Online learning lecturer nets remote working award

Published: 2 September 2010 at 10:51

‘Green workers’ with innovative remote working strategies win prizes

Shirley Pickford, a lecturer from Anglia Ruskin University, who teaches students on a fully online work-based degree, has won a national award for remote workers.  Although working for Anglia Ruskin University, with its campuses at Chelmsford and Cambridge, she is based at her home at Oakenholt, Flint in Wales.

She was presented with the Microsoft Remote Worker Award (in association with BT), which is an award for employees whose employers promote flexible working solutions with home working options or remote working, at a gala ceremony in London (1 September).

Shirley’s Hstudents are mostly in full-time work, so an online degree is often the only way for them to study. She shares their experiences of distance learning, and helps to create genuine collaboration between people who have never met each other. 

She is a specialist in online learning and a tutor for the BA (Hons) Learning Through Technology course.  No formal qualifications are required to start the degree which is available from Anglia Ruskin’s Faculty of Education, and there are no exams.  Assessment is through portfolio, and students may be able to graduate in less than three years if they have previously studied at Higher Education level. The content of the course can be personalised to suit the work context of each student, allowing them to gain maximum benefit from the experience.

Working from home has allowed Shirley to move anywhere without changing her job and to have more flexibility when she needs it providing her with the opportunity for a better work/life balance.

Speaking about her success, Shirley said:

"It is thrilling to gain recognition of developments in remote working for myself and for Anglia Ruskin University.  The excitement of exploring the use of new technologies and social media to work with staff and students continues."

"Remote lecturing has always had its rewards for me in exploring the amazing opportunities that have opened up to communicate and collaborate with people regardless of geographical location, so it is particularly exciting to win the Microsoft Worker Award and the prize of a Toshiba laptop is very appropriate for my work. The support of Anglia Ruskin University has been crucial in developing an approach that is successful."

Remote working also means that Shirley can work anywhere with her laptop - this has included motorway service stations, a conference in Manila, working visits to Italy or at friends homes - combining a full time job with opportunities involving travel or fun.

Shirley's current research interests are: e-learning, social software in Higher Education, virtual learning environments in Higher Education, the changing role of lecturers, digital creativity in education and patchwork media.  

Talking about her route into remote working, she explains:

"I first moved into remote working because I wanted a change and a challenge after nearly 20 years based in schools as a classroom teacher. Because nobody knows your age online, people often assume that remote workers are young - but along with my team, we are mostly mature (in age) having held senior positions before deciding that the internet is where we belong."

Shirley concludes:

"I’ve enjoyed working remotely as a lecturer, keeping in touch with students through online discussions and using everything from blogs to wikis to publish journeys in learning.  I can set up an office anywhere by opening my laptop.  Everybody wins in managing projects – me, my students, colleagues and my employer."

Remote Employment and BT Business were on a national hunt to find remote working champions who could demonstrate how remote working and home working has made a beneficial impact on their business and home life in The Remote Worker Awards.  There are currently 3.5m people working from home.

The Awards appealed to hundreds of budding enterprisers as well as larger home based businesses across the country, and remote workers, home workers as well as freelance consultants.

Award winning website Remote Employment, Google’s No 1 job site for flexible and home based jobs, launched The Remote Worker Awards in association with BT Business to highlight how home working and remote working benefits the British public and their working life.