1.7 What are the rewards of the role?

Few roles are more rewarding and fascinating than that of an OU tutor. If you become a tutor you will be able to make a fundamental difference to your students who are studying amidst many other commitments and challenges and who may have previously struggled with study. You will also meet a diverse range of students bringing their various knowledge and experiences and you will often learn from them. You will meet and work with other tutors and be part of a supportive community of learning.

Many of our students are studying in the context of a difficult environment. They could be working in the Services, they could have caring commitments, they could have health problems and be frequently in hospital. The OU provides many resources to support tutors when working with students. It is most rewarding to know you have helped your students succeed.

This is one student’s testimonial:

“I've always loved studying but being the main carer for my father-in-law meant that going to a conventional university was out of the question. When I heard about the OU, I decided to find out more as the idea of distance learning appealed to me.

"I took a break from study after giving birth to my youngest child and returned the year after as I wanted to complete what I'd started; the OU's support and positive attitude were additional motivators. My tutors throughout were helpful, supportive and encouraging.

"Achieving my OU degree has had huge benefits. My knowledge has increased significantly and the whole process of studying has given me more motivation to research and explore other subjects. My personality has also changed; I'm now a more confident communicator and am not afraid to sit exams!

"I often recommend the OU to others. It's the best place to study, especially if you have other commitments. It's flexible and you can choose whatever suits you and your commitments.”

The main reason we are called the Open University is that we are open to everyone and this includes students in prison. Although it is a small percentage of our student population, the OU has approximately 1800 students in over 150 prisons. Tutor Nigel Gibson says, “Working with students in secure environments, we work with the student, not their offence.”

The late Keith Jessop, an Offender Learner Coordinator, once said: ‘For prison students, the OU tutor is about the future. This is one of the few people a prison student meets who has nothing to do with the past’. The first recipient of the Keith Jessop Memorial Award wrote a short piece, which very powerfully captures the significance of OU study:

“Having left school at 16 with few qualifications I never thought I would study at university level. That is until I was introduced to The Open University. Studying with the OU has opened my eyes to the opportunities that are available to me. No longer do I think of myself as only able to do menial jobs.

"In fact, I am only limited by my own self-belief in what I am capable of. My self-confidence has risen since I have started studying. Each time I get the results back from a tutor-marked assignment with 85 or 90, plus the tutor’s comments on how well I have done, I feel proud of my achievements. Even though they may only be small steps in the journey of life, they are steps in the right direction.

"Studying with the OU has given me an insight into my future, one where I can make a success of myself. A future where my family and friends can be proud of me. But most of all one where I have the feeling of accomplishment and self-worth.”

(OU Inside News, September 2008, Issue 4)

Accessibility is at the forefront of the OU's mission to be 'open to all'. If a student has a long-term health condition, a specific learning difficulty (such as dyslexia), or a mental health difficulty, then, along with other disabilities, the OU considers they are entitled to reasonable adjustments to support their study. Tutors are ideally placed to help with those adjustments. One student wrote:

“I cannot read anything on a white background, so I don’t read books and cannot attend either face-to-face or online tutorials if the PowerPoints are on white backgrounds. I have yet to meet a tutor who hasn’t either sent me the materials beforehand, so my computer or laptop could make the necessary adjustments or changed the background colour themselves. Without those adjustments, I wouldn’t be able to attend tutorials and I really value them.”

(Snowball, Issue 89)

Here are some more quotes from tutors:

"I really like the teaching. OU students - as opposed to younger undergraduates - have worked very hard to get to where they are, so they really appreciate the fact that they are able to study. They are so keen. You could not ask for anything better."

"I love the feeling you get when a student realises 'I can do it' and there is a sudden explosion of confidence."

"I prefer teaching adults, because they bring so much to you. They come from everywhere, all walks of life, jobs, ages, and with different experiences. It is very enriching."

A special opportunity for tutors to see the difference that they can make to students is to attend a graduation ceremony. Ceremonies are held across the UK. Depending on which modules they tutor, they may not see their students, but they will be inspired and uplifted by the experience of attending a graduation ceremony and hearing students’ success stories. Tutors can be part of the formal procession and platform party to help our graduates celebrate their success.

Tutors have opportunities for Continuing Professional Development. The skills they develop can be applied to other professional roles they may have. We provide Staff Development events and offer fee waivers to study OU modules. We encourage tutors to gain Higher Education Academy accreditation through our own free scheme.

1.6 What do you need for the role?

1.8 Making the difference