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Christopher Douce

AL development in Computing and Communications

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Tuesday, 30 Apr 2024, 15:13

I work with a number of colleagues from the School of Computing and Communications AL development group. The aim of this group is to setup and organise professional development events for tutors who teach on computing modules.

What follows is a set of session titles that I shared with the group during a meeting.

The list begins with a couple of essential ‘old favourites’. I have also taken the liberty of adding a couple of headings that emerged from some of our group discussions. Due acknowledgements are provided at the end of the list.

If you are a tutor within the school, and have opinions about what might help you, then please do get in touch; a part of my role is to politely agitate for effective and useful professional development sessions.

Session titles or topics

Correspondence tuition – Providing effective feedback and marking is an essential part of the tutor’s role. Sessions that enable the sharing of practice are always helpful. In the past I’ve facilitated sessions about how to deliver quality feedback whilst at the same time working quickly and efficiently.

Delivering online tutorials – Although the university has a dedicated team that is about using Adobe Connect, it can be useful to discuss online teaching and online tutorial pedagogy from a school perspective. Tutor in computing might use screen sharing to demonstrate software and show how programming problems are solved. Speaking with fellow tutors can also spark new ideas.

Programme and qualification updates – In some AL development sessions the director of teaching or head of school have provided updates about changes and enhancements to curriculum. There are plans to introduce new programmes, and the degree apprenticeship structure has recently changed. There may also be an opportunity to talk about what is meant by the ‘computing and a second subject’ qualification.

“What do you need?” focus group – Whilst staff tutors are well placed to gather up ideas about what types of professional development might be useful, it is best to hear from tutors directly by asking the question: “what do you need?” The could be run in the form of a focus group, to gather up new ideas that could feed into future professional development events.

Exploring CPD opportunities within the school and the university – CPD is, of course, an abbreviation for continuing professional development. This interactive session would be about sharing experiences of participating in different types of CPD activities. The university can offer a lot: fee waivers, an AL development fund, selected funded study of certain modules, and the Applaud scheme which relates to FHEA membership.

Maintaining work life balance – Every tutor has a different level of workload; tutors may tutor on a single module, or may teach on a complex portfolio of related modules. Sessions which have addressed individual wellbeing and welfare have often been well received. Such a session could be about how to manage workload, especially during periods of high intensity where there can be a lot of marking to do in a short amount of time.

Making the skills audit work for you – The skills audit, which is going to be combined with everyone’s CDSA, is a process that is new to everyone. It is a way to signal your potential willingness to increase your overall employment with the university. The school has defined what is called a ‘controlled vocabulary’ which should be used to summarise your skills and abilities.

Running individual support sessions – From time to time, one-to-one sessions with students can be really helpful to get students back on track. Requests for an ISSS (as they are known) can come from the student support team, your student, or yourself. I’ve never received any training about how to run one-to-one sessions. My sense is that running a really effective individual support session is a skill. A session to share practice may well be useful to some.

Supporting transitions – What I mean by a transition is the movement from one state or level of study to another. Students transition from non-study to study when they begin level 1 studies, or move from level 1 to level 2. Equally, there may well be a state of transition from study to graduation.

Dealing with challenging situations – I’ve included this session idea, since I once attended a really useful session which took place in the former Gateshead regional centre. The session provided tutors with some tips and techniques about how to support students, and gain a sense of perspective when facing some challenging situations.

Other session ideas:

Understanding what the SST does – Some really effective sessions in the past have been sessions that have been about the work of the student support team. Member of the SST can often provide a lot of really helpful advice about how to respond to certain situations.

Introducing the careers service – The careers service is a really helpful service that students can access to, but tutors don’t often know much about the work they do. There is an opportunity with a careers centric session to discuss how modules relates to practical employability skills, and how modules (and tutors) can help to support these.

What happens in module results panels? – After the final TMAs are returned and the deadline for the examinable components (an EMA or an exam) are hit, results are collated and fed into a standardisation process. There is then something called a module results panel, which then feeds into an exam board meeting, where there is an external examiner. What happens within all these meetings? Knowing a bit more about what happens may help us to reassure students.

Monitoring – Every tutor’s correspondence tuition is monitored. Monitoring takes place at different levels depending upon how long a tutor has been working for the university for. A session about monitoring could allow students to share experiences of monitoring, and of being monitored.

Dealing with plagiarism and generative AI – This session could be facilitated by an academic conduct officer who is familiar with the OU’s polices and processes. This session could be used to share practice and experiences which relate to cases of potential academic conduct and plagiarism.


Many thanks to everyone who is a part of the C&C AL development working group. There is an implicit link here to the STEM AL Induction working group, which I’m also a part of. This article can also be read in conjunction with a summary of a ‘top ten tips’ induction session that I have co-facilitated for the last few years.

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