Rhonda Munster first learned about distance education 40 years ago when her mother studied by correspondence through the Open Polytechnic, although her own study journey took a few twists and turns, this year Rhonda completed her Bachelor of Applied Science, majoring in Information Systems and Technology.
“Seventeen years before starting my Bachelor of Applied Science, I had started on a Bachelor of Business which was also through the Open Polytechnic. Unfortunately I only got through five of the papers before having to give up for family reasons,” Rhonda explains.
Years later, Rhonda formed a company contracting in accounting, administration and technical writing roles, before deciding to continue her study journey.
“While I enjoyed the varied work, as the years passed, I discovered that my true passion was problem solving and found that information technology was often the key to resolving many issues,” Rhonda adds.
“As I had always tried to teach our children to follow their passion, it seemed hypocritical not to do so myself. After a considerable amount of soul searching, and with the support of my husband, I cut right back on my work to start studying information systems and technology full-time in 2012.”
Rhonda says that the Open Polytechnic was the right fit for her busy life.
“In Auckland we are spoiled for choice when it comes to tertiary institutions we can attend. However, having seen the early starts and late finishes our eldest child had experienced at going along to university, I realised that I would not be able to do that with three children still at school. Due to the flexibility it provides, distance study was again the logical choice,” she says, adding that without the commute, distance learning provided more time for her in the day for study, as well as flexibility to study around the needs of her children and to be able to assist clients, when necessary.
Rhonda says that her decision to go back to study was important to her to set a good example for her own children.
“As a teenager I had left school part way through Form 6 to take up a job at ANZ Bank. While my career went well, as an adult I regretted this decision. When I started studying 20 years ago, it was to keep my brain stimulated and to gain a tertiary qualification while at home with my young children. Giving up after only completing five papers was difficult but it was the right decision at the time,” she explains.
“However, these decisions to ‘drop out’ impacted on my family in later years. As neither my husband nor I had a tertiary qualification we used ourselves as an example of ‘what not to do’ and encouraged out children to go to university so they would at least have more options in later life. Our eldest followed this advice and began a Bachelor of Science degree at University of Auckland however through lack of effort, and interest, he dropped out at the end of the first year. When I expressed my disappointment at this, he responded with ‘well, you dropped out twice’. I had no argument against that.”
Rhonda says she was motivated to complete her degree, not only because of her desire to give herself a more interesting future, but also to set a better example for her children.
Since completing her degree, Rhonda has secured a role as a Business Systems Consultant.
“My new employer was impressed that I had completed my degree though distance learning as he felt this showed an ability to “manage myself and work unsupervised”. This was an important factor for the job as I work remotely,” she says, adding that in her current role, the practical courses she completed with the Open Polytechnic in programming and database systems have proven particularly helpful.
“In fact I still have some of my textbooks and course notes on my desk as reference tools. The systems analysis, systems design, and project management courses have been useful too.”
Unlike when her mum was studying, Rhonda received her Open Polytechnic study material both in print and online form. While the delivery of course material has changed over the years, Rhonda says the benefits of online interaction have been one of the highlights for her.
“My study materials came in a variety of formats depending on the course. A few were completely paper-based but some of the content also available online, some were a mix of both, and some were completely online. While I normally prefer to read from paper, I soon discovered the benefits of the online content,” says Rhonda.
“By storing it in an off-line format, I could take all my study with me on my iPad wherever I went. That way it didn’t matter if I got held up anywhere while waiting for children as I could just pull out my iPad and continue with my study. Online content is also very simple to search which makes it much easier when completing assignments.”
Rhonda’s advice to anyone thinking about study is to have a clear goal in mind.
“Choose something you are passionate about and have a goal. Studying a subject you are interested in is much easier and having a goal helps you stick to it.”
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