I currently tutor W300, Law: Agreements, Rights and Responsibilities, which is a third level course covering the law of contract and tort. These are two of the seven foundation subjects which are compulsory for those wishing to complete a law degree with a view to qualification as a solicitor or barrister.
I have tutored with the OU for seven years and have enjoyed every minute. It can be a lonely existence working, or indeed learning, through distance learning courses. The OU offers tremendous support and opportunities for its staff and I have been able to develop in my role over the years, meet others in similar roles and exchange ideas, and even acquire a professional teaching qualification. I try to get involved with the faculty as much as possible, for example with ventures such as online exam revision forums and testing new editions of other courses. I have also been involved with some of the wider OU ‘behind the scenes’ work such as widening participation.
I live in Oxford and have covered areas from Southampton to Milton Keynes and just about everywhere in between. It is always an experience getting to know students from different regions and with diverse backgrounds.
I practice as a solicitor dealing with general contract work, with a particular emphasis on employment and construction disputes. These disputes, no matter how complex, are very much grounded in the basic subject areas of W300. My students really enjoy hearing about these real-life examples and find that it places their studies into perspective. I am also reminded not to lose sight of the basic principles of law, which can often happen in practice.
I have been in practice now for nearly ten years and the change in environments from busy practice to teaching is refreshing. I also keep a busy diary outside of practice with roles as a trustee and an adviser to the Citizens Advice Bureau, governor of a local primary school and various teaching and external examining roles related to the professional courses required for those qualifying as solicitors. I find that these very different roles complement each other and I am able to bring different skills and experiences to each.
I encourage the move to use more technology to deliver learning outcomes. I support students in the usual ways, such as by email, telephone and face to face tutorials. In addition, I like to use an online forum to prompt discussion amongst the group, disseminate important information about the course and forthcoming tutorials etc. I try to be as diverse as possible in tutorials, using scenarios to work through difficult concepts. I often take these from real life examples and even current cases that I am working on. I also use quizzes and recent newspaper articles on interesting cases and topics. These methods often drum home a point well when students can see that they are learning something that directly affects their day to day lives.
Each year brings with it highs and lows, but it is always a worthwhile challenge identifying student needs and helping them to progress through the course. It can be a daunting task but a definite high of the course is receiving feedback from students after results day who have overcome significant academic or personal obstacles to pass the course.
The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA
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