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Date published: 10 September 2012

Suzanne Tobin began her Swinburne Master of Arts (Writing) through Open Universities (OUA) while crewing on Richard Brandson's yacht, of which her husband was captain.

Ms Tobin started her working life as a political staffer, based on a politics degree, mostly preparing media releases.

This, however, did not satisfy. "I got out of politics, it was a dirty game," she says.

A move into sports marketing eventually lead Ms Tobin into a public relations career, where she encountered her future husband, who is a professional super-yacht captain. "I decided to give up my career and jump on board with him - have a sea change for a couple of years," she says.

With the foresight that they would finally go ashore and raise a family, Ms Tobin planned how to pick up a career again, and looked for something she could study while travelling the oceans of the world.

"It made me feel more confident about giving up my career," she says. "I would like to get back into communications, more in the writing than marketing, and in a lot of job descriptions it says you must have strong writing skills, so I figured that this Masters would show that I do."

Not having worked on a super-yacht before, Ms Tobin had visions of mindless routine.

"I knew I wanted to do writing, I knew I would be on the boat and I would be doing lots of physical stuff and I thought it might be mind-numbing, and I could come up with the stories in my head as I'm working, and then write them up that night." In practice, Ms Tobin found she was running a small and complex business, and that it was challenging mental work.

"I researched what courses were around," Ms Tobin says, "and I loved Open Universities because there was no need to ever be at the site. With other courses, you often had to go to the uni to do exams or coursework, and there was no chance that I was going to get back to Australia at any point.

"Registering takes 10 minutes online, and Open Universities will send you almost everything online.

"They were extremely helpful, early morning, late at night, on weekends, there was always someone in the call centre, whatever time you are working, they are around if you need them. I didn't often have to call them, it was all so easy."

The course is comprehensive, covering everything from journalism to history, with optional units that include scriptwriting and writing for new media.

"I'm just finishing a screen writing module, and I love it," Ms Tobin says. "There's always a dream that someday I could afford to spend six months writing one."

The prerequisites for this course recognise prior learning and work or life experience, as alternatives to an undergraduate degree or equivalent.

Through this course students may develop specialist skills in business writing, composing corporate memos and emails, persuasive writing techniques, and techniques of communication in both professional and creative contexts. Writers with effective writing skills are highly sought-after in the corporate, government and creative industries.

"Open Universities Australia is the leading provider of access to online higher education," says Prue Dimond of OUA.

"Students choose from more than 100 postgraduate qualifications from leading Australian universities.

"You can graduate with a qualification across a range of disciplines including arts, business, education, health and science.

"The OUA difference is that you can keep your current job, maintain your personal and family commitments and study online at a time and place that suits you."

Date: 10 September 2012
Publication: The Age
Title: Making the most of being on the move
Writer: Andrew Goss