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Nigel Gibson
Post 1

18 May 2020, 11:53 Edited by the author on 18 May 2020, 19:58

Section 3, Activity 1

OpenThis thread is for section 3, activity 1

This activity invites you to compare your current work with the "Supported open learning" principles. These are:

Flexible – students work where and when they choose, to fit in with jobs, families and other commitments

All-inclusive – students get all the high-quality materials they need to study

Supportive – personal tutors provide academic expertise, guidance and feedback and run group tutorials; and specialist advisers are on hand to help with other aspects of OU study

Social – students get together at tutorials, day schools and informal study groups; and through online conferencing, study networks and module forums

Do you already follow any of the principles?

Are there any aspects which you do not currently adopt? This might be because of the nature of the learners you work with or other reasons.

These are examples of the type of posts we might expect to see:

"My current work includes offering academic advice and feedback - I feel comfortable with this"

"My college provides most of the study materials or directs students to particular resources. My students often have work and family commitments but we have fixed contact-times where they have to attend"

Use the "Reply" button below to contribute to this discussion

(Image CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Flickr user Joe Ennesser

Picture of Shane Ogilvie

Shane Ogilvie Post 2 in reply to 1

4 Jun 2020, 10:46

I am comfortable with giving advice according to my expertise, whether that is from a technical, academic standpoint or from a "study skills" angle, based on my experience as a distance learner and a tutor of distance learners. My University has an academic skills unit as well as full pastoral care services to which I can refer as necessary.

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Pauline Hewgill Post 15 in reply to 2

11 Jun 2020, 19:10

I agree it would help a lot to have been a distance learner yourself.

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Duncan Hall Post 3 in reply to 1

5 Jun 2020, 15:25

I do not work in an educational setting but feel pretty comfortable with these principles. 

Flexibility is important of course and in my experience can be given where practicable, but from the business context within my current and past roles, this has to be within fixed requirements of the client and the business. If this means swapping deliverables around between team members to allow that flexibility as required, that for me would represent good practice and represent a 'whole team' approach. 

Focusing on the team as well as the individual has always been important in my roles. In my experience, good team camaraderie and strong rapport builds individual confidence and drives good results, both as a team and as individuals - people in such a team will always look out for each other.  Making the team fun at times always helps, even though there are sometimes difficult things to do as well. A good team that gels well is always more than the sum of its parts ....

Whilst my observations are clearly business focused, I believe there are strong parallels to the world of study and learning. 

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Tamara Lopez Post 5 in reply to 3

8 Jun 2020, 21:10

Hi Duncan, I like the way you highlight the importance of focusing on both the team and the individual.  The interplay between the two is important in business - as you note-  but I agree that it is also important in learning.  From my own days in the university, I the classes I remember most vividly are those that had a strong group component - good discussion, and an open, supportive vibe.

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Jacqueline Jones Post 9 in reply to 3

9 Jun 2020, 15:06

Hi Duncan

I agree there are links between the world of study and learning  and business. All require a bit of commitment with elements of flexibility.

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Adrian Hehir Post 11 in reply to 9

11 Jun 2020, 15:04

I like the idea of team fun, a module related team quiz, with a number of questions created by each student, springs to mind. 

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Marcus Young Post 19 in reply to 11

12 Jun 2020, 20:58
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Lucy Gillett Post 4 in reply to 1

8 Jun 2020, 20:54

I don't work in an educational setting myself, in my previous career I would have trained using 3 of these principles, everything except the flexible principle although I have had to use all of these principles with my children especially since becoming a carer to my teen and homeschooling throughout Covid-19.

Flexible          - having to work around personal requirements due to physical and mental health difficulties

All-Inclusive   - ensuring materials are in the right format for the individual, using over-lays, visual representations, transcripts etc

Supportive     - to provide guidance to the individual that can aide both current and further learning.

Social            - encouraging communication with peers that is effective for the individuals learning experience 

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Tamara Lopez Post 7 in reply to 4

8 Jun 2020, 21:18

Hi Lucy, 

Yes, these principles really have come to the fore in the current moment, haven't they?  For parents who are homeschooling, but also, I imagine for professionals learning how to work in a new way.

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Lucy Gillett Post 13 in reply to 7

11 Jun 2020, 17:03
Hi Tamara :)

very much so, so much change and parts of it I am sure will be carried forward as a new way of living.
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Pauline Hewgill Post 16 in reply to 4

11 Jun 2020, 19:13

My experience is the same, it's the flexibility that is less appropriate when teaching children/young adults as they are still in compulsory education and need a more structured timetable.

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Tamara Lopez Post 6 in reply to 1

8 Jun 2020, 21:16

Like Duncan, I haven't ever worked as an educator, but I found in my professional life as a developer that the supportive and social dimensions and the interplay he notes were crucial to successful project completion.

As a library research volunteer at the OU, I have gained experience in collecting materials that students can use in their own time, and I have found the process to be challenging, but very rewarding.  It is wonderful to find the exact materials that students request, but also exciting to find and offer additional materials that represent counterpoints or other arguments that may help the student expand their understanding. 

I am a remote worker and a parent to two young children.  I have been the beneficiary of support for flexible working, and believe it is a good way to encourage and support workers and learners.

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Michael Liedl Post 29 in reply to 6

26 Jun 2020, 22:08

I really  appreciate your task in assisting students find additional materials, because however good the study materials they are given, each student has a different way to study or preparation and therefore in need of alterntive explanations to go forward.

I have found that at certain points some of the excellent OU textbooks were not forthcoming and I needed alternative explanations.

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Jacqueline Jones Post 8 in reply to 1

9 Jun 2020, 15:01

I work in education and I always try to ensure my students have the necessary materials they need and in the format they require - use of different colored paper, overlays, my own notes for the lesson.

Marking of assignments - giving constructive feedback and 1-1 discussions as required.

Encourage class and small group discussions as some students benefit from talking through questions with their peers.


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Adrian Hehir Post 12 in reply to 8

11 Jun 2020, 15:17
I like the idea that the high quality module material has been created (Supportive: in the Supported Open Learning Module) and Tutor's can add to it if they so wish. This helps the Tutor in their role and sets a bench level on the quality of work they should be providing     
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Marcus Young Post 20 in reply to 12

12 Jun 2020, 21:02

I agree, being able to bring your own material to a tutorial is important. There needs to be flexibility to respond to the needs of the students, which may mean approaching something in a completely different way. And it also allows the tutor to draw on their own experience. Students really like real-world examples and stories.

Ian Cochrane

Ian Cochrane Post 39 in reply to 12

18 Jul 2020, 11:51

Absolutely agree. Tutors must have the flexibility be able to develop their own teaching material to resolve any particular issue raised by a student. Even if it is for a single one-to-one session.

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Theresa Schrem Post 46 in reply to 8

9 Oct 2020, 08:59

I also work in Education (secondary school). I agree that feedback, both verbal and written has become an extremely important part of the learning process in schools (teacher and peer). 

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Robert Stocks Post 73 in reply to 46

13 Aug 2021, 20:26

I ve found over the years feedback has developed to be more flexible and the days are giving it in written format and that was it are over. More adaptable methods seem to work with discussions around feedback given and tutorials discussing developments points being best

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Adrian Hehir Post 10 in reply to 1

11 Jun 2020, 14:59

In a recent role outside of education, during this current Covid 19 lock down I regularly used MS Teams for scheduled meetings with my team of Network Engineers. Video and audio was used to raise work issues and reduce the feeling of isolation working at home. I also shared and went through slides and material on this platform and welcomed feedback from my team members. I also used this platform for scheduled and unplanned 1-1s. Asynchronous communication was via email, MS Team chat and Whatsapp groups. I am very comfortable with this technology and method of communication. 

While teaching mathematics at secondary school, I was used to using marking schemes to mark students mock exam papers and assessments.        

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Silvia Varagnolo Post 50 in reply to 10

19 Oct 2020, 21:12

Hi Adrian,

I think you rised an interesting point. Due to the COVID situations many platforms for distance communication and virtual meetings have been used for different purposes that include work, teaching and social activities. Surely these platforms allow for flexibility, inclusivity and a social dimension. 

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Pauline Hewgill Post 14 in reply to 1

11 Jun 2020, 19:09 Edited by the author on 11 Jun 2020, 19:17

I'm currently teaching sixth formers so some of the principles are the same but without as much flexibility. We are definitely supportive, especially now that we're teaching remotely. I chat to students online and by email but I don't phone them, another difference to the OU. 

However I have taught trainee teachers on PGCE Computing and the principles were very much the same as the OU. I agree that with adults a phone call is often better than email in order to sort out an issue. I dealt with some difficult situations such as teachers falling out with their school mentors, family members getting ill and people wanting to quit the course because it is a really difficult year.

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Kate Blackham Post 69 in reply to 14

7 Aug 2021, 21:01

Having done secondary teacher training last year during Covid I would agree - although because we could not expect the students to have access to their computers or even an internet connection during 'lesson time' we had to include some flexibility into our provision.

I also mentor adult learners in my other job and am used to providing as flexible, all-inclusive and supportive environment as possible. My mentees are mentored one-to-one so the opportunity to provide a social aspect is limited sadly.

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Ben Pike Post 17 in reply to 1

12 Jun 2020, 13:46

I work in the engineering sector, not in education, but I am fairly comfortable with the principles. Flexibility is very important in my day-to-day life as there is always a new challenge/problem. Obviously all-inclusiveness is important and I try to practice that. When training staff internally I have been supportive, and attended to individual needs, and I try to be a positive influence in social environments in which I'm in.

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Marcus Young Post 18 in reply to 1

12 Jun 2020, 20:55

I currently work as a tutor for a distance learning course run by another University. This is a postgraduate course. I also did the course myself as a distance learner several years ago, so have insights from both sides. The materials are all web-based, using the BlackBoard platform. We also have discussion forums. What we tend to do is ask the students to introduce themselves to each other at the beginning on the module. We then have a number of different forums set up. This varies by module, but we usually have one dedicated to problems with practical material, and often a weekly forum where a particular topic is introduced (often linking to a news story or a video) and the students are then asked to discuss it. A small part of the module mark depends on the student contributing each week. This does help to get everyone to take part. However, it is difficult to get a real discussion to take place. It does to an extent, but tends to be many individual contributions.

I work flexibly and will respond to e-mails and forum queries most times of the day and evening when I can. Most students are working, so they tend to be studying in the evening and weekend. The students can be based anywhere in the world, so organizing synchronous activities is difficult, and we don't tend to use them. Students do sometimes need hands-on help with IT problems and I will remotely connect to their computer to help out.

In one module the main assessment is team based. We split the students into teams of 4 or 5, and they imagine that they are working for a consultancy and have to tender for a project to solve a particular problem. They have to agree on the topic from some suggested ones (or come up with their own), choose a project leader (which can be rotated) and allocate tasks. At the end they have to produce a screencast of themselves delivering a presentation (pitch) to the client, with each student doing their part. During this project the students will often use a live chat room, but it's not moderated by the tutor.

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Michael Liedl Post 30 in reply to 18

26 Jun 2020, 22:25

I cannot but sympathise with Marcus in the issue one finds with online tutoring/forums. Some rules of engagement are necessary. In my Machine Learning Study Group last year, my initial communication was the rules of participation and the minimum participation was a weekly study progress report identifying issues and successes to enable each member to be aware how to help or be helped by each other. Your "coercion" was to have module marks depending on contribution. It surely is a challenging task.

Ian Cochrane

Ian Cochrane Post 38 in reply to 18

18 Jul 2020, 11:48

That's a great insight into current delivery practice and issues that exist in that learning environment.

When I was timetabled to manage teams of students working on their degree projects, I found the best results were produced by multidisciplinery teams comprising software developers, multimedia web developers and network/server administrators. They used a WhatsApp group to communicate (at all hours) whenever a problem arose or to seek clarification on an issue and to encourage others to stick to the project schedule milestones. This diverse skill set required much more group discussion to ensure that each discipline understood their role and where their contribution fitted within the project. And it was apparent during the tutorials that the student experience was enriched by this knowledge transfer crossover.

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Quentin McPhee Post 21 in reply to 1

16 Jun 2020, 10:49

I'm currently delivering commercial training course, typically 3 days in duration, so some of the principles are the same but without as much flexibility. Until corona-virus all courses were classroom based and very social. Since the lock-down the social element has reduced. I am definitely supportive in terms of expertise, guidance and feedback, however there is limited on-going support for application of the learning outcomes in a work environment.

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Jenny Bakkali Post 22 in reply to 21

16 Jun 2020, 12:36

Hi Quentin,

Welcome to the course and the forum, and good to see you've posted re your experience of supported open learning.

It would be nice if you could also post on Section 1, Introduction to the forum



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Quentin McPhee Post 23 in reply to 22

16 Jun 2020, 14:55

Sure thing Jenny - I've popped a quick intro into Section 1.

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Colin Jenkins Post 24 in reply to 1

22 Jun 2020, 16:56

I don't work in an education environment but I have had opportunity to provide ad-hoc training to both colleagues and customers. Particularly in the case of customers this can be very technical material that it outside of their normal field, so I have to be flexible in my approach, adapting the training to suit the audience, and supporting them to understand the material being delivered.

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Rod Gliven Post 37 in reply to 24

12 Jul 2020, 22:44

People having different learning styles and approaches: some prefer the flexibility of primary research, others prefer following key text as provided, each will discover what suits them best, but presented with alternatives they may have yet to discover for themselves.

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Gaby Lama Post 25 in reply to 1

23 Jun 2020, 02:58

During my undergraduate studies with the OU, I have enjoyed the flexibility offered in the program as it helped to plan despite other variable factors influence from my job

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Kate Sim Post 26 in reply to 25

23 Jun 2020, 06:47

Hi Gaby, good to see another OU student in here.  Can I ask you to introduce yourself in forum over here:


Kate - one of the mods

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Rod Gliven Post 36 in reply to 25

12 Jul 2020, 22:39

Flexibility is certainly a requirement, as one never know when  someone will be in 'their' study mode... or posting at 0300hrs ... :-)

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Anna Pietrzak Post 27 in reply to 1

24 Jun 2020, 12:17

My organisation offer distance learning and blended learning, my students often have work (even full time) and family commitments therfore all the "Supported open learning" principles are implemented. 

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Michael Liedl Post 28 in reply to 1

26 Jun 2020, 22:02
As an OU, graduate and undergraduate, student over the last 25 years, I have experienced all four principles of “Supported open learning”, These have changed radically, e.g. online conferencing or better textbooks. I am witness to the great effort and work OU has given to improve on all aspects – work still in progress.

Flexible - whether the communication is synchronous (local school tutoring) or asynchronous (Machine Learning Study Group from multiple continents) I will continuously monitor the level of participation so action could be taken if necessary.

All-inclusive – I include “variety” with “quality”. Study materials may be “high-quality” for one person but not for another. So I always look for a diverse set of books when studying or helping others study. I was quite pleased when this year M337 included a commented list of alternative textbooks/readings.

Supportive - Often the feedback I give on study skills is more important (resultwise) than the academic one for the students at the local school that I tutor.

Social – As a team-builder, I would ask the team to organise a social event and I would foot the bill. Participation was always 100%.
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Rachael Luck Post 31 in reply to 1

4 Jul 2020, 15:17

Activity 1 supported open learning

At present not a tutor or any modules. However a form of supported open learning is relevant to how I provide PhD supervision during covid- using MicrosoftTeams- equivalent to AdobeConnect. Using this is small group research student and supervisor interaction the chat function isn't used.

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Graham Smith Post 32 in reply to 1

7 Jul 2020, 23:14

Hello all, (sorry it's a bit wordy)

I have not worked in education, however the current C19 situation has accelerated the use of tools such as Teams to enable collaborative working. This covers the social aspect, however this technology fulfils a need, but more can be gained through face to face situations. 

Framing the other points above

Flexible - from my time studying at the OU I can remember working 50+ hours a week, starting a family and progressing through modules at odd times of the day and night. Studying on trains/planes etc. I also learned that for some subjects this worked - if it was a more academic module, then generally no problem. This did not work where there was a greater amount of practical activity in the module, so for the computing modules I had to become more structured/rigid in my study (started to learn about time management) so I had time in front of the pc to do the programming activities.

All inclusive - As part of my work my team create guides to fix equipment or undertake certain tasks. I am aware of people's different styles of learning, (VAK), so whereas before we would produce only a Quick Reference Guide (QRG), we have started to develop VRGs (although Video is not what it once was). 

Supportive - One of the great things about my current role is that I can support other team members. If someone in the team has a great idea, something that will benefit the business, then I tend to get things moving, bring other people on board, develop the collaboration. The beauty of this is that people tend to be happy to lend their expertise which can have some great results (in one example I was struggling to get visio to automate something - I was resigned to a reasonable degree of autonomy, then a young engineer called me onto a forum to see what I thought of something he had done to my work. He had not only automated past the point of where I had wanted it to get to - but had taken it on to another level as well - needless to say I was delighted). 

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Toni Walton Post 33 in reply to 1

9 Jul 2020, 11:23

I am a secondary school teacher for GCSE and A level students so already adopt these principles.

Flexible – being flexible to students needs, we have a lot of SEN students in our school.  Of course flexibility has also been extremely important more recently dealing with online teaching and facilitating students to adopt a healthy flexible approach to their studies whilst doing so at home. 

All-inclusive – I often take into account individual needs such as specific colour contrasts as well as ensuring audio, visual and text based resources are utilised.

Supportive – as a teacher I provide both the resources, teaching, facilitation and sometimes emotional support needed to encourage my students to learn and overcome challenges on a daily basis.

Social – as a previous student of the OU I am very aware of the importance of peer support.  I am still friends with people I studied with nearly 20 years ago!  Facilitating and encouraging social academic groups is something I also encourage in my everyday teaching. through group working and peer support.

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Manoj Nanda Post 34 in reply to 1

10 Jul 2020, 17:28

S3 Activity 1

My current work is presently underpinned by supported open learning principles:

My current college provides online learning courses which are already flexible in terms of timing and their other commitments. 

Inclusivity is a key aspect and resources should be available to all, we create most of our own resources centrally and make these available from a central platform that all can access.

These resources are made alive through academically directed webinars which are also opportunities for socialisation amongst students where they can also take part in simulations, group work and study groups.

I have experience with providing pastoral support and tutorials through online methods and making referrals to our  careers advisers or learning support team where necessary.

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Rod Gliven Post 35 in reply to 1

12 Jul 2020, 22:36

I believe the key element is approachability...

If a student gains sufficient trust & confidence in their Tutor, they will be more likely to engage and share their opinions, promoting discussion on the topic, and, forging a relationship.

Having previously been supporting Tertiary Education for a number of years have seen both good practice and poor practice, which has been a result of an ever decreasing circle of the lack on engagement.

In a professional capacity, when having Team meeting, I/we conduct informal 'check-in' prior to the start of the meeting, to act as a current gauge of where & what each individual's ability to concentrate on the meeting might be, or whether they have other more pressing concerns.

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Silvia Varagnolo Post 49 in reply to 35

19 Oct 2020, 21:06

Hi Rod,

I agree with you: approachability is a fundamental element for tutors and the social and interactive aspect of the learning experience is important to engage students to obtain a positive outcome.

Ian Cochrane

Ian Cochrane Post 40 in reply to 1

18 Jul 2020, 12:17

When lecturing in FE, I always maintained an "open Door" approach - if I wasn't in class, students were welcome to visit the staffroom, or drop me an email at any time.

On many occasions I circulated tutorials or teaching materials in advance to students who requested them, or high contrast/coloured paper/colour overlay as the student preferred. Less frequently the college supplied particular hardware - keyboard/mouse/pointer - for a student and amended the student log-in profile  to change the key-stroke timer to avoid duplicate characters being produced if the key was held for too long.

While I was always able to assist with technical/academic problems and to an extent pastoral to swap students between classes to allow them to travel with a friend and improve their timekeeping or attendance. Frequently I was presented with an issue that was out of my sphere such as debt worries and for these I signposted the student to our Student Services team.

I was lucky that in the main my classes covered a wide age range. The more mature students seemed to have a calming influence on the classes and were less reserved in question answer sessions. I found where the class comprised entirely of youths they were too...boysterish and required a different style of class management. Usually it only took a couple of days after the icebreaker session for the groups to have stormed and normed into a cohesive and supportive unit where peer assistance was freely offeed and accepted.

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John Jamieson Post 41 in reply to 40

22 Jul 2020, 14:53

No issues here, Its all about identifying the students needs and taking the appropriate steps to assist the student in meeting their objectives, which should align with the course objectives.

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Robert Stocks Post 74 in reply to 40

13 Aug 2021, 20:27

I agree and have used a lot of these strategies discussed and offering open door policies for students who want to pursue additional feedback being useful 

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Martin Hillson Post 42 in reply to 1

6 Aug 2020, 15:44 Edited by the author on 6 Aug 2020, 15:44

I'm not surrently in a teaching environment as such, although I do mentor junior engineers quite often. One technique that is quite prevelant in the modern software game is pair programming where two engineers sit side by side sharing one computer in the development process. Although I personally only find it of limited value for my own work, mainly when working through a tricky design with a peer, it is a really good tool when mentoring less experienced people as they get to work hands on but also observe someone else's working practices.

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Raj Seepersad Post 43 in reply to 1

7 Aug 2020, 22:10

Supporting Open Learning

Part 3 Activity 1: Principles applied to current practice

I do inculcate students to ask questions using any technology that they may have. There is always an earnest attempt on my part to be open with students to guide them along their learning journey. There are many strategies that one could pursue to make learning easier for students. An important first meet with students is to successfully break the ice. 

Coffee on Tyne

Bill Tarpy Post 44 in reply to 1

26 Aug 2020, 16:57

Not working in education I at first struggled to think where at work I've actually done what could be described as Supported Open Learning. Of course I've done all of it over the years but probably not as a single initiative. I have recently, however, found myself doing it all without realising what I was doing. ( I often don't know what I'm doing anyway!). 

Last December a friend asked me if I'd like to become Secretary of the Newcastle Bach Choir, so I did. It's a amateur choir but has close associations with Newcastle University and we employ a semi-professional orchestra and professional soloists.  Of our 120 members, we have many student and a lot current and retired staff members. The Choir rehearsed every Monday evening during the academic terms, in the University, and gave 4 concerts a year.  I was told the secretary job was to keep a database of the membership and send out the odd email. That was before anybody had heard of Covid-19 and the job almost became full-time!

From April we switched to what I now realise was a Supported Open Learning model. Instead of being a choir that was "taught" altogether in a room, we moved to being online. I set up a Google Drive of all the resources our members would need for each of the short pieces we focussed on and I sent out detailed instructions to all members on how to access and what to do. Using the resources members were asked to record themselves singing into their phones and then return the recorded file.

Flexible - Members could download the Musical scores and MP3 backing tracks at anytime. They could practice and record singing their part (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) and when done upload this back to the Google Drive in their own time. However we did give a timetable for when recording should be uploaded by.

All inclusive - Everything needed was provided, apart from the hardware. One member did not have mobile phone but was able to use a tablet.

Supportive - the weekly "rehearsals" continued but moved onto Zoom. During these, which proved very popular, the particular piece would be explained and coached by our music Professor, although of course timing issues meant live singing wasn't possible. Members were encouraged to submit questions about parts of the music they were finding difficult and these would be covered. I would also provide support directly to many individual members who had limited IT skills and who would ring/email with technical problems.

Social - although the rehearsal officially started at 6:30pm we started the Zoom session early and many members who, weeks before, had never heard of Zoom would gather from 6pm to chat. 

By the end of July we had produced 3 short performances which are now live on YouTube. Not everyone made a recording but we had almost 70 attendees to our Zoom sessions. As you may have guessed I'm quite proud of them

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Petra Wolf Post 45 in reply to 1

20 Sep 2020, 18:03

I do not work in the education sector but manage a large team of software engineering experts which requires me to apply all four principles. I manage a distributed team across several times zones so we need to be flexible and mindful of peoples availability. In the current situation with people working from different locations such as home caring responsibilities require even more flexibility. All-inclusive: while we work with a standard set of tools these need to be fit for purpose and we are legally obliged to make adjustments for people with different abilities as required. Supportive: I attempt to support and develop my team professionally but also personally. This requires challenge, feedback, support, constructive criticism but also a great deal of understanding and appreciation of people at the group and personal level. While I might not be able to help with all issues, I need to be able to sign-post. Social: especially at the moment we need to remember that humans are social 'animals' so we meet online for 'off-work' chats as well as work-related meetings. 

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Theresa Schrem Post 47 in reply to 1

9 Oct 2020, 09:11

I have taken part in distance learning myself to complete CPD courses offered by the OU for free during lock down (marvellous idea!). I found the structured OU "brand formula or layout" extremely helpful from course to course as I became quicker at orientating myself and working through them the more I did.

 I really like the idea that a team of academics has worked on the materials, resources, and modules as it would give me confidence as a tutor starting out. In schools lesson preparation gives a lot of scope for creativity but it is always a lot of work and one always wonders whether one if reinventing the wheel or whether one is using the best approach!

I feel more comfortable with the ethos of not putting students on the spot. This contrasts with my experience as a teacher where "hands down" question and answer sessions have become commonplace, albeit with preplanned, targeted questioning.

I enjoy distance learning myself, where I can work at my own pace and at times I choose.... whether at 6 am or 6 pm! This is a stark contrast to working in most schools where students follow a rigid timetable. I have also worked at an International School and this was rather more similar to the OU style regarding flexibility because assessments and submission dates were agreed in advance and students had a lot of flexibility to contact me outside of lesson time, and to schedule there own timetable for working on the assignment.

The practice of being able to pass on pastoral aspects of working with students to more specialised units within the OU struck me as similar to my practice of working in typical schools.

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Silvia Varagnolo Post 48 in reply to 1

19 Oct 2020, 19:53

In the teaching activities I have delivered so far I met the principles of being supportive and promoting the social aspect of learning. I tried also to provide high-quality materials for the students to study and meet the learning outcomes as in the all-inclusive principle.

The missing point in my teaching practice is flexibility, because the activities were organised face-to-face in precise time windows.

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Kussar Khan Post 51 in reply to 1

27 Oct 2020, 19:30

I have worked in the private sector as a trainer and computer science practitioner, but currently work at a state school.  I have used all the supported open learning principles and have seen the importance of applying them in practice.  I have myself been a distance learner and worked flexibly around work and family commitments and know how important it is to be aware of the wider issues that students face when they are studying.  I wouldn't be able to pick out one of the principles as being more important than the other as all of them are necessary to provide support not just to distance learners but all learners.

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Dhouha Kbaier Post 52 in reply to 51

25 Nov 2020, 12:58

From my face-to-face experience, I focus on inclusive teaching and learning and try to reach several goals:

  • Design intentional curriculum so the students "can see their world"
  • Build a community of learners --> “I belong” and “I own”
  • Offer flexible delivery --> “I am in charge of my learning”
  • Teach explicitly --> “I am supported”
  • Develop a feedback rich environment --> “I know what I have to DO” (Nicol and MacFarlane-Dick's seven principles of effective feedback)
  • Schön (1983): Practise reflectively --> “I am valued”

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Elena Sanchez-Heras Post 62 in reply to 51

5 Jul 2021, 18:16

Totally agree: not one principle is more important than the other. All four principles provide the support in equally measure.

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Tessa Flood Post 70 in reply to 51

12 Aug 2021, 12:43

I totally agree, a combination of these principles are necessary to provide support. Having only taught face to face before COVID, adjusting these to online settings has been eye opening, but refreshing. 

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Jenny Bakkali Post 71 in reply to 70

13 Aug 2021, 12:52

Hi Tessa

Welcome to the forum and hope you are finding the course useful.

It would be good if you could post on the Section 1 intro thread too. 


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Kevin Frost Post 53 in reply to 1

26 Dec 2020, 19:09 Edited by the author on 26 Dec 2020, 19:09

As a school treachers teaching years 1 to 13 I find some of the approaches familiar, even if implementations would be a little different, and some aspscts not so familiar.

Flexible – My students have a fixes timetable with me in class, aside from homework where and when they do the learning is not up to them.

All-inclusive – my studnts are given materials or directed to them at least so this aspect is not too different.

Supportive – Primarily I run timetabled classes, but there would normally be opportunities to give individual and group help for thoise that want /need it. My advice might also extend beyond advice about what I am teaching them. There are strict rules around safeguarding however that may impose imotation on this and require me to refer on to a designated authority in come circumstances.

Social – In this, it will be fairly similar, although school age students getting together outside of class are probably less likely to be sytudy focussed. My ability to have any involvement in this is severely limited due to safeguarding concerns.

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Amanda Williams Post 56 in reply to 53

11 Jun 2021, 12:37

I completely agree with you.  I think much of this we do as part of our job every day, and probably don't even think about it.

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Sian Armstrong-Hollins Post 54 in reply to 1

18 May 2021, 20:53

Throughout my experience of teaching I have enjoyed the different aspects of open learning described.

Students, even in a traditional HE setting, or in schools (both of which I have taught in) often require a flexible approach to learning; learners have different backgrounds and requirements with regard to their learning needs.

As such an all inclusive approach, with the support from tutors that can be tailored to their needs is ideal. The support from other tutors for the tutors themselves is essential. Moderation of feedback and marking will ensure a uniform fairness to a personalised approach. 

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Fiona Baxter Post 58 in reply to 54

22 Jun 2021, 11:54

I agree, it is paramount to support all learning needs and having a dedicated support service for this is essential, as a tutor may not have all the answers. 

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Amanda Williams Post 55 in reply to 1

11 Jun 2021, 12:35

I have always had a flexible approach as not everyone has the same home life/working conditions.  To make sure that students attain the best they can, it has to fit in with their lifestyle.  Supportive, not everyone works in the same way and it takes a bit of time for some students to 'click'.  It can come down to lack of confidence and not knowing what to do  and when.  Students don't always need academic support, it can be how to balance life and studying.  We are social animals and we need to have contact with each other to relax and enjoy ourselves.  This helps our wellbeing and we then build an infinity with each other.

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Fiona Baxter Post 57 in reply to 55

22 Jun 2021, 11:51

You are so right, it is an essential part of the process to learn from peers and be enriched by diverse experiences.

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Fiona Baxter Post 59 in reply to 1

22 Jun 2021, 12:11

I currently tutor and assess on a freelance basis, so flexibility for venues / dates / times around life's many commitments is core to my current work. I could be running a group tutorial, arranging a 1-1 meeting, corresponding with feedback / info / guidance via email or supporting on a forum with resources and assessment. I may be in a classroom, a workplace, or online via Zoom. Day schools and study groups are not something I currently work with, as my learner groups tend to be small and local anyway. As a freelancer, I don't tend to have direct connections with wider support services of organisations I work with, although I'd refer to any direct line manager when required.

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Michael Coggins-Lunt Post 60 in reply to 1

24 Jun 2021, 13:05

Flexible – students work where and when they choose, to fit in with jobs, families and other commitments.

I fully understand the flexible model and even though I have studied a full time course this year for ITE I still use the principles of flexible working to ensure I can manage my life around the work load.

All-inclusive – students get all the high-quality materials they need to study

My roles at my placement schools have shown me that some educators are require to design and create their on materials and Schemes of Work. An OU role would eliminate the pressure from this with its all inclusive model. Granting an AL an excellent base to begin for making any modifications to help learners with additional needs.

Supportive – personal tutors provide academic expertise, guidance and feedback and run group tutorials; and specialist advisers are on hand to help with other aspects of OU study

I am already comfortable giving supportive and professional feedback.

Social – students get together at tutorials, day schools and informal study groups; and through online conferencing, study networks and module forums

As a trainee teacher I have developed and practised the many social roles a tutor and teacher needs to take on and have become comfortable delivering material, assisting when questions arise and taking an interest in my students lives beyond the school. 
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Elena Sanchez-Heras Post 61 in reply to 1

5 Jul 2021, 18:13

The students that come to do their final year projects in our laboratory are provided with all the literature and laboratory material necessary for their project (all-inclusive). They are  supported, not only by their supervisor, but by all the colleagues in our lab and wider in the research institute (supportive).

Attending seminars and talks is part of any researcher's life and students and students are expected to attend them too, where they acquire skills like critical thinking, feedback giving (social).

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Charlotte Jukes Post 63 in reply to 1

6 Jul 2021, 13:01

I do already very much support these principles - I think some of them become even more important when distance learning. 

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Suzie Miller Post 64 in reply to 1

3 Aug 2021, 13:33

I don't have formal education to deliver training. However I have run different graduate / early career enablement trainings for both sales and technical graduates. As well as training for returners coming back to tech industry. As well as running workshops, training days or just adhoc meetings on different cloud concepts as part of my role. 

Flexible – For me this is setting expectations, as tech can be overwhelming the deeper you dive into an area. So making sure people understand the amount of work involved, but also maintaining some work / life balance i think it is important. Else if you are just trying to cram to pass an exam it won't go in as well as learning to fill gaps in knowledge. 

All-inclusive – I have multiple disabilities myself, so I'm very conscious about accessible training. Calling out assistive technology everyone can use in office etc eg to dictate notes, or use read aloud or immersive reader is really helpful for neurodiverse people. 

Supportive – If a group isn't asking questions I tend to over explain, especially acryonms etc, or ask myself the questions I think they should be asking. To try and give people confidence to then ask their own ones. So examples when I learnt this topic this section confused me but if i thought about it this way it made more sense...

Social – to start with getting everyone to intro themselves, what their current level of knowledge is / background I think it is useful. Also though trying to stop people competing too much against one another, although some people will do this. Trying to get people with more knowledge to explain their experiences too, so it isn't so daunting for people who are completely new to a subject and might have imposter syndrome more. 

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Kate Sim Post 65 in reply to 64

3 Aug 2021, 14:58

If you are appointed as a tutor, the OU can provide support to get a recognised HE teaching qualification and it sounds as though you have  some relevant experience.

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Callum Whittaker Post 66 in reply to 65

4 Aug 2021, 10:57


 "Supported open learning" principles examples:


All-inclusive – In previous experience, offering and supporting students to get to grips with the assistive technology available to provide additional support to their learning journey. Like the start of all new challenges, the start of this journey is often the most daunting. Tech such as to dictate notes, or use read aloud or immersive reader which are helpful for neurodiverse people as highlighted above. The initial challenge here is developing the students confidence with these technologies that can be used to offer support. Like using any new tech, tutors being available to offer support when using these for the first few times is invaluable.   

Supportive – Having regular opportunities for individual 121’s offers the opportunity to develop a strong professional working relationship with the students, which is at the heart of the processes of developing the trust of the students to ask and confidently receive individual support. Empath and a non-judgmental approach is also invaluable here.

Social – in addition to points raised above- using breakout rooms in adobe connect offers the tutor the opportunity to facilitate the formation of relationships between students.


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Sandra Clarke Post 67 in reply to 1

5 Aug 2021, 10:38

Principles of supported learning

I agree with all the principles outlined and recognise it in my current role the importance of them. The degree of flexibility offered by OU is probably more than I have experienced previously, but I think this is positive for students and AL's. The social aspect is interesting as trying to capture that online community can be a challenge rather than the traditional physical  face to face approach. 

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Ann Holmes Post 68 in reply to 67

6 Aug 2021, 10:21

After working for the OU for over 10 years, I'm very clear on the principles that OU learning is based on. I often have to emphasise that the module materials are all that a student needs for most of their learning on a module. Students can be quite encouraged to understand that their modules materials are all they need to refer to in most assignments, however not many students make use of the full range of module materials, as the textbooks tend to be the main point of focus.

The flexibility is key for students, particularly in understanding that there can also be flexibility in the amount of module content that they study. Some students benefit from being supported in prioritising the content they need to focus on, particularly when time is restricted.


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Felicite Ruddock Post 77 in reply to 68

11 Sep 2021, 11:29

I agree with this. There are times when students benefit from encouragement to stop study on a particular subject and move on. 

Flexibility is really important; and finding the balance between encouraging participation and making students feel uncomfortable can be difficult.

Encouraging students that they can do maths can also be a challenge; but well worth it!


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Jenny Bakkali Post 78 in reply to 77

12 Sep 2021, 14:39

Hi Felicite,

Welcome to the forum, and would be great if you could post on the intro thread too.

Hope you enjoy the course.


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Robert Stocks Post 72 in reply to 1

13 Aug 2021, 19:11

Within the current institution I work in we employ the above principles and have developed flexibility and inclusiveness in teaching and learning especially during lockdown where 'standard' delivery models had to be adapted to support adult learners and move away from rigid timetables and really put support in place to help students which I believe would be a good grounding and experience for working for OU

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Richard Collins Post 75 in reply to 1

14 Aug 2021, 12:19

Flexible – For me the flexibility of learning is very important. I've been studying with the OU since 2012 and I am Dyslexic. I firmly believe that I could not have achieved what I have at a traditional university. I've been able to take it slowly working on one module at a time. As for my professional career, I've worked in software engineering for over 25 years and I tended to gravitate towards small startups that practice agile development. These companies need flexible people and for me that is a perfect fit.

All-inclusive – I have always had access to everything I have needed. 

Supportive – The support has been excellent. The most powerful part of this for me is being able to email my tutor at any time and get a response back in a day or so.

Social – Personally I don't tend to involve myself in big social circles. I am happy to be on my own for days at a time. So being able to dip in and out without any demands is ideal for my personality type. :)

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Bob Moore Post 76 in reply to 1

2 Sep 2021, 13:35
I'm am hoping to become a tutor, but am not there yet, so clearly I don't do any of these things at the moment, but having been on the 'receiving end', I appreciate them all. Many years ago, I used to write/give training courses on the software products of the company I worked and like to think I practised as much of the principles as possible within the constrainsts of that kind of setting. Flexibility was the big thing missing from that kind of training.
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David Flowers Post 79 in reply to 1

17 Sep 2021, 17:04
Superb principles especially in-light of the covid impacting events.

I have experience of working in matrix teams and we have for some time used online media to conduct reviews using "tools" such as agile to gain collaborative interactions.

Being flexible is a key principle from my standpoint and is why I did my degree with the OU.

Support is also critical, I mentor and offer what we call our "peer 2 peer" diversity coaching internally, however it is backed by HR guidance.

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Jenny Bakkali Post 80 in reply to 79

19 Sep 2021, 20:25

Hi David

Welcome to the forum.

Please post on here if you have any questions and would be good if you could post on the intro thread too.


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Andrea Davanzo Post 81 in reply to 1

2 Oct 2021, 16:59

I do not work in educational, but at work I deal every day with people living in four different continents. Even in this scenario, be flexible, social supportive and all-inclusive it is essential for create a successful working group.

Discussion tags: section 3