Monday, July 8, 2013

Project Management at Oxford Brookes

You probably already know that the Department of Real Estate and Construction offers an MSc in Project Management in the Built Environment (PMBE). So what makes it different? I had a chat with some of the current students and the Programme Leader to find out. Here's what they said:

Problem Based Learning (PBL)
To meet the requests from industry for postgraduate training to include more practical experience and interdisciplinary skills, the MSc PMBE uses Problem Based Learning. PBL facilitates learning as groups of students puzzle through problems, often adapted from real situations with much of the complexity and context intact, using published resources or expert advisers. It leads to a more challenging and relevant course than traditional lectures. Evidence shows that students on PBL courses may be better able to transfer concepts to new problems, and have better long-term recall. Real problems cross discipline boundaries and require research and collaboration and so practitioners also have an important role in devising problems and sharing expertise.

Image courtesy of Penn State University

This type of learning (PBL) is very popular with our students as it facilitates long-lasting and practically relevant learning. In the words of one of our current students:

“… the course makes you think, it does not spoon feed you answers. It makes you consider the appropriateness of concepts to other areas and challenges you to build and implement solutions.”

Intensive Study Periods
The intensive study periods, of which there are two each year, are normally 4 or 5 days long and bring together the full-time and distance-learning students on campus. Students (and staff) enjoy these intensive sessions as they are able to share experiences and knowledge as well as renew friendships and make connections within the industry. The full-time students feel that they benefit greatly from being able to interact with the distance-learning students who are already working in industry (UK and overseas). For the distance-learners, there is the opportunity to meet the teaching staff and other students face-to-face which contributes greatly to the feeling of belonging to the programme.

The organisation and the concentrated nature of these intensive study periods has been praised by our students who particularly like the site visits, workshops and guest lectures from industry experts that are a major feature of the study periods. Find out more about previous study periods (also sometimes know as Study Weeks) on the blog here.

Field Trips
The field trips and site visits take place mainly during the intensive study periods. There is one overseas field trip during the MSc programme and this takes place in January/February each year - for the past two years the students have been to the Netherlands. As well as bringing together full-time and distance-learning students, the aim of this field trip is integrate knowledge gained in the early part of the programme, to develop team skills and to build relationships. The field trip also exposes students to project management practices outside of the UK and assesses the ability of students to observe and report on the different approaches to project management in the UK and overseas. Take a look at previous field trips on the blog here.

The opportunity to share knowledge, experiences, approaches and ways of doing things
The MSc PMBE attracts students from diverse backgrounds and locations. Many of our current students already hold degrees in fields outside the realm of the built environment including law, psychology and geography, and have decided to contribute to the development of the built environment around us by effectively managing projects. They come from as far afield as Nigeria and India, with backgrounds ranging
from languages to architecture. This diverse group of students bring with them individual responses to the Problem Based Learning approach that is at the core of our programme delivery.

Typically the distance-learning students are employed by a number of different organisations from the private and public sectors in different countries. They have the opportunity to share their experiences in order to gain better understanding of the industry, the range of challenges that project managers face, and therefore the breadth of skills that they need to develop in order to perform successfully.

The Oxford Brookes Construction Society (organised by students for students) has recently launched a newsletter and has been profiling a number of students - here's a profile of one of the current MSc students, Ezgi Yurtseven who started the programme in September 2012. Ezgi is an international student from Turkey.

Ezgi at the brick laying workshop during the March 2013 Study Week

OBCS NEWS: What are you currently studying and in what year?
Currently, I am a doing the MSc Project Management in the Built Environment. The programme lasts for 12 months and includes a dissertation during the summer.

OBCS NEWS: Tell us about you...
I have always been passionate about architectural design. I can see that it suits my skills and my interests as a prospective career. Hence, deciding to further my knowledge in a subject related to this was a logical step for me. I am a dedicated student not only in my studies but also in my extra-curricular activities. Studying a subject such as project management requires students to be able to touch on different subjects including design, management and law. For me, flexibility is a requirement that students should possess.

OBCS NEWS: Why did you choose Oxford Brookes as the place for your studies?
When I decided to study abroad, a British university was my top destination. After having researched different universities in the UK teaching my subject, I then opted for Oxford Brookes. I decided to choose Oxford Brookes based on the factors that were important to me. I balanced student feedback with the cost of the course and concluded that it was value for money. This also included the teaching excellence of the Department of REC and the opportunity to study in a vibrant environment such as Oxford.

OBCS NEWS: What do you think about Oxford Brookes now that you're here?
Upon arriving at Oxford Brookes, I was impressed by the detail which is put into assessments. Lectures and seminars cover the material really well and this is seen during the assessments where core skills are tested. In addition to this, the facilities provided for students, as well as the support outside the classroom are excellent and international students are well supported.  I found that, coming from Turkey, the support given by staff in the teaching and mentoring allowed me to always be up to date with the workload. Oxford Brookes is  developing a new library and teaching building on their main campus, which will be ready for the next teaching year (2013). Teaching facilities will be centralised according to the department which allows students in the same course to be in the same place. Hence, I believe that people can mix together and motivate each other to work more.

OBCS NEWS: What are your plans for the next 5 years?
After I finish the MSc programme, I would like to develop my career further in the UK, based on my relevant experiences. My long-term goal is to merge my architectural skills with my management skills within the context of construction management. I want to see myself as a responsive and successful construction professional in an advanced construction environment in the future. By the end of a five year career plan, I aim to have a senior role within a project management context.

OBCS NEWS: What do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time, my activities range from leisure to those for personal development. For example, as a recreational activity, I practice some sports and enjoy going out with my friends on the weekend. As part of my interests, I am a passionate photographer and practice this as a hobby. I also keep myself up to date and participate in seminars about project management and specifically, the different aspects that constitute it. Moreover, I also like to brush up on my sketching in order to be able to use this skill in the future as part of architectural projects.

OBCS NEWS: Would you recommend Oxford Brookes and PMBE to prospective students?
I would recommend Oxford Brookes to prospective students. I believe that the university has the correct combination of factors that can help students successfully launch their career in the future. Combined with good work experience, the PMBE experience can help students achieve a competitive advantage in the job market. This is particularly relevant if students wish to work abroad. The Oxford experience allows students to gain a more international outlook which opens their possibilities abroad.

Thanks to Ezgi and OBCS for letting me use this profile on the blog. If you want to find out what it's like taking the programme as a distance-learning student, take a look on the Department of REC website for a profile of Andy Smith.

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