A case study: Progressing my career in the Built Environment through online learning – Paul Whittle, Quantity Surveyor

Posted on: 2016-09-06

At UCEM, all of our programmes are delivered through supported online learning. Eliminating the need for students to attend lectures and tutor meetings in person, a UCEM qualification can be achieved from anywhere in the world. What’s more, it also gives students the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’ as freedom from a fixed timetable means students can access learning materials at times which best suit them.

However, as online learning is a fairly new, albeit vastly growing learning method, we are often asked about what online learning is really like, and how our students find it.

In this blog post, Paul discusses the reality of online learning, and why he would recommend it to anyone looking to progress their career within the Built Environment.

Paul’s Story Paul Whittle LinkedIn image

“At the start of my career I held on-site roles as a tradesman and gradually worked my way up to a managerial position. In 2000 I took over a building contractors, as a joint venture with my father, and it was at this point that I realised I wanted to gain a qualification in the Built Environment to bolster my new position.

I began researching programmes that offered ‘distance’ or online learning, and whose entry requirements were open to those with limited relevant qualifications. UCEM, with its fantastic history and specialism in part-time learning, stood out to me as the perfect option. And what sealed the deal was that the programmes I was interested in were accredited by the RICS and the CIOB.

The online learning experience suits my mind-set, as I prefer to be able to study at my own pace. Although I have fixed deadlines and exam dates from UCEM, I can manage my own timetable and study at times that suit me best. The potential difficulty with this is that you have to be very self-motivated and focused on your goals to make sure you keep up the pace with your learning – but if you want to achieve, you’ve got to work hard to get there!

Often, people have preconceptions that online learning will be tricky and will involve complicated online portals, but that’s not the case with UCEM. The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is very easy to navigate and manage, which is so important when you’re balancing work with study as time is of the essence.

My favourite aspect of online learning has to be the flexibility to maintain your career at the same time as furthering your education. Alongside studying, I also managed to gain experience, progress my career path and earn money. I feel that being able to implement the knowledge you’re gaining from your qualification into real-life situations is vitally important to the learning process. All of my studying since leaving school has been completed whilst working full time, and I now hold two diplomas, a BSc and two MSc qualifications. It’s fair to say I’m a strong advocate for the ‘earn while you learn’ approach!

One thing to bear in mind when it comes to online learning is that you have to get used to a new way of networking with your peers. Of course, you don’t spend as much face-to-face time with other students as you would in a traditional setting (outside of exams), but there are so many other ways to feel connected. Whether it’s through phone conversations, Skype, email or the VLE, I’ve always managed to stay in touch with other students and have made firm friendships. In fact, I met my wife through UCEM!

When I first started online learning I realised it would take some work to incorporate studying time into my day-to-day schedule. Time management is everything – you have to find your best time of day to study, and stick to it. You also have to consider other elements of your life and strike a good balance. For instance, I made sure I did all my studying during the weekday evenings, so I then had weekends to spend with friends and family.

Studying with UCEM, combined with my determination and drive to succeed, has given me so many new opportunities. After starting out as a tradesman with limited qualifications, I’m now preparing to sit my final assessment to become a Chartered Surveyor. UCEM has allowed me to discover new parts of the industry, which has then opened my eyes to even more career options in the Built Environment.

To those looking to further their education in this sector, I would always advise that you make sure your programme is accredited by the professional bodies in the industry – like the programmes at UCEM – which also ensures your employer recognises that the qualification has substance. My other piece of advice would be, “go for it!” Online learning is a true investment in one’s self, so get in touch with UCEM, find out which programme would suit you best and get started. Learn, and earn!”

For more information on how you can progress your career in the Built Environment through supported online learning, take a look at our range of programmes, or click here to try an online learning taster session.  

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