Canberra, 28 June 2022:
By Fiona Renwick, Student at RMIT University
In partial fulfillment of a Master of Information Management at RMIT University, I have had the wonderful opportunity of completing a virtual professional learning experience at Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA).
The pandemic has impacted the experiences of students in obtaining professional development due to the nature of working and studying remotely. Thankfully, an increase in virtual placements has enabled students to fulfill their course requirements while gaining essential skills that will assist them as they enter the workforce.
Despite the recent shift to in-person attendance, virtual placements remain a popular choice since they enable students to gain experience in organisations that perhaps would not have otherwise been practical. The opportunity to gain professional development despite living in a different state as the host organisation is a privilege afforded by partnerships between RMIT and organisations such as ALIA, who were willing to create authentic learning opportunities for students working remotely.
I was hesitant about completing a virtual placement, after two years of studying remotely I felt uncertain about what it would entail, how I would learn and if I could really gain any experience working in isolation. Initially, I felt as though a virtual placement might be a disadvantage, limiting my ability to become fully immersed in the workplace culture. However, nothing could be further from my experience at ALIA.
Over the course of two weeks, I have had the opportunity for daily participation in a series of seminars, lightning talks, meetings, as well as become part of the ALIA Education Team. Using collaborative software, I was able to be included in team meetings and discussions while having the opportunity to complete some projects independently.
Through this experience I have realised that completing a virtual placement has many advantages. The nature of working remotely is that it is highly conducive to work / life balance, without sacrificing on quality learning opportunities for professional development. I was able to consolidate knowledge I had gained though my studies and apply it in professional contexts while being afforded flexible working arrangements that fit within my personal circumstances; Enabling me to be fully present and involved in work culture at ALIA, without inhibiting upon family life.
The opportunity to collaborate with a national organisation contributed to gaining a broader, more in-depth perspective on the role of information managers in highly varied professional contexts. This enabled me to strengthen my networking skills while providing the opportunity to learn from skilled professionals spread throughout Australia. Such an opportunity might not have been possible were it not for the virtual placement I was offered.
A heartfelt thank-you goes out to Trish Hepworth, Jacqui Lucas, Phoebe Weston-Evans and all the Education Team at ALIA – for the warmth and support you have offered in welcoming me and providing the opportunity to learn from highly skilled professionals such as yourselves. Thank-you for having me and sharing with me all the important work that you do. I look forward to developing more community connections as I move forward in my professional life.