Nic Sully is a student on ULaw’s MA Law Online and a mother of two. She spoke to us about the benefits and challenges of studying online with children at home and about her plans for the future.
By Cara Fielder. Published 16 August 2021. Last updated 24 November 2021.
Doing my MA Law online while being a parent hasn’t been easy, but it definitely has been worth it. Myself and my two children, who have been home from school for much of the Pandemic, have worked together at the dining-room table. At the beginning of the lockdowns last year, we made sure that our workspaces were really organised - we made penholders together from toilet-rolls and decorated them. We would all bring our workboxes down to the table in the morning and then pack our books back inside them before dinner. My youngest has actually become interested in law, particularly since we started working together in the same space and he has sat in the room with me while I’ve attended live seminars and events such as Employability sessions. Most of the content seemed very normal to him, although there were some aspects of the Criminal Law module that I wouldn’t let him listen to for obvious reasons.
The Online Campus has been great. It’s been so much more than I expected in that it’s connected me with other students in a few different ways – we’ve had off-shoots of the groups established on the platform in WhatsApp and on Facebook and activities have ranged from mooting and debating once a week online to having pre and post exam chats.
With the online assessments, I discovered how much prep you need to do in terms of creating the right environment and space. The first time I had an exam, my husband took our two boys out, but they came back just as it was wrapping-up and having that noise, coming through the door was so distracting at that point of the assessment. So after that we arranged it so that the children would go on outings, which were long enough not only for the exam to end but also to allow me to have time to collect my thoughts afterwards and chat with other students about our experience. We’re in a good routine with that now.
My husband is an Air-Traffic Controller and trains new ATCs coming through, so he travels for work. But we’ve worked out our timetables so that everyone is supported in what they’re doing, which is testament to how great he is. We moved away from my family, geographically, before I started my course and so we don’t have the usual amount of support that many people might expect re child-care, but we make it work. It just takes a lot of forward planning. We have a family planner with everyone’s appointments and deadlines where everyone can see it. The fact that I don’t have to travel for lectures and tutorials is a huge benefit and works out so much better economically as well.
I work part-time alongside my studies, so there is a degree of balance and flexibility there. I currently work as a ULaw Student Ambassador for events and this has meant that I’ve met the most amazingly diverse groups of people at different stages of their law journey. I also volunteer part-time for Citizens Advice, assessing a client’s needs from their query and referring them to make sure they get the correct expertise and help they need.
Previously, I worked in the Third Sector with adults with disabilities and developed programmes for those groups. There are, surprisingly, many aspects of commercial law that strongly relate to the work I was doing there – such as the health and safety, employment law, contracts etc. So, these are areas I will be considering while I take the Bar Practice Course. I’ve aligned my taking the BPC with my children starting secondary school.
I would recommend learning online at ULaw. It’s exceeded my expectations in every way and with determination and some organisation, you can make it work for you.
If you are a parent interested in learning your way online, visit our Online Campus page here: www.law.ac.uk/locations/online