We interviewed Stephen O’Hare, a Dundee-based solicitor and an RGU alumnus who pursued an online LLB degree after working 15 years in the technology sector. Here’s what he had to say about his RGU experience:
Tell us about yourself…
I live in Kinross-shire, the area in which I grew up. I returned ten years ago after spells living in Belfast, London and Glasgow. I graduated with a B.Sc (Hons) Computer Science degree at a university in Belfast in 2001. Thereafter, I spent fifteen years working in the technology field before deciding on a change of direction and moving to the legal sector.
In 2012, I enrolled in the Online LLB course at RGU and studied the accelerated degree on a part-time basis. I graduated four years later and undertook the Diploma in Legal Practice. I started my legal traineeship in September 2017 and qualified as a Solicitor in September 2019. I currently work as a Private Client Solicitor for one of the largest full-service law firms in Scotland, based in Dundee.
In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, hillwalking, skiing, cycling, golf and other things that involve being outside.
Why did you decide to study an online degree?
When I decided to undertake a law degree, I was looking for an option that would allow me to continue my then full-time job. I needed a course that was going to allow me to study, attend lectures, and tutorials in the evenings and weekends. My job at the time, required me to travel regularly and therefore, an ‘on-campus’ degree wasn’t really an option. RGU’s online LLB was perfect as it offered the ability to download lectures and ‘attend’ these at times that suited my schedule. I also had the option to attend live online tutorials at my convenience.
Why did you choose RGU?
RGU’s academic reputation and its willingness to embrace innovative new ways of working appealed to me.Stephen O’Hare, online LLB alumnus at RGU
Coming from the technology sector, concepts such as group video calls, online discussion forums and document sharing were familiar to me. They were were common mediums of interaction in big corporates. However, in 2012, it was still quite rare for universities to use them as a means delivering educational content. RGU, at that time, stood out as the clear leaders of online education. And so, it was the obvious choice.
What are the benefits?
The main benefit for me was that it meant that I could study any time, anywhere, using any device. Whether I was at home on a desktop PC or in a hotel room or at the airport with an iPad, I was able to access the course material and participate in online discussions with my fellow students. This flexibility meant that it was possible to study whilst also working full time which was essential for me.
How was your experience?
I had a very positive experience of studying online. It was extremely convenient as I could download lectures and play them again if a particular topic that required additional focus.
Having the course material readily available in an electronic format was really beneficial, especially when it came to coursework and exam preparation.Stephen O’Hare, online LLB alumnus at RGU
I also enjoyed the occasional ‘on campus’ days which were optional and held on Saturdays. It gave me an opportunity to meet some of the other course-mates in person. It was great to be able to share experiences of studying online when meeting people face to face. It helped build a support network which turned out to be invaluable in the future.
Did you have any worries about studying online before you began?
My main apprehensions were about having the ability to ask questions and interact with my tutors.
It’s quite easy to do this in a classroom setting, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to work in an online environment. However, the online tutorials and discussion forums through Campus Moodle worked very well for this purpose. If further help was required, the tutors were readily contactable via email.
The other concern I had was around the ability to interact and share ideas with other students. Again, the online discussion forums were helpful for this purpose, as were the on-campus days. External platforms such as Skype and WhatsApp also made staying in touch with my fellow students easy.
How did the online LLB degree at RGU support your career aspirations?
Graduating with an LLB was essential in order to progress to the next stage of qualifying as a Solicitor. It gave me a good grounding in the basics of the ‘black letter law’. This enabled me to undertake the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice. During my final year at RGU, I secured a position as a trainee solicitor.
What advice would you give to students thinking of undertaking an online degree?
I would thoroughly recommend undertaking an online degree, particularly for anyone who may also be juggling a full time job and/or family life. The flexibility RGU offers is excellent. The resources available at the University, in some respects, offer advantages over an on-campus degree.
I would encourage prospective students to read the University’s guidelines around the estimated time commitment required of students on the course.Stephen O’Hare, online LLB alumnus at RGU
They must prepare from the kind of sacrifice that will be involved. In my case giving up many evenings and weekends, although, these are soon forgotten!
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