Putting it into Practice: How hands-on study translates into the workplace

Studying online may sound like a remote way to study - but for Alistair Grant, a vet studying animal ultrasound, it’s an opportunity for hands-on learning.

dog surgery at the vets

Thousands of students study online with the University of Melbourne every year. The benefits are many: online study opens up avenues of learning to people in remote areas, who may not otherwise have access to higher education without relocating. It also offers thousands of professionals the chance to extend their knowledge without putting their careers on hold, and put their new learning into practice every day.

Take, for example, the University’s veterinary courses.

Alistair Grant, co-owner of veterinary practice Stabler & Howlett in Mackay, Queensland, has been a practicing vet for nearly a decade, but he’s never stopped learning. He’s completed numerous short courses, gaining CPD points ever year, and gained membership qualifications in Small Animal Surgery and Veterinary Radiology. He’s always got his eye on the next skill he can bring into his practice.

Alistair Grant, co-owner of veterinary practice
Alistair Grant

Alistair is currently completing the Graduate Certificate in Small Animal Ultrasound (Abdominal), which he anticipates will give him and his practice an edge. For Alistair, the choice to study with the University of Melbourne was simple.

“What I was really looking for was a sound and formalised instruction of some sort, which would be methodical and systematic,” he says.

“When I talked to Cathy (Beck, Associate Professor in Diagnostic Imaging) about signing up to the course, she described the qualification on completion as on par with an early resident in a specialist training program,” says Grant. “That’s where I wanted to get to.”

As well as working full-time and studying, he has a young family at home. “So I have a fair bit on my plate,” he says.

But the 2000km distance between Alistair’s practice and the University of Melbourne is no hindrance. The Graduate Certificate is an entirely online course, meaning Alistair can get the benefits of a University of Melbourne education without leaving Mackay.

“I can study before work in the morning, and I don’t have to commit time away from work or my family,” he says. “It’s just a matter of working through the content online.”

It also means that Alistair can study while practicing, and put his learning into practice every day. It’s a one year course but, Alistair says the course material has proven invaluable immediately.

“Ultrasound is a real-time skill,” says Alistair. “You’re holding a probe and generating an image, so there’s a limit to what you can learn from a computer screen.”

“I might read something one morning, which might come into play that day, that week or month,” he says. “The minute you’ve gone through that content, you’ve got that at your disposal. My skills are improving continuously as I work through the course.”

And it’s not just him that’s benefiting from upskilling.

“From a senior clinician point of view, there’s tremendous benefit in furthering my knowledge because I can then pass it on to staff on my team,” says Grant. “There’s a return on that financially as well, because we can improve our service offering.”

“All that aside, the benefit is just the stimulation and continuing professional fulfilment,” says Alistair. “The moment you go idle the job becomes less interesting.”

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