been interested in language and language teaching for a long time and I hoped that by studying on this programme, I could deepen my understanding of, and learn the skills to conduct research in, this field. I was also aware that an MA would show potential employers that I am dedicated to the profession and serious about my work – that I see it as a career, not just a job. Additionally, in Japan (where I currently live) an MA is often needed to get full-time teaching positions at colleges and universities.
Due to work and personal commitments, my only option was to study on a distance learning programme. Initially, the reputation of the School of English and the University drew me to Nottingham. When I took a closer look at the school and in particular the curriculum, I was struck by the freedom the programme offered. I love that it is possible to take modules from applied linguistics, language pedagogy, and literary linguistics. I found that my interest in language and language teaching deepened as a result of exploring diverse areas of the curriculum. Furthermore, I can honestly say that every module I took, even if it did not seemingly relate to language teaching directly, has both informed my teaching and made me a better educator.
What was your experience of studying by distance learning on our programme?
Studying on the distance learning programme can be challenging, but is ultimately very rewarding. Practically, although I was able to access journal articles and book chapters online through the university system, I missed having access to a library full of books to help me explore a subject independently. Furthermore, without a cohort of students in close proximity, you have to be quite single-minded and self-motivated. I came to really value the support of my tutors, which was first class. They responded to my questions very quickly and their comments were usually detailed and thought-provoking. Although distance learning can be a rather lonely experience at times, I actually appreciated the opportunity to interact with the module content at my own pace. In my case, I found that this improved the quality of the questions I asked my tutors, and therefore also our discussions, and overall I suppose, the quality of my learning on the programme.
What is your current job?
I am a lecturer at the School of Engineering at Ehime University in Japan. I develop and teach English for Academic Purposes and English for Engineering Purposes courses.
Did your studies enhance your career?
The short answer is yes. Quite simply, I would not have got my current job had I not done the distance MA at Nottingham. This is not only because one of the requirements for the position was an MA in applied linguistics or ELT, but also because studying distance taught me to be a better, more focused student. As a large part of my job is materials creation, I use the time management skills and the work ethic I developed on the programme on a regular basis. Additionally, the contents of the programme (particularly modules such as Syllabus Design and Methodology, and Vocabulary) have helped to improve the quality of the materials and curricula I design, and I think this will have a positive impact on my career.
Did your studies inspire you?
Again, the short answer is yes. Although distance learning requires a large investment of time and energy, and can at times be exhausting, I found that I was more interested in the field and more motivated to conduct research after the course than I was before it. For me, the dissertation stage helped me to lock in on a specific research area (vocabulary acquisition and teaching). I now enjoy reading articles, having discussions, and attending presentations about this area. Also, I am hoping to start studying for a PhD in this field quite soon. I suppose I feel that my studies empowered me, gave me motivation, and gave me the confidence to join the research community. For me, the distance MA at Nottingham was a really positive learning experience.