Training and qualifying distance learning tutors

Baume, David; Beck, Roger; Cox, Graham and Hills, Laura (2004). Training and qualifying distance learning tutors. Discursos. Série: Perspectivas em Educaçāo, 2 pp. 75–94.

Abstract

The UK Open University (www.open.ac.uk) is a large distance teaching university with some 200,000 students. The courses offered by the University are planned and written for the most part by the one thousand or so full-time academic staff of the University,working in course teams. Students are supported by face-to-face and on-line tutorial sessions and by feedback on their work. This tutoring and feedback are undertaken by part-time tutors, called Associate Lecturers (ALs), of whom there are currently some 7500.

The Open University (OU) has, throughout some 35 years of operation, placed great emphasis on the importance of these ALs. The University has always provided staff development and training to help them in their work. However, until recently, the University has not in any systematic or large-scale way enabled these tutors to gain a qualification in teaching in higher education.

Over the last fifteen years there has been a growing movement in the UK for those who teach in higher education to gain a suitable teaching qualification. In 2006 it will become a requirement for those new to teaching in higher education to gain an appropriate higher education teaching qualification. This teaching qualification will sit alongside their doctorate or other qualification in the discipline that they teach. (Some parts of this trend are also seen in countries other than UK, although this paper will not provide an international review of this topic.)

In these institutional and national contexts, this paper describes and analyses the development, operation and evaluation of the OU’s Associate Lecturer Development and Accreditation Pathway (ALDAP) initiative. ALDAP was developed through wide consultation across the University. It is delivered through a mixture of on-line and face-to-face education and support similar to that used by ALs in their teaching. The paper uses research data on the effectiveness of the initiative to date. It also draws broader conclusions about appropriate forms of training and accreditation for those who teach in higher education, by distance learning and also face to face.

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