Sunday, 5 July 2020

What a year

Covid came along and changed the whole way of working. Thankfully my OU experience put me in a good place to move my face to face teaching online. Quickly adapting to the available tools and continuing my teaching online.

MS teams came to the rescue and practical applications of electronics in the lab was replace with visual simulation tools such as Falstad. Circuit Simulator Applet (

The use of my blog  Https://  enabled the rapid sharing of videos and lesson material and enabled successful completion of the subjects. It was inevitable that the final project would need to wait until we could return to the college which of course happened in May.

Of course all supported by the lesson material on the college moodle site. I guess all that hard work over the years finallypaid off.

I have seen colleagues retire, workload increase dramatically and stress levels reach something I had never witnessed before. Top this off with a dose of covid and the second bout that really knocked me off my feet and on reflection I am not quite sure how I have seen this year out.

But here we are, bring on 2021its likely to be the year of my retirement.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Time to bow out of the OU system I think.

Its been fun and I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching the OU way but with the ending of my current module and its replacement becoming a half module it's become the excuse I needed. 

No complaints on my part I met some fantastic students and formed good friendships within the OU community. All part of the plan as I move into retirement to reduce the workload and focus on the things that really matter.

I started as an OU student on M101 in 1990 and finished with a BSc MA ODE and 15 years as a tutor in 2018, thank you so much !!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

PLE Update Version II

I thought I take another look and contrast how my PLE has changed in recent years.

Probably the most significant change has been the shift away from learning in the last twelve months and more towards consolidating and updating my knowledge within Electronics and Controls. This was neglected as I pursued my Masters and then QTLS. However surprisingly I still use a lot of these tools.

Facebook is moving outwards as I don't trust this application and only use it to share with some immediate family and old friends. In place has appeared WhatsApp which is a better way of communicating  I feel. Evernote is starting to charge so has disappeared and I make greater use of google docs these day because I can control the security better.

Current research is around the family tree and has become a bit of a hobby and several additional apps are now in focus including MyHeritage but again these sites charge for their data.

My sites are still up and running although I don't tend to add a great deal at the moment but it surprising how often I get hits.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The threat of redundancy

As September started to approach my focus turned on the new cohort of students that would soon come my way with the OU. As usual I would be expecting around 20 students however there was a twist this year that has completely changed my outlook on the OU.

Let me summarise the events that unfolded in the run up to the start of the module, bearing in mind that I was already well into preparation mode and the OU don't start paying me until October.

1. An impersonal email was sent to me warning that student numbers are down and there was a possibility that I would not be required this year.
2. A second email stating that this was now quite likely so be prepared to take one of a number of options. Find another module quick, take a year out or take redundancy.
3. Having been saved by a last minute rush, well more like the manipulation by some supportive tutor managers, I then received a letter informing me I would take a 10% pay cut if I didn't get one more student.

How did I feel

What can I say, undervalued, pretty annoyed and it was time to weigh up my options.

The OU don't pay a lot, most tutors do it because they enjoy it and are either supplementing an income or are semi-retired. I have been a tutor for 15 years and don't like the idea of being cast to one side because the numbers are down, it certainly like a 0 hrs contract. I fall into the category of enjoying it because the tax man gets much of my pay.

However the result of this is that I am now now going to analyse the time I spend on OU duties and reduce it. My plans to retire early and take on more modules and therefore work as a freelance educator are going to be reviewed at the end of the year. I will by then have a definitive example of what it has cost me in time to perform the role of an OU Tutor this year and I use that to help me make an informed decision.

Throw some technology at it

By creating an online form using google forms and linking to a spreadsheet I now have an easy way of logging all OU activity. It takes seconds on my phone to log an activity and quickly tag it into various categories. Well I feel much better for doing it and if nothing else it will help me realise just how much the OU get for free.

Friday, 9 October 2015

A visit from OFSTED

On Thursday 24th I arrived at work to receive an email that OFSTED would be inspecting the school. We were given longer notice than usual because the inspection was of the whole group and therefore included other sites throughout the UK. What followed was a series of meetings with both the authority and the training provider in order to best prepare for the visit.

Priority was to rightly focus on the task of prepare ourselves and making sure we gave a true representation of how good we were. In reality it threw the management team into overdrive, we were already well prepared as far as I was concerned but meeting after meeting just helped to sow seeds of doubt.

I found myself answering the expected questions in my head and updating my system so I could find quickly any data the might be requested. There were no worries with teaching, all our paper work, lesson plans, SOWs etc were polished it was the data that concerned me. In my opinion the SAR needed more data.

 Reaction To The Event

 Panic! OFSTED

The number of meetings and the build up to this event threw me into disarray I put on hold all my efforts and concentrated on answering the what if scenarios. Whilst it was worthwhile for me to check my practice/records and all the other requirements I honestly felt well prepared already and a few well constructed emails would have helped me sufficiently rather than waste so much time in meetings. It seemed to have the effect of stopping me from doing anything else.

Event Analysis

Don't let others drag you along with their unprepared panic or lack of understanding of the process. I think I did well to keep the team focused on the important things and never passed on the reaction I was seeing form some members. On a more positive note the MD and SLT seemed a calming influence and were well prepared.

 Future Planning 

As I found data that I needed to find quickly I added it as a favorite so it was easy to retrieve next time. Update the QIP more regularly. Pay more attention to the SAR process (this unfortunately occurs in the middle of the busiest time of the year for me.

Overall Reflection 

The build up to the inspection helped the whole school focus on the quality of what we do, the welfare of our learners and our successes. It has also enabled us to identify areas for development which will soon form part of the quality improvement plan. I think next time we will be better prepared and I hope we get less notice as it did seem to shock the system unnecessarily.

What is clear from the activity though is how much improvement has been made over the last 6-7 years in terms of the whole package our learners get. From the welfare and care they get from the day they walk through the gate to the support, coaching and quality of teaching that is provided to help ensure they leave motivated and successful.

As I said to my team at the time don't worry, just carry on doing what you do well, we're OK.