Staying productive over summer with ‘Understanding Research Methods’, a UoL MOOC on Coursera

July 4, 2014

Keep calm its summer timeIn an attempt to make the summer vacations productive, I got a chance to enroll for the Understanding Research Methods course offered by University of London via Coursera. In case you have not heard of it, Coursera is a very famous website that offers massive open online courses or MOOCs for short, from universities around the world. The world’s best courses are offered free all year round which include topics and subjects ranging from computing and information technology, health and medicine, to social sciences, development, and even music and film.

Being a global leader in distance learning and flexible study, the University of London also offers courses designed and taught by professors of its lead colleges and institutes through Coursera. Some of them include Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps, English Common Law: Structure and Principles, The Camera Never Lies, What future for education?, Enhance Your Career and Employability Skills, and more.

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“I can see clearly now…”

July 2, 2014

Johnny Nash - I can see clearly now album cover

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.

I can see all obstacles in my way.

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.

For as long as i can remember; and I guess to a degree that distinguished me (in all its good and bad) from some other students at school or university I have loved to study. Not just as a means to an end but as a process in its own right; but it is perhaps only recently that I have began to examine that opening statement in any great detail and through that hopefully in today’s blog (as I sit at my desk on a rainy Shanghai afternoon) throw some light as to why that might be; and hopefully through that understanding shed some light on the all important aspect of any exam related studies: recall.

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June 15, 2014


Waiting is a challenging thing to do, as I am sure it is for all of us, especially when it is waiting for information we really want. To while away the hours, as the examiners are working hard reading essays and writing reports, Jelly Bean and I have embarked on a furniture rearranging strategy that touches every room in the house, and even reaches to outdoor living areas. For me, it is absolutely wonderful. Jelly Bean is a little more cautious about the process and the outcomes, just like me in exams. She keeps a careful eye on her toy box and favourite blankets while the rearranging is in progress.

This is the first summer in a long time that I do not have a course to prepare for the next semester. Not having to read for a new course leaves a lot of free time. Having so much free time makes the wait for results seem even longer. I have several great things planned for this summer, but the real sense of anticipation comes from wanting to get on with my next academic step. It is hard to think about anything else.

By all means rearrange the furniture, you know how that thrills me.Today, while shoving and tugging furniture from one room to another, I tried to think carefully and realistically about my results. I am anxious for the results not just because they show the effectiveness of my efforts, but because they will help me plan my next academic and professional steps. The need to delay making or executing a plan is quite frustrating to a Myers Briggs ETNJ like me. The furniture rearranging, along with several writing workshops, helps redirect my planning needs and tendencies, but I still cannot wait to apply to my next program.

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“common threads…”

June 11, 2014

“Both the world of fashion and the Court of Chancery are things of precedent and usage…” 

so Charles Dickens tells us in the opening paragraph of Chapter 2 in Bleak House. And by so doing he gives us the courage to make the leap of faith (as so many of his writings do) to connect in our imagination things that we might never have conceived of as somehow connected; nor indeed had the courage to so connect.

It is the very breed of courage that Maya Angelou speaks of when she said:

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

And I hope; it is the kind of courage that at age 53 has enabled and empowered me amidst a very active business life, running a small psychotherapy practice and a somewhat large recording studio (seemingly irreconcilable “threads” you might at first imagine) and an even more active family life (with my lovely wife Chanel and my two children Charlie aged 8 & Catherine aged 2) to embark upon an International Programmes LLB.

LLB student and new blogger Mark Pummell

LLB student and new blogger Mark Pummell

But there it is and here I am; and all in all I am very happy to have been accepted as a new blogger on this the University of London International Programmes – Official Student Blog. I have a mind to write about some matters that particularly relate to the study of law but also hope to touch on something to do with the subject of study; in particular something of the beauty of the process of studying rather than perhaps the rather more often visited “managing exam terror”/”how to learn 300 cases in six minutes”/”how to remember everything your tutor ever told you” etc. kind of posts and something of the joy/s (there I said it) of being a self-study student (which I am) but I am also very open to tackle any topics that our blog readers would like discussed if I feel I have something of real interest to say on said topic; so please feel free to suggest away!!!

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Two continents, same exams

June 9, 2014

LSHTM logoFeeling rather elated this week as I have just finished my two hardest exams of the year, Basic Epidemiology and Basic Statistics for Public Health and Policy. I honestly have not properly got to grips with being able to adequately answer and exam question until pretty recently, as work has got in the way. Well, a combination of work and some rather lovely weekends taking in all that Jordan has to offer, a spectacular country. It is rather ironic though thinking that I have neglected my public health studies in part due to all the work I’ve been doing on an assessment related to health, for which I was proud to be able to finally do a chi squared test, thanks to this course!

I had originally intended to take all my exams in Amman, but then realized a friend’s wedding, in the UK, was the day before Epidemiology. The university was extremely kind about this and allowed me to change where I sat this exam very last minute, the upshot of which is that last Monday I sat my epidemiology exam in London, on Tuesday I flew to Amman, and on Wednesday, I sat my statistics exam at the British Council here.

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Braving a tempest

June 6, 2014

Budhaditya sitting on the steps at his exam centre

Ready for an exam

The time since I last posted my blog, it has been quite a hurricane for me. And I think I have survived. To say simply, the time has not been the rosiest. Managing the increasing burden of the examinations and the mounting backlog of my music lessons simultaneously has been one of the trickiest legs among all the examinations that I have taken. Admittedly, I have not been out of my home for most of the time – this has been the most vexing parts. It is indeed no child’s play to self-motivate and keep the pace ticking to gobble up the endless miles of the syllabus. Much has been said, opined and written about the much anticipated exams. So I won’t further add to the discussion, though I don’t think I would be able to resist.

There goes a saying, ‘Time and tide waits for none’. While I had focussed on my exams and music (relatively limitedly) the world had not been still. A lot has happened. India has undergone one of the most significant changes in its governance, Narendra Modi (our new PM) taking not only the national but the global media by storm. Not only India, democracy has triumphed in nations such Afghanistan, South Africa and Iraq. The case of Afghanistan has been awe-inspiring proving that all humans have hope for something better. To add, South Africa has re-elected their leader – President Zuma. Seen from the bird’s eye view, a silver lining can definitely be seen peeping from the black, sombre clouds. Witnessing the rise of a man from the echelons of a naïve tea-seller to that of the leader of the largest democracy, to the dew-fresh hopes in Afghanistan for sunny days ahead, it has really ignited my zeal.

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A Year of Literary Walk

June 4, 2014

Books give you a better perspectiveThis is my first entry in the blog; and I am supposed to say something about myself ― that should not be too difficult, right? Not quite!

Most people would generally think that students of English, by virtue of their studies, should be able to write about anything and everything. It, therefore, comes as no surprise when we get requests from friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbours, neighbours’ friends, colleagues, etc (and the list goes on), who want us to write a letter to the Town Council, or draft a business proposal, or even edit a wedding speech, dash off an irate email to their children’s school complaining about the dirty toilets, and there is no imaginable end to such bizarre requests.

When I was, however, given the chance to write for the student blog, I confess, I was diffident about whether I was equal to the task. For the past two days, I have been ruminating on how I should begin: I have been anxious about how I should sound; what tone I should adopt. It is after all, my very first entry; I have been concerned about the first impression. I had a sneaking suspicion that it was the perfectionist at work again. (To all the perfectionists out there, take note that oftentimes, the flawless perfectionist is also the vile procrastinator in all of us.)

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Two exams down, two more to go…

May 12, 2014

"Be so good they can't ignore you."

Some inspiration from Steve Martin!

Here we are in the middle of exams. For me, two down and two more to go this week. So far so good, but this is always the most trying time in the process for me. I enjoy managing four courses at one time, but this year it is a bit of a strain because of my work schedule. My first two papers were alright. By that I mean I think I maintained my academic performance of last term. For me, that is really not the goal but this year it might be the best I can do. I am learning a lot along the way, which feels very rewarding in its own way. Still, I can do better and that is my goal this week.

To manage work responsibilities and exams I wound up with two all-night study sessions before each paper last week. Not ideal, but some good came out of it. First, being very tired meant I had to really focus on each sentence. My essay plans were good, and I incorporated criticism and points from the texts. But I did not word the argument as well as I could have. I forgot my key phrases that point out incorporation of scholarship, and differentiate it from my opinion. Handy Phrases like, ‘some criticism considers…’ and ‘if we accept that…….’ are very helpful ways to link points and evidence in a paper.

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How To Remember Everything At Exam Time!

May 4, 2014

exam progressWhat is exam day like for you? Despite planning a year in advance, for me, it always comes as a bit of a surprise when exam time is actually here.  A little stress comes with this deadline that, combined with other responsibilities, can make me feel as if I forgot everything I ever knew.  Then there is test taking anxiety, which for me, is another layer to be aware of and manage.  I find it helpful to have a few strategies that help me remember material, and that remind me how to write a good essay.

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Beyond the Textbook

April 6, 2014

LSHTM logoIt’s odd: in some ways I feel I really haven’t done enough studying since I came to Jordan. I work more than a full time job, often for example catching a work car to commute to Zaatari [a refugee camp in Jordan for Syrians] at 6.45am and not getting back home until 6.20pm, at which point I still have work to finish off. In addition, I have to do work most weekends, the combination of which doesn’t leave a lot of room for studying.

Children in Zaatari refugee camp. Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Children in Zaatari refugee camp. Photo: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

On the other hand, I am now two thirds of the way through my online statistics courses and have finished the two textbooks for my other two courses (Introduction to Epidemiology and Environment Health and Sustainable Development). This has led me to a conundrum – what to do next? Should I be memorizing everything in them? I have decided on the alternative route which is to start just looking for related articles online.

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