I have been tutoring on W100, An Introduction to Law, since 2004 and W200, Understanding Law since May 2010. I currently teach both courses in RO1, the London Region Centre.
My path to The Open University started at Durham University, where I studied law. I then qualified as a solicitor in 1991 with Osborne Clarke in Bristol. After this I spent some time studying, tutoring and working as a Research Assistant at Bristol University. In 1998 I came up to London to work as a Law Reporter with New Property Cases and moved to the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales in 1999, reporting in the Chancery Division. I am currently in the Queen’s Bench Division, covering the Administrative and Divisional Courts. I find that the flexibility of working for The Open University allows me to fit a teaching role around the court attendance required by my law reporting role.
I myself have studied part time as a distance learner with the Open Theological College and so have some insight into the challenges that lie ahead for those taking up distant learning courses.
Supporting distance learning students has proved a rewarding task. The students are both hard working and dedicated to their studies, often fitting their OU work around work and family commitments which takes a great deal of commitment and stamina.
The students can take advantage of telephone tutorials as often as they require, which in practice is usually in the week before the eTMA (electronically submitted assignment) is due. They are able to call me during weekday evenings, or during the day on Friday for a chat about any aspect of their studies. They are also able to email any questions they have. The monthly tutorials, although they are voluntary, are well attended and we generally have great fun finding alternative ways to understand what can sometimes be challenging material. We have played dominos to get to grips with EU institutional law and used a jigsaw to memorize the member states of the European Union. In addition to the fun and games I always put an extra hour on the end of my tutorials to cover study skills since many students come to The Open University not having studied for some years and the idea of writing essays and sitting exams can be quite daunting. The major element of the teaching is on the feedback that the tutor provides on the student’s essays. This consists of detailed comments on the essays themselves together with a summary assessment form setting out how the students have met the learning outcomes, it also provides suggestions for improvement.
There are many rewarding aspects to the role of an Associate Lecturer. One of the most important for me is seeing students develop as independent learners and academics, there can be a great transformation in a student’s work over the course of a nine month presentation. Receiving a well written cogently argued legal essay from a student who six months earlier may not have understood the principles of essay writing is a most rewarding experience. It is also exciting to see the students grow in confidence as they learn to manage legal material and to communicate effectively. A second aspect is working with the excellent course materials provided by The Open University, and in respect of W200, by the College of Law. Distance learning requires comprehensive and engaging course material that can be followed by the students as independent learners. This has been achieved on both W100 and W200.
In addition to my role as an Associate Lecturer on W100, I am a mentor to new tutors and I also monitor other tutor’s marking – which mainly involves seeing how other tutors do things better.
As an Associate Law Lecturer one is given excellent training at the regional centre and at Walton Hall in Milton Keynes. Regional training is carried out on an interdisciplinary basis, this means that there is an excellent cross fertilization of ideas between various courses. The course based tutor forums, where tutors can email in with any questions and have their questions answered by other tutors or the forum moderator, provide a great way for tutors to support each other, especially during marking time.
The Open University provides excellent opportunities for those who want both rewarding and intellectually stimulating work together with flexible home working hours.
The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA
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