Arjunan, Solicitor, lives in Oxford and teaches Law module W300, Agreements, Rights and Responsibilities.
Arj has a Sri Lankan background with a strong legal tradition, and finds OU teaching a refreshing and sometimes thrilling change from work.
"At work I deal with contract disputes - anything from Joe Bloggs' argument with a retailer over a washing machine, to large commercial disputes. I also advise on employment and personal injury law. My students really enjoy hearing about these real-life examples and find that it places their studies into perspective."
"OU teaching is so different from what I do by day, it is almost addictive. The thrill you have when a student has grasped what you have said in a tutorial, and you see it come back to you in an assignment - you know you really have imparted more than just the text, but a real understanding which can be applied to everyday life."
"I taught the LPC (Legal Practice Course) for graduates who want to be solicitors. The teaching for that is very set; you are almost given a script on how to conduct tutorials. The OU is completely at the other end of the spectrum in terms of the autonomy of teaching and learning patterns. You have a lot of freedom on how to conduct the tutorial, and what aspects to focus on. That is probably the most fascinating part of it."
"Being an AL helps me in my daily work. It reminds me not to lose sight of the very basic principles of law, which can often happen in practice despite the fact that even the most complicated cases can be reduced to basic principles. "
"I am unusual because, generally speaking, ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the legal profession, and ethnic minority lawyers don't tend to think of diversifying into teaching."
Carly, teaches S396 Ecosystems.
Carly was new to teaching but with the support of a mentor she now finds it very rewarding. She also appreciates the extra income to supplement her short-term contract research post.
"I started out as a helper on the OU's Environmental Science residential school and then I became a tutor." "I hadn't done any teaching before. But that is the brilliant thing about teaching with the OU, you get training. You have a mentor - who is a tutor on your course - who will answer your questions and help you with anything in the course materials you might not understand."
"And the other thing about the OU is that the course materials already contain all the factual information, so your role is more guidance than conventional teaching. You are helping the students understand what is already there."
"I really like the teaching. OU students - as opposed to younger undergraduates - have worked very hard to get to where they are, so they really appreciate the fact that they are able to study. They are so keen. You could not ask for anything better."
"I had one student who was having problems with her job, and was losing a lot of confidence as a result. We saw her through her OU study, and that gave her the confidence to sort out her job. The last time I heard from her she was much happier. That was very satisfying." "My favourite part of being a tutor is going to summer residential schools, you meet so many people and it is a great atmosphere. We take the students on field trips, looking at different things - plants, soils, rivers, and so on. We cram a lot into a week."
Deborah "The course materials are excellent. Alongside theory, they present examples of good practice across the place country-region UK and overseas which students find very useful."
"I sometimes say to people 'have you ever thought of studying with the OU?' but just as often I ask 'have you ever thought of teaching for the OU?”
"I like the flexible work patterns the OU can offer students and tutors. I can use the evenings and weekends to work, as well as time during the week."
"Most of the students on the OU Foundation Degree are classroom assistants, nursery nurses or childminders who are updating their qualifications, so it helps them to get on in the workplace. It is very rewarding to see people who are doing a good job finally being recognised for what they do, through the OU."
“The OU’s MA modules provide students with a fresh perspective from which to look at their own professional practice and the world beyond. This can often be both challenging and inspiring.”
Giovanni has worked for the OU since 1991. He currently tutors in three faculties in three different regions (R04, R05 and R10): B201 (in the Business School); DD131(in the Faculty of Social Science) and K217 (in the Faculty of Health and Social Care).
"What attracted me to working for the OU was its equality and access ethos. I am very sensitive about issues of diversity at both personal and professional levels, I worked in race relations for 15 years and I have multiple sclerosis. A particular benefit of working in the OU is that having Multiple Sclerosis (I had to take early retirement on health grounds in 1994), I can work mainly from home for most of my duties."
"My skills have developed enourmously. In 1997/8 it would have been fair to describe me as "IT phobic" but because the trend (initially within the OU Business School) was to do a lot more work online, I got the impetus to get myself trained in IT. As many modules across the OU now use MOODLE and/or Elluminate as well as electronic marking, computer literacy is essential to deliver distance learning in the Twenty-first Century.”
The 'democarcy/inclusiveness' of on-line working as well as the ability to tutor on-line internationally is especially exciting and rewarding.
Hugh, lives in Fife, teaches A174 Start Writing Fiction, A215 Creative Writing, and AA100 The Arts Past and Present.
An experienced university teacher, Hugh's work as an AL has converted him to the benefits of teaching online. He believes it is the way of the future, and you don't need to be a technical wizard to do it.
"The short course (A174) I teach is entirely online. Students receive material, do workshops, use electronic conferences and submit assignments, all online. I have had students from all over the world."
"Some students find it a struggle, but most of the feedback I get is that they love studying online because it makes them less isolated, and in the online environment they feel safe and secure. You don't have to let people know what you look like, how old you are or where you come from. Also, the course website is constantly accessible and the online library is amazing."
"These courses are what the OU calls 'asynchronous' which means you do it in your own time; you don't all have to be online at the same time. You can go on early in the morning, at the end of the day after work: it is entirely up to you."
"The technology isn't difficult if you have any IT experience at all. For the courses I tutor I use a bog-standard computer - you do not need state-of-the-art equipment."
"My Arts Past and Present and Creative Writing courses, on the other hand, are both online and regionally-based. For AA100 I teach locally in Fife whereas for A215 I cover the north-west and far north of Scotland, including Orkney, Shetland, the Hebrides and the Western islands. The students are interesting - people living in these remote communities who are local often have amazing family histories; or they are people who have come to live there specifically to get inspiration."
"I am not doing any teaching in my own University day job, so teaching for the OU keeps my academic hand in, and it is cutting-edge teaching because it is online."
John, maths tutor, lives in Halifax, teaches courses MU123 Discovering Mathematics and MST121 Using Mathematics.
Forced by serious illness to retire from his job as a school teacher, John found that tutoring for the OU helped him rebuild his career. It also fits ideally into his working life as a wheelchair user operating primarily from his own home.
"My main job is as a private tutor of maths and computing, working from home, but the maximum I can squeeze in is just over 20 hours a week as in term-time school pupils are only available after school. So doing the OU bumps up my hours to a level where I keep fully employed."
"It also keeps me in contact with other professionals - as a private tutor I would otherwise be almost completely without that contact. And it is something I like doing."
"It is a marvellous job for someone who is disabled. The OU is very open access to ALs as well as students. At first, when I was trying to build up my private tuition from home, the OU work I had was my anchor, it gave me stability.
Also, the OU gets quite a lot of disabled students, and I think it must be good for them to see a disabled tutor."
"I love the feeling you get when a student realises 'I can do it' and there is a sudden explosion of confidence."
Laura, lives in Canterbury, teaches Spanish courses from beginners to undergraduate Level 3.
With a 6 year old daughter and a 4 year old son Laura finds being an AL fits around her role as a mother, and allows to her to do what she enjoys - teaching at university level.
"I wanted to work in university teaching so I started teaching a Level 3 Spanish course for the OU. My previous teaching experience was working as a Spanish assistant in a secondary school. This was completely different."
"I prefer teaching adults, because they bring so much to you. They come from everywhere, all walks of life, jobs, ages, and with different experiences. It is very enriching."
"The training I received was excellent - one of the things I really appreciate about the OU is how good their staff development is. If I go on to work for a conventional university it will be very helpful. You also gather a lot of knowledge about your own subject through the OU courses. I am learning all the time, and also act as a consultant author for the Spanish Department."
"I also teach two online Spanish courses. The only difference with online courses is that the tutorials are done from home on my computer in the evenings, and they are shorter - one and a quarter hours."
"Because the work is so flexible, it allows me the time to travel to Spain several times a year. It is important for me to keep in contact with my family."
Prospera, local authority principal social worker, lives in Milton Keynes, teaches K216 Applied social work practice.
Prospera took up teaching with the OU in 2005 to 'test the waters' for a career move that would also meet her childcare needs. As a mother, she also fits her OU tutoring around a full-time job and studying part-time for a Masters of Laws in Child Law.
"I had done some work-based training and lecturing in social work skills for another university, but I had never had any training as a teacher. The OU gave me an induction and there are staff tutors on call if I need help."
"I come from Ghana and bring a special dimension to my teaching. For example when discussing issues such as social isolation, my knowledge and understanding of a society, other than Britain often interests students."
"My students are interesting, a very mixed group, from qualified nurses to young people who have just finished school."
"I would recommend teaching for the OU to anyone who has an interest in sharing knowledge and learning from that - or re-learning."
"I would encourage them to try it out. It is never too late to get into any academic work, and the OU is the place to do it."
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