Student Story: Panagiota Tzanni – Course Designer & Lecturer for Academic English
I am originally from Greece, but I live and work in China. I am a course designer and lecturer for English for academic purposes for the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.
It’s a rewarding experience, especially because Chinese students are the best students in the world to teach. They are very well disciplined, dedicated, motivated. Being a teacher here you have the respect of your students, they trust you so that makes every day on the job that much more rewarding.
What was your motivation to do the Diploma at the digital learning institute?
A couple of years ago I did a short course in Instructional design because I became a course designer myself here at the University of Nottingham. So, I started designing courses with a very strong online element because of the pandemic. This is a trend that is going to continue especially in higher education as we move away from printed textbooks, and we want everything to be hosted and available with ease.
So I was looking for a certificate that would give me the practical skills in order to design my courses more effectively and to be honest with you why not do something for myself. Become a free-lancer and open another door like a different career. Being able to design online courses and online learning experiences you can work in a company, a different higher education institute so the options aren’t limited.
So, I was looking for a certificate with an institute. In the beginning I struggled to find something that was value for money. It was either too expensive or too theoretical or I couldn’t find everything I was looking for.
I came across the Digital Learning Institute, it was through a simple google search. When I looked into the DLI further I realised this certificate was going to give me all the tools I needed. The price was good, the syllabus was good, the structure, the website, everything looked legit and very very user friendly and I was ready to apart of a larger community.
When I was researching a course to do, I was coming across other institutes but duration was also an issue for me. Some of them were 1 or 2 years or unidentified or without a deadline. This was also a problem because you don’t want something to short or too long but you also need a deadline to keep you motivated and keep you in track or otherwise you will never graduate from anything. So I was eliminated other choices and choose the Digital Learning Institute as my final decision.
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How did you find your experience doing the course with the Digital Learning Institute?
First of all, I think the course is a very good example in itself of what an effective and well-structured online course should look like! It’s very well structured, you know sometimes in other applications I’m using on my smartphone to learn something, you get lost because there is no structure and you don’t know what to do each week, you go from one point to the other without clear direction and with the Digital Learning Institute that’s not an issue! Everything is practical and theoretical, so first you learn the theory and then you move into application, everything is contextualised which is also very good. You can also see different examples of online learning material inside the platform. So you learn with the tools you are supposed to use as a professional in eLearning design.
How quickly were you able to apply those tools and learnings into your day job?
I’m designing a new course, the course here gives you the foundation you need but on your own you do need to work on your own. If you want to become an eLearning designer you need to familiarise yourself with different applications, so you need time and you need projects. So for example, I am using my job and the courses I design for the University in order to learn how to use articulate story line, PowToon and many other applications I was not aware of.
So straight away I was able to apply what I was learning at the Digital Learning Institute to my job in the University. The assessment in the course also helps you develop the skills you need to in your professional career. During the course we received guidance to design our own portfolio to showcase the assignments and projects we worked on which every eLearning designer should have. The course also provides you with templates, guidelines, how to do things, what structure so it really gives you the chance to see what the job is going to look like too and what you need to do on a daily basis during every project you receive in the future.
How much impact do you think the course had on your job once you finished? Where you able to do more effective and new things for your students?
First of all, now I have the opportunity in my own institution to apply for new roles and be more involved in new and more complicated projects about eLearning design.
Second of all, I am ready to design a whole new experience for my students! I am aware now of new tools and I am designing a new pre masters course where I am going to use most of these applications to design a different learning experience. That has been a unique selling point for myself in my institution.
I believe now I am capable of providing better learning experience which are going to have a direct impact on student performance and I hope in the long term that it’s going to have a huge impact on my cv and the roles I’m going receive inside the University.
Was career progression and opportunities a big factor in why you did the course at the Digital Learning Institute?
I think the biggest advantage I gained from the course is that you know in eLearning design, knowing how to use practical applications and knowing how to use eLearning design material, many people have practical knowledge but there is no way to prove to someone that you have this kind of knowledge and you know how to design and how to collaborate with different SMEs and stakeholders in these experiences. So I had a lot of background knowledge and practical knowledge but I had no way to prove it in a more formal way. So by doing this diploma, now I have something concrete to showcase and this will open more opportunities in the future inside and outside of my institution.
Would you recommend the diploma to someone who is considering doing it?
I would tell someone, do it, don’t even think about it. Each week is going to be completely different and the assessments in itself to be honest is what I most enjoyed in the course. The fact I was able and free to choose the assessment type I was going to choose, it gave me the opportunity to experiment and think outside of the box and use different platforms and tools to design something great.
So I would say to someone, don’t even think about it. You are going to gain the confidence you need in order to design your own portfolio and chase new opportunities inside your own institute. Especially after the pandemic, many institutions and companies around the world are hiring instructional designers, they have departments dedicated to design online learning material so I think the opportunities are endless.
I think the course is really well structured, value for money. I couldn’t find enough certificates outside the Digital Learning Institute that would offer mentorship. This mentorship is so important, at the end of the course you get a mentor and this person can really help to find the career path after the certificate.