Student Spotlight: Sherrie Lee | Singapore
I’m a Singaporean working at a post-secondary vocational institution in Singapore, where I have been teaching business communications for over three years. Previously, I had taught English in China for two years. I am a full-time working mum with three young kids.
A year ago, I was looking for a part-time master’s program in education that offered flexible study options. While there were several distance programs I considered, the MAT@USC stood out, primarily for its promise of an interactive experience among faculty and students through its video conferencing technology, which other programs did not offer. The online aspect of the program was also attractive as it would mean I didn’t have to spend time traveling to and from classes, giving me more time with my family.
When I first started the program, getting used to the video conferencing platform and interacting in a virtual environment was a novelty. It was exciting to be part of a video conference with 10 other people from different countries, muting and unmuting my phone, making sure I could be heard and keeping up with the chat box. Three-quarters through the course, that novelty has worn off, and going to an online class with squares of faces and phone icons has become routine technology, alongside Google and Skype.
But being able to see and talk to professors and classmates in real time is one of the key things that has made the program real and rewarding. The ability to see the person you’re communicating with in real time cannot be overestimated. Our class presentations, discussion and study groups are more engaging because of the face-to-face interaction. Sure, there were days when the video lagged, there were audio issues and breakout groups were sometimes unreliable. But there were plenty more days when the technology functioned smoothly and became the background to the stimulating conversations that took place.
Technology aside, the real gem of the program is the commitment and passion that our professors and classmates bring to the program. The faculty’s desire for students to reach their full potential and fellow classmates’ professionalism and dedication to their work have brought out the best in me as a graduate student, even with work and family commitments in tow. I am constantly encouraged by professors’ feedback on my work, the high quality work that my classmates produce and the precious camaraderie that has been developed with teammates. In the past year, not only has my intellectual curiosity grown, so has my vision as a teacher. I believe that my students can succeed and I am equipping myself with knowledge and strategies to help them reach their goals.
As I embark on the Capstone this fall, I intend to explore the reasons my students struggle with learning the English language. My hope is that my research findings will ultimately lead to more equitable teaching methods. Alone, it seems like a lofty goal — with a community of like-minded educators, however, that dream becomes within reach.