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On-Line Learning Can Open Up New Opportunities

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With no background in aquaculture, but a strong desire to learn, Simon Mason embarked upon the University of St Andrews "Certificate in Sustainable Aquaculture" on-line leaning course. Here he tells TheFishSite editor, Charlotte Johnston, the benefits of on-line learning and how the course is helping him achieve his career goals.

Why online learning?

"Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production system in the world, which says to me that it is going to be extremely important in the future," said Mr Mason.

With a background in financial markets, Mr Mason said that aquaculture has been something he has wanted to get into for a while.

Deciding that he wanted to learn more about aquaculture, Mr Mason decided to complete an on-line learning course.

On-line learning meant that Mr Mason could continue working full time, whilst completing the part time course.

A significant advantage of e-learning is that it provides a way for students to learn on demand; when convenient and wherever internet access is available.

Having looked at other universities that offered online learning, Mr Mason chose the University of St Andrews.

Speaking about his choice, Mr Mason said: "Not only is St Andrews renowned in the industry, it is also easily recognisable as a strong university outside the world of aquaculture.

"I felt that this course offered the most flexibility - which to me was very important, as I was still working whilst undertaking the course.

"Speaking to Dr Hazon, the course director made the final decision an easy one. He is very easy to get along with, and seemed really encouraging."

Through on-line learning, students have regular tutorial interaction and constant opportunities to speak with fellow students across the globe.

As well as being able to work whilst studying at a high level, there are substantial cost benefits to on-line learning, as students can save money on accommodation and living costs associated with traditional full time degrees.

Certificate in Sustainable Aquaculture

Mr Mason began the course in October 2009. He found the course "really easy" to get on with.

"I liked been able to read the notes first, then going through the flash presentations. The content was delivered very well, and was easy to understand.

Mr Mason had regular contact with his tutor, Dr Hazon. Typically the Certificate is completed in around 10 months.

"With no background in aquaculture, the Certificate was the perfect bridge to allow me to undertake a masters," Mr Mason said.

St Andrews Postgraduate Diploma/MSc in Sustainable Aquaculture

After completing the Certificate, had St Andrews offered further education, Mr Mason says he wouldn't have considered going anywhere else. Mr Mason is now completing a Masters at the University of Stirling, as at the time St Andrews didn't offer anything more than the Certificate in Sustainable Aquaculture.

However, in October 2011, the University of St Andrews will be launching a Postgraduate Diploma/MSc in Sustainable Aquaculture.

"Whilst the online learning provides excellent knowledge and theory, it is important to have a practical understanding of the industry," said Mr Mason.

A unique feature of the St Andrews diploma/MSc. course is the chance to take up an optional residential study period during the summer.

The Postgraduate course is aimed at those who wish to gain an advanced level professional qualification in order to promote their career prospects. The course includes aquaculture in all regions of the world and is particularly suited for those looking to focus on the rapidly growing Asian and South American markets.

The Postgraduate Diploma/MSc, is again a part time course, and typically takes two years to complete. Successful completion of the Research Dissertation normally over a six to nine month period will qualify students for the award of MSc.

Dr Hazon stated: "This is a brand new course delivering an advanced level of knowledge at the cutting edge of aquaculture, with a focus on improving sustainability angles.

The course offers students the ability to study at a high level while still doing their job. The cost benefits are significant too, as there are not the travel or accommodation costs associated with traditional full time degrees," Dr Hazon went on to say.


Mr Mason will finish his masters course this coming September and has started looking for jobs in the aquaculture industry.

With a masters nearly under his belt, Mr Mason hopes to find work that allows him to use his old business skills, as well as his new found knowledge in aquaculture.

Thanks to online learning, the options open to Mr Mason are endless.

The Postgraduate Diploma/MSc in Sustainable Aquaculture starts in October and applications are currently being assessed. Places are limited so students should apply as soon as possible.

For more information visit or contact the course director Dr Neil Hazon. For those visiting Aqua Nor 2011 you can drop also into the Fish Vet Group stand F-512 to discuss the course.

August 2011