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Michael Nelson

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I joined The Open University in 2001, having spent most of my career as a Solicitor in private practice involved in commercial property and other commercial work, before moving into teaching.

I am Associate Lecturer on W301 “Law: ownership and trusteeship – rights and responsibilities” with my group based in Nottingham. It is one of those all embracing titles which actually covers property law, trusts and equity. My initial motivation to join the OU actually came from one of my former postgraduate students who, I discovered, was also an Associate Lecturer on the Law Programme. She said that if I ever had the opportunity to work with the OU I should take it. So I looked for the opportunity and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

My OU role sits alongside another University teaching role where I am involved in the delivery of law programmes to students who intend to work in the property sector. I combine this with my role as a company Legal Advisor to a group of companies in the commercial property sector. One of the major benefits both for my students and sometimes for me is that I can bring my practical experiences into my teaching and vice versa. Simply taking an abstract legal concept and setting it in a practical context often makes it much more easily understandable.

For me, the high point of OU teaching is the students. Placing students from a wide variety of backgrounds in one group and adding a sprinkling of their own experiences of life in general and of their interface with law in the commercial or voluntary sectors always creates lively debate and stimulates understanding. The downside is that sometimes we have to be very strict about tutorial timetables to get through the essentials, so the debate often continues electronically later.

But these experiences don’t always come from meeting face to face as a tutorial group. Guiding a student on a one to one basis by telephone or electronic communication can be just as exciting, especially when you sense that the student, who may have been having some difficulty, connects with and understands the issue.

As the OU offers students a distance learning model, I have a particular concern that those who cannot attend face to face tutorials for whatever reason do not suffer any major disadvantage. My first task after a tutorial is to make sure that a brief summary and all the materials are emailed to everyone.

For some students W301 is their last OU module before they graduate. But it is still very rewarding to hear from many of those students as they continue into their future careers.

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