Graduated with an online Health Psychology MSc

Image: Health Psychology MSc graduate Natascha Van ZylWhy did you choose this course?

For many years I wanted to complete my Psychology training, which I started during the 1990's. Life and immigration presented me with many challenges and indeed several other opportunities that led me in a different direction (i.e. healthcare and education). Nevertheless, my passion remained and so I sought out a course that would help me achieve my goal.

What attracted you to online learning?

I work and have a young child. I required a course that would fit around my busy lifestyle, while also offering the collegiate experience and academic/pastoral support needed to be successful at this level of study.

Why did you choose the University of Derby Online Learning?

When I explored all the other course providers in my chosen field and spoke with people at these various institutions, it was Derby that stood out. The help I received from UDOL was clear, detailed and provided me with the confidence to make my decision. I could see which modules I would study; how these would be delivered and assessed; the timescales involved in the study, and the support in place to facilitate my academic progress. I could also see the links between my proposed area of study and my work in healthcare and behaviour change. Financially, Derby was fairly priced and I would be able to obtain a career development loan to help me fund my studies. So with that in mind, I joined UDOL and have not looked back.

What were your goals and aspirations when starting your course? Have they changed during study?

At the start of the course, I wanted to learn as much as I could. This has not changed. What has changed, however, is the "how to do it". My academic skills have been refined as I have observed my own personal development over time. These skills, allied with my new knowledge will greatly help me to pursue my dream of becoming a chartered and registered Health Psychologist. I work in Healthcare and Education and my Masters in Health Psychology has been instrumental in my development at work because we are now building a new curriculum which has behaviour change embedded within the provision. This demonstrates an important step forward in healthcare education, highlighting the significant contribution that health psychology makes in healthcare provision - something I am very passionate about. To this end, I have been offered an unconditional place at another university and will start my Professional Doctorate training in due course.

How did you balance your study around professional/personal commitments?

Planning carefully and being realistic with my time, deadlines and resources. Communication with my academic leads was vital and working with my peers on the forums was a life-saver when things got tough. Work-life balance is important too! I experienced a few significant health and family-related challenges during my time at UDOL and the academic and support teams at UDOL were absolutely fantastic at offering me guidance and support - with practical solutions. I lengthened my studies and so took three years to complete my course. Doing one module per semester meant that I could focus on my learning (i.e., fully engage with it and enjoy it) and work, without driving myself into an early grave... I managed the assessments and I always planned ahead - a good thing when you have young children and "things happen" unexpectedly. Above all else, I had fun with the learning - it was great to be challenged and stretched.

How would you describe your online learning experience at Derby? What did you find particularly beneficial?

Fantastic! The course is set up on Blackboard - an online academic platform - which is intuitive and easy to use. The induction module was a great way to engage with the platform and helped me navigate around the various features and areas within the virtual learning environment. Each module had its own pages and resources with an accompanying forum for discussions. This helped make online learning alive and accessible as the classroom was a "click" away. The forum discussions really helped me to develop my understanding of material and the "live" sessions were a wonderful opportunity to engage with everyone in real time. The course structure; materials and academic staff were outstanding and I could not have achieved what I have, without them. I am truly grateful.

What was your most memorable moment during your time at Derby?

Hard question - it was all memorable in its own way. Staff were always helpful and incredibly supportive. I loved the whole experience. I think the most significant change I experienced, which by definition is "memorable", was the change within me. I have developed a new level of confidence and determination, I didn't know was within me, and have faced many of my demons on this course (advanced statistics being one of them). This is something I truly celebrate because I faced these self-limiting beliefs and conquered them. I even like statistics now. Who would have thought!

How has your qualification helped your career? Has the knowledge you have acquired, complimented previous work experience in any way?

It has provided me with the opportunity and skills to access stage 2 training to become a chartered and registered Health Psychologist. My work in healthcare and education has been shaped significantly by my learning at UDOL - for the better.

Can you describe your experience with just one word?


What would you say to anyone considering an online course at Derby?

Just do it!

Online Health Psychology MSc - What did you like about UDOL? - Natascha Van Zyl