eric’s story

Eric is a 2nd year PGCE student. He commutes by train to campus from a regional city (just over an hour’s journey from Sheffield) where he lives with his wife and children. Eric carries a laptop with him and “is looking to achieve a state…of working where I am rather than having to be somewhere to work”. 

As a result of the commute, travelling time – or “study in transit” – features prominently in Eric’s account of learning. Sometimes working on the train is “productive” allowing him to read, write up lab reports, update his portfolio and take advantage of natural light. Not all trains offer internet access but he is able to take advantage of this when available. Time spent waiting in stations can also be used for studying, although unreliability of services and crowding sometimes make it difficult to plan for study in transit (“no lectures, good thing as no trains. working in living room at home on assignment, internet for info and yesterday’s library book”; “train was rubbish as it did not turn up…had to crowd on to the next one and stand”). 

On campus, Eric takes advantage of unbooked classrooms near where his lectures are scheduled. These offer internet access for his laptop and a quiet convenient place to work (“our course usually uses the same few room so I am going to be there later”) where peers can often be found who are “never to be found anywhere else”. However, he notes that “workspaces are virtual as well as real” and the authentication issues and software problems prevent him from accessing necessary online resources (“using computer in 932 Owen during lunch as laptop (vista) will not access online journal”). Non-classroom spaces such as the atrium offer ideal alternative workspaces (eg, the landing area which is “small, has natural light, power sockets, tables and chairs and it is possible to take your eyes of the work and exercise them…taking some time out from focussing on near things and exercise the eyes by looking around over a range of distances”; or “in the middle under the café…open to view so that nothing funny can go on but private enough to have a meeting. Lots of the group meetings have involved planning presentations and plugging into a projector”). The Learning Centre offers access to a range of resources but “causes dry sore eyes” and Eric reports spending little time here.

 When there are no lectures to attend, Eric takes advantage of the comfort of working from home. He moves between the various rooms of the house and uses the term “muddled study” to describe how study and family commitments mingle together (“Tuesday evening, muddled study at home, cooking, sorting out car to menders, family, laptop runs in conservatory and gets picked at”; “not where do you study but when do you study. answer when the family does not need you. back to getting stuff done in the study at home.”). Spending the whole day at home might mean being “in the study having spent all morning doing other stuff, comfy chair, daylight, warm, internet, computer”. Being able to print, e-mail and post assignments “for good measure” when he’s unable to get to campus reduces the cost and prevents Eric having to carry too much (“now to sort out all these papers. I could never have caried all this to uni”). While Eric appears to be generally quite relaxed about studying, assessments and deadlines are a source of frustration (“Wednesday morning, 04.30, can’t sleep too much left undone. working at dining room table on updating school visit record”; “fed up, did anything…except study, Lab assessments for monday so went in circles with that”; “what is study, to investigate other people’s ideas and develop own why is it all assessment. grab reference and stick in! has uni lost it”).

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