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Sarah O'Keefe is in her second year of BA (Hons) in Writing and Literature at ATU Sligo.

'It gave me a new purpose': How studying online allowed these women to transform their careers

At ATU Sligo, students can complete their degree fully online.

FOR MANY STUDENTS, studying online is a relatively new concept. 

It offers the opportunity to cut out commuting time, and often allows students to work around other commitments and attend lectures at a time that suits them.

But what is the experience really like, and how does it fit into already busy daily routines? We spoke to two students who are studying online full-time at Atlantic Technological University (formerly IT Sligo). ATU Sligo offers the Higher Education for All initiative, which allows students to complete their degree of choice without the need for on-campus attendance.

From choosing the right course to catching up on lectures, here’s what they had to say…

‘I love the flexibility’

Sarah O’Keeffe is in her second year of the BA (Hons) in Writing and Literature. Sarah gave up her full-time job to become a carer for her son Charlie, who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis. When Charlie started school, Sarah was prompted to use her time during the day to study.

“I used to be creative when I was younger and enjoyed combining creative aspects to my roles of employment,” she says. “When I read an article about the Writing and Literature course at ATU Sligo being an option online, I thought it could be the perfect opportunity.”

The option to study online allows Sarah to work around her duties as a carer, and “offered a balance of critical and creative modules which would be challenging, fun and an opportunity for me to improve on my writing skills”.

“I appreciate that online studying isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it. There is greater flexibility, and I do not need to factor in commuting times or logistics.

Most importantly, I can study and attend lectures whilst being close to my son.

With one more year of the course to complete, Sarah hopes to combine working from home part time and being her son’s carer when she graduates. “The course provided me with a purpose outside of being a family carer,” she says. “I am gaining knowledge, building skills in writing and utilising creativity. These skills will improve my CV and provide greater opportunities.” 

‘I wanted to expand my options’

Grainne Hayes Grainne Hayes is completing the BSc in Health and Medical Information Science. Supplied Supplied

For Grainne Hayes, who is completing the BSc in Health and Medical Information Science at ATU Sligo, it was wanting a change of career that pushed her to study. 

“I have worked in retail for several years, however I always knew there was more to life and that returning to study would expand my options into new fields and avenues of work,” she says. The decision was inspired by her father, who returned to study later in life. 

“I have a love of technology and I had a passion for science in secondary school, so this is what geared me towards the course I am involved in now.” 

Studying online meant that Grainne could attend lectures in the morning before attending work in her family business. “The online study gave me the flexibility to work and study, which is vital when working in a family business. It was just a better balance for me at the time.” 

The recorded lectures offered by ATU Sligo make working on the move “very efficient,” says Grainne, who highlights that some of the software used can be operated from a mobile phone meaning you don’t always need a laptop to hand. 

“I found the systems and applications used to deliver this online course, such as Microsoft Teams, aid the learning process significantly. Teams allows students to catch up on information that could have been missed or information they are confused about with a chat box function where you can ask questions and raise an issue with a lecturer.” 

As for her advice for anyone who’s thinking about studying online, Grainne says “the hard work spent on exams and assignments is worth it. I believe that there is no better feeling than when you finally submit work and assignments that you have been working hard on and receiving the results you deserve.

The feeling of accomplishment when you complete exams and the ability to be proud of yourself, there truly is no greater feeling in the world.

Would you like to further your education without the need to attend on-campus? Atlantic Technological University Sligo are now making education accessible through the Higher Education for All initiative. Study a full-time degree and attend live online classes in an inclusive learning environment. If you need to stay at home due to caring commitments, a disability, or financial circumstances, Higher Education for All at ATU Sligo can help you take the next step. Find out more here and apply through the CAO before June 30th. 

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