Kevon Swift, a business analyst at the External Relations Unit, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of Trinidad and Tobago, started the DiploFoundation / University of Malta Master in Contemporary Diplomacy with an Internet Governance specialisation in February 2013. In this interview he explains why he selected this programme and describes his experience so far.
How did you hear about the IG specialisation within the Master in Contemporary Diplomacy? Why did you decide to apply?
I previously participated in three of Diplo’s courses between 2011 and 2012, namely the Internet Governance and ICT Policy Foundation Course, Policy Research Methodology, and Diplomacy of Small States. For a very long time I had been interested in doing research on Internet Governance for Development from a small state perspective to facilitate the work that I currently do vis-à-vis international ICT relations. Diplo’s announcement of its first Master in Contemporary Diplomacy with a specialisation in Internet Governance was very timely as I had spent almost one year searching for programmes that would meet my needs. Given that I was very familiar and pleased with Diplo’s online platform I knew I could not pass on this opportunity.
What are your expectations from this programme?
My background is in international business and languages, with a mix of international relations. While I have accrued some diplomatic skills through participating in international meetings and other fora, my knowledge of Internet and IG processes had always been self-taught. The Master in Contemporary Diplomacy with a specialisation in Internet Governance provides the ideal frame for what I would consider to be my disparate pieces of knowledge about the Internet. The wide variety of courses to choose from for the online learning sessions meant that I could tailor the programme to advance my Internet studies while honing my diplomatic skills to match.
So far, have you learned practical skills which you can use in your professional or personal environment? Can you give an example?
At the beginning of the programme the cohort attended a 10-day workshop in Malta, where we were exposed to a variety of short classes on various aspects of contemporary diplomacy. I was particularly intrigued by a session on Language and Diplomacy as the lecturer managed to break down numerous concepts in diplomatic communication with a view to helping us easily identify them and use them more strategically. Being an avid reader, I have always had an aptitude for words but since that session I have become even sharper and perhaps more persuasive in articulating policy positions and building arguments.
How do you communicate and interact with other programme participants, and the lecturers in the online learning environment?
The online learning sessions are tremendously interactive, so much so that the one-hour chat sessions seem to be too short at times. A hypertext entry is the perfect way to share knowledge, debate or even poll participants and lecturers about a particular issue linked to the lecture texts. E-politeness is very present as everyone responds to entries within a decent timeframe. Lecturers also respond to emails in no time.
Is Diplo’s method of online learning convenient for you? How easy is it to combine learning with working and other responsibilities?
The flexibility offered by the programme was certainly one of the deciding factors for my pursuing it. The deadlines set to submit assignments and for the chat session are more than appropriate as it gives me sufficient time to organise my study schedule every week even if my work schedule fluctuates during an 8-week course. Furthermore, Diplo’s policy on late submissions is very clear and precise so it is comforting to know that I can still meet my study commitments within reasonable time if ever some unanticipated event were to prevent me from doing so by the set deadline.
So far, what has been the most valuable or useful aspect of this programme for you?
The most valuable aspect of the programme has been the sharing and networking opportunities, both at the workshop and during online sessions. Participants come from all around the world and with such a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences that the learning process becomes certainly enriched at the end of the day.
What are the challenges in attending this programme? What do you recommend to potential applicants to consider, before applying?
The biggest challenge for a potential applicant may be making the very decision to pursue online study because it requires a lot of discipline and self-motivation. Some people may think that face-to-face interaction is critical to learning and are therefore reluctant to develop self-paced study schedules and timely responses for questions, assignments, etc. Having used a couple other online learning platforms for short courses, I have found that Diplo’s system truly facilitates the learning process through frequent communication, interactions through hypertext entries and links to a wealth of online resources to complement lectures. Potential applicants should therefore ask themselves whether they are willing to structure the programme to fit their everyday lives in exchange for knowledge, time and cost savings and opportunities for further professional networking. Mine was an easy decision.