The course this year was run by Sue Gough, a highly regarded novelist and journalist who also has an obvious passion for teaching. I thought she was excellent, with an intuitive approach to teaching that suited me really well. I came away from her classes with a fired up sense of what was imaginatively possible and new tools to achieve what I aimed at achieving. If I had to summarise her approach I would say that her focus is upon creating characters and dialogue which really lift off the page, and of course when writing fiction the mastering of these two skills is essential. Anyone considering one of her courses should go right ahead and sign up, in my opinion.
That said our small class ran spectacularly foul of the USQ Administration which left an unpleasant after-taste to the whole course. Trapped in the middle of the Queensland flood crisis, with all roads leading out of Toowoomba closed, we were expected to rely on a morning print out of flood/road information which was probably out of date before it even reached our class room. The digital revolution appeared to have passed our organisers by.
People whose houses were under water in Brisbane requested, with increasing firmness, that internet access be made available to us. It was the only means there was of accessing up to date road and bridge closure information across the whole flood area. But no - internet access was not possible. In fact even asking for it made us trouble-makers.
After a bit of a high noon moment when one of the administrative staff told some of us not to interrupt him while he spoke, and accused others of lying, we were told later in the day that we could have access to one of the secretarial staff's PC. This involved leaving our computer lab (online access not available) and going to another building where we could ask a staff member to stop her work while we checked the areas we needed to look at. As people were leaving for home at different times of the day and needed updates more than once for each individual destination, this seemed highly intrusive and frankly, not feasible.
It seemed shocking to be treated in such a way when we were fee paying customers of the university, and in fact were legitimately worried about the conditions of travel, our own houses, the situation of friends etc. It also smacked of disdain. University staff could easily get home; it seemed they were not interested in the problems of those who could not.
Above all else I found it surprising that internet access had not been automatically included in our student arrangements - it's not that hard to set up temporary access to particular sites, most big business, universities, government departments etc do this routinely on all sorts of levels. And I've never been at a university where I'm paying fees and have no online access.
Sue - you were fantastic - 10 out of 10.
USQ - maybe 3 - and PS that preliminary talk you gave us on drinking out of the right water bottles and dealing with a hostile person - give us a break. Maybe THINK about what your customers/students need and factor in our general age and wisdom.