“Having been in the shoes of distance students really helps you empathise with their situation and realise the value of face-to-face contact when the opportunity arises.”

Linguistics lecturer Dr Arvind Iyengar has a unique perspective on online study at UNE. Not only does he teach a cohort of online students studying the Master of Applied Linguistics (MAAL), it wasn’t that long ago that he was an online UNE student himself.

After reluctantly beginning his studies in engineering in his native India, Arvind realised that his first love was really linguistics – the science of language.

“UNE came to my rescue in that it enabled me to pursue my dream, when I was accepted into the MAAL as a distance student. It gave the opportunity to finally study – or indulge in – what I was truly interested in,” says Arvind.

“In this sense, UNE’s distance education was a lifeline.”

Following his Masters thesis by distance, Arvind arrived in Armidale for his PhD, before applying for and being offered the position of Lecturer in Linguistics.

Arvind uses his past student experiences to create a better learning environment for those he now teaches.

“When I was a distance student myself, I’d greatly appreciate whenever the unit coordinator would respond to my Moodle forum posts or emails in a timely manner, and with a little personal touch thrown in – something as simple as using friendly language or even a smiley (emojis weren’t a thing back then!)

“Now that I’m on the other side of the table as unit coordinator myself, I try and put this into practice with my students.”

It’s not only his experiences as a student, but his love for linguistics that fuels Arvind’s passion for sharing his knowledge.

“Apart from the fact that I’m just innately fascinated by human language and how it works, what’s special about linguistics is the way it straddles the sciences and humanities.

“Linguistics lets you be a physicist in that you can compare the waveforms and acoustic patterns of two sounds using sophisticated equipment and software.

“But linguistics also lets you be a philosopher, in that you can explore, deconstruct and theorise on the interaction between language, society and identity.”

Arvind was one of six awardees of the inaugural Faculty of HASSE CARES awards, for “Creating a fair, equitable and inclusive learning experience for all students” in 2018.