Later this year Clinton Truong (pictured alongside on the left) is taking a seven-week break from his RMIT Graduate Diploma in Project Management to help with the organisation of his wedding. He laughs when he suggests that perhaps his fiancée, who sometimes works as a wedding planner, could also benefit from the course. After all, it’s not just engineers who manage large, important, complex projects!
A mechanical engineer who has worked on Melbourne’s public transport infrastructure, including Yarra Trams, V-Line and more, Truong is now a Project Coordinator with a business within the commercial construction industry. In his current job he deals with project managers who have post-graduate qualifications in construction management, so he decided to boost his career by ensuring his knowledge was up to scratch.
“It was interesting because I had originally said to myself that I was never going back to university, but it seems much more important these days, career wise, to have a post-graduate qualification,” he says.
“After much contemplation and a lot of research, I decided to enrol in RMIT’s Graduate Diploma program. I thought it was the best option to give me the necessary education required in my field.”
Why online study?
Apart from content, the biggest selling points were the online nature of the course and the flexibility offered. The online program sits alongside the face-to-face programs, and students can continue into a full Masters level program after they finish their online studies. It was a good fit with full-time work, Truong says.
“RMIT was one of the few institutions that offered the course online,” he says. “I’m working 40 to 60 hours each week, so a course that is 100 per cent online, but still highly interactive, was perfect.”
The interactive nature of the learning has been consciously built in by RMIT’s course specialists, who wanted something more than words on a screen for their students. Knowing that the majority of students would come from industry, they had no wish to waste all of that talent, knowledge and networking capability by creating a course that didn’t allow people to truly connect.
“We try to make everything about this course as interactive as it can be,” says Rhea Chenery, Lecturer and Industry Fellow (pictured on the right in the image above). Chenery, an engineer who worked in industry until two years ago, runs the Introduction to Project Management course, the first course for most students in RMIT’s Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma, and Master of Project Management programs.
“There are a lot of videos, online discussions and discussion boards built in to each part of every course,” she says. “Students are strongly encouraged to engage in discussion boards and in online sessions with the tutors.”
“The online courses are built to replicate that same experience that you have in our face-to-face classes, where interactions in both scenarios are made powerful because most of the people around you have fantastic industry experience. You are meant to get to know your peers and get to know your tutor, so it’s definitely not just like working through a text book.”
Statistics support Chenery’s claim that online students get to make the most of their fellow participants’ experience. The average age of students in the online course is higher than those in the class-room version of the course. Truong agrees, saying that at age 26, he’s well and truly the youngest in his course cohort.
“A lot of the students are in their 30s or 40s,” Truong says. “Although it’s online, it still feels as if you’re networking with a lot of other project managers in engineering.”
Students tend to come from two groups, Chenery says. One group is professionals looking to bolster their strong industry knowledge with new and advanced knowledge of project management skillsets. They are earning qualifications to boost their career potential. The second group is people looking to make a change into the project management sphere. They are looking for a completely new set of skills in order to shift their career into a different area.
“There are six different intakes for the online program each year, and students can do one subject then have a break, then another subject then have another break,” Chenery says.
“They can tailor the learning around what’s happening in the rest of their life. Of course, we also have some students who do all of their subjects straight after each other with no breaks, and they finish their Graduate Certificate in seven to eight months or even quicker.”
The best part?
The best part about the course modules, Truong says, is that the learnings can often be used immediately in daily life. Whether it’s people management or software application, it’s not unusual for him to begin using course knowledge on the job the very next day.
One subject that had a focus around program management and time management, he says, significantly boosted his already impressive knowledge of the topic and introduced him to various tools and formulae that made his job of timeline and deadline management far smoother.
“It helped me learn new methodologies and at the same time refreshed my memory of the subject,” he says.
So, does Truong feel the course will improve his future career prospects? In a way, it already has, he says.
“When I updated my qualifications on LinkedIn to say I'm currently doing this course, I almost immediately received a phone calls from recruiters, asking if I wanted to come in for an interview,” he says. “That was funny, because when I finished my Bachelor Honours degree in Engineering, nobody wanted to talk to me! That’s how I know that having a post-graduate qualification is far more important these days.”