For most of his working life, Richard Wilcox has been helping people help themselves. He’s developed programmes, trained people, researched things and managed stuff. So when he joined the SIT2LRN facilitator team three years ago he was able to draw on all those experiences to offer his students the best learning experience he could.
Originally from the United Kingdom, Richard has a background in developing and providing resources aimed at retraining and upskilling health professionals, complemented by a Masters in Education.
“I was fortunate that the main bulk of my academic training was while I was employed by the NHS in the UK, based on actual workplace needs and change management.”
But much of Richard’s more recent work history in New Zealand has been centered on teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) and language school management where development of course content for TESOL students was constant and ongoing. It was this that prompted him several years ago to do the Certificate in Environmental Management through SIT2LRN.
“Environmental issues became increasingly significant so programmes had to be developed for foreign students to stay current, reflect change and increase awareness. I needed a refresher course, so I did the Certificate in Environmental Management.”
And he did the certificate well. So well, in fact, he was deemed an ideal person to become a course facilitator and so he did that, too. Now he oversees the whole shebang. “This intake for example I have 41 students studying 85 papers – pretty much the average. There’s four 17 week intakes a year all with five modules containing five papers each”
The students come from all over the world – South Africa, the UK, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and many others – they range from 18 to 60 years-old and with very different learning experiences, expectations and abilities.
“For most adult learners it’s a gap bridger and, at Level 4, comes close to diploma level in places. For people direct from school it’s a good first step on the way to a higher qualification.”
Richard describes the often case-study based programme content as a “quite intensive and rewarding course” which isn’t solely focused on New Zealand environmental issues. It helps students develop their research and writing skills, encourages them to think critically and is a good fit with other subjects such as renewable energy and horticulture courses at SIT2LRN and beyond.
During their study, he corresponds with students via email, discussion board, essay grading and feedback. “There’s always opportunity to contact students via Skype, phone or Facebook etc but I choose not – it encourages active peer support. Individual learning needs are carefully managed but being available at this level leaves me less time which could ultimately disadvantage some students.”
That’s the way he prefers it, although he has met students after they’ve completed their studies. “There was a beach clean-up at Muriwai, for example, and some of my former students came to help out.”
Richard hopes that SIT2LRN will one day be able to offer an online Environmental Management diploma level course which could then lead on to the degree course, offered onsite at the SIT Invercargill campus.