The first task for new MSc students is to survive and thrive during the coming year! Having made the (we hope) a life changing, decision to come here, there are many challenges ahead:
- Managing the workload: the programme works on a somewhat different timetabling model than many masters. Instead of taking models in parallel with each other we stagger them in a sequence of three 3 week blocks, supplemented by an ongoing thread of program level work such as the DE Book Club. This means that while you are working on each module you are meant to be giving it your full-time (min. 40 hours a week) attention. As with professional DE work, managing these time periods well is crucial.
- Staying motivated: it is natural during any intense experience that takes you out of your previous comfort zone and personal support networks to feel at various times more or less well motivated. Add the vagaries of the Scottish weather and the certainties of a very dark Scottish winter and it can be even harder! Be aware of your patterns of motivation; anticipate and manage lows rather than be caught unawares by them.
- Being responsible: most of our students have had some, or even significant, work experience, so the idea of personal motivation should not be new to you. However personal responsibility as a post-graduate learner may be less familiar. We are a learning community – we are here to help each of you make the most of the opportunities to engage with Design Ethnography we can present according to the needs of your journey (where you have come from, where you want to go). That journey is unique to you and therefore your experience on the programme must be unique. Part of being responsible means knowing when to ask for help, which brings us to our next key survive and thrive point…
- Don’t assume you understand. The key to success both as a learner and a design ethnographer is to not allow all our natural inclinations to imagine we understand, to not consider what is in front of us too deeply, to obscure from us that we often don’t really understand much of what is around us. Those natural inclinations are basic ones; inclinations that serve the purpose of getting us through the day with minimal effort. They are not conducive to good learning, or good design ethnography. Always ask – do I really understand? Share uncertainties with colleagues, tutors, and in a fieldwork setting with research participants. Assume nothing.
- Tap into the community. The DE community is growing steadily and your predecessors have left traces of their own survive and thrive lessons – tap into these. They can tell you much about managing projects, about collaboration, about learning to look, and much more besides. Take the time to delve into the archives of the Voice of Experience, there is much to learn there, and make sure you add your contributions to our community archive to.