Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background (including previous study)?
I currently teach in a 6th form. My background is mainly in education and ICT. First degree was a B.Ed (in Malta) after which I obtained an MA in IT Management from the University of Sheffield. My main research interests lie in blended learning and soft skills. I am also quite interested in tourism-related studies given that in my country it is a significant contributor to the economy. With respect to the latter, I have some first-hand experience given that I am a qualified scuba diving instructor.
What motivated you to undertake your PhD study and why did you choose the University of Leeds?
The issue of skill mismatch experienced by graduates was always something that interests me, particularly given the current global socio-economic scenario and at the same time, the lack of highly skilled persons that the local (Maltese) economy experiences given the small size of the country (and relatively small amount of graduates, some of which choose to specialise abroad as it is not possible to do so at home).
What is it that makes you passionate about this area of study?
I believe that blended/e-learning may prove to be an invaluable way of reaching out to people who wish to pursue their studies further, in particular to those categories who may not be in a position to enrol full-time. At the same time, I consider myself a bit of an e-learning sceptic in the sense that I hold the view that technology on its own is the panacea for the ills of education. That is why I look favourably at a blended style of learning.
Please tell us about your research topic…
I am looking as to whether intercultural competence (as a soft skill) may be acquired and assessed through a blended learning setup, within a constructive alignment framework which is found at the higher education institution where the research is being carried out.
How has your experience been at the University so far?
Being a part-time, distance learning student has its challenges as very often one tends to work in isolation. Fortunately through social media and during my stays at Leeds I do manage to keep in touch not only with academic staff and supervisors, but also with other research students and there is a thriving online community.
How would you describe the research environment in the School? What would you say about the support you receive?
I found the School of Education to be a wonderful environment in terms of research. I would summarise it as challenging and stimulating at the same time. My personal experience in terms of support has been fantastic, even when personal issues came into the fray. My suggestion is to keep regular contact so that matters to do not go out of hand.
What do you like to do outside of studying?
When possible I like to travel. I really enjoy getting to know about other countries and other people. And whenever I visit, I always try to get some diving done as long as there is a decent body of water nearby.
What do you think of Leeds as a city?
I think it is a wonderful place. There is so much to do and see – it’s quite cosmopolitan.
What would you say to someone considering a research degree in the School?
GO FOR IT! But if on a part-time basis like me, plan carefully and allow for contingencies.