In 2001 the radio station started broadcasting online 24 hours a day and Phoenix became the first community radio in the UK to do so. After successfully applying for a radio licence Phoenix FM launched fully fledged as a local community radio channel in 2007.
Previously Paul worked as a qualified accountant and ran the radio station as a hobby which then turned into a self-employed job. In the process he learnt to code when he built the website for Phoenix which also piqued his interest in coding and computers.
Later inspired by his son’s progress at university studying computer science, Paul researched degrees and chose to study the University of London’s online programme. Paul spoke to us about his background and how he manages his studies alongside his work.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your education up to now, I understand you set up a radio station and that got you into coding after having to build your own website?
I left school with 4 A Levels way back in 1987 and took professional exams with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. I was an accountant for about 25 years, but I also had a number of interests of which the radio was one. All of these interests involved me learning HTML and then other coding languages to set up websites.
What do you do in your day-to-day?
I now run Phoenix FM full-time - it's a community radio station which I set up as a hobby back in 1996, but after it won a full-time licence from Ofcom in 2007 it became a much more serious concern. We now have about 100,000 regular listeners mostly based around Essex and East London.
Where did you hear about the BSc Computer Science programme and what caught your attention about it?
Doing a degree has been in the back of my mind for a few years. I decided to go straight for the professional exams route when I was younger and I'm a bit jealous of my son, who is currently in the final year of his own Masters in Computer Science! I found out about the BSc programme offered through the Coursera platform after making some enquiries online about degrees at universities close to me. What I like about it is the ability to work from home through the use of video tutorials, which suits the way I want to study.
What stage are you now in the programme and which specialism are you taking?
I'm currently in the second six-month term. I went at full-time pace in the first six months, although I found it hard to keep up with work and everything else and I've slowed down a bit now, with an aim to complete the course within 4 years of starting it.
I decided to go for the Web and Mobile Development specialism as it's something that interests me and I can see a shortage of writers in this field so I thought these would be good skills to learn.
What do you particularly enjoy about the programme?
The videos are a strong point for me, as are the quizzes throughout each module.
Earlier this year you did your first lot of exams. How did you approach your exams and do you have any tips for revision?
As these were the first exams I'd taken in 25 years I wanted to have a serious approach to them! The sample exam papers were invaluable, as was Slack - reading how other students struggle in the same areas as me and then how they overcame that was a great way for me to rethink my own approach to learning.
Did you have a particular plan for your study year or use any strategies?
The main strategy was to watch everything, not skip things I think I know, and complete everything as it comes up. It's easy to start struggling if you don't apply a method to studying. I try to keep up week by week, and devote one day per week to a particular module.
How do you find the online learning platform experience and do you interact with other students?
It was a little buggy at first but it's improved a lot quickly and I find it very easy to follow now.
The University's Slack message boards seem to be the best place to interact with others and I've found this really helpful.
Are you using any of the skills from your programme yet or plan to going forward?
What are your future plans?
I'll be in my mid-50s by the time I complete the programme and I honestly don't know what opportunities are open to me. While I'm not looking for an immediate career change it would be good to know that I could have the opportunities to use my skills in a new environment if I decide to do that.