2.4 Staff tutors and module teams

The Open University is a large organisation, operating centrally from Walton Hall in Milton Keynes, and with offices and support facilities spread throughout other locations across the UK as well as Northern Ireland. As you would expect, there are a lot of staff working for the university, all operating at these sites and with some working from home as well.

The tutor encounters, and at times is required to work with, a variety of staff across the UK, for example, other tutors, staff tutors/regional academics, central academics, and the Student Support Team (SST) who offer educational information, advice and guidance for OU students. 

Tutors are assigned a Line Manager when starting out in their new career. The line manager is normally an experienced staff tutor. New tutors are also assigned mentors that are experienced tutors who guide them in their new role.

Staff tutors

Staff tutors play a vital role for the tutor in that they are normally the first point of contact as the immediate line manager. Tutors normally contact staff tutors when needing advice about specific situations to do with students. Whilst working with the staff tutor, they get to know the tutor as well as their own developmental needs. Staff tutors are also the first point of contact for any personal difficulties that arise and if support was needed in a particular situation, and also if a tutor needed to take leave of absence.

Staff tutors work in a regional academic role, which means that quite often they are home-based. Some staff tutors however, do still work from offices in locations throughout the UK. As well as line managing their tutors, staff tutors have a variety of other duties, for example, timetabling tutorials and interviewing prospective tutors. Staff tutors also engage with module teams, where again they can have a variety of roles such as being a member of the module team, chairing modules, writing teaching materials and engaging in scholarly activity.

Module teams

Module teams are mainly responsible for the development and maintenance of courses and programmes at the OU. Each module team is led by a Module Chair who is responsible for overseeing the development, maintenance and day-to-day running of a module. Module teams also include central academics and a Curriculum Manager. However, as mentioned, module teams can also include staff tutors.

Tutors are expected to work with each of these aforementioned teams and individuals. Some examples include:

  • The staff tutor requires the tutor to fulfil timetabling duties and determine dates for online tutorials.
  • A tutor is an active member on a course forum, where they can provide information to module teams (and forum moderators) about the particular aspects of a module.
  • A tutor is required to work with Student Support Teams if a student is having difficulties.

Later, in section 2.11, more detail is provided on the support available to tutors at the OU.

The word cloud below highlights several terms that a tutor is likely to come across:

2.3 Teaching as facilitation

2.5 Skills and attributes of an Associate Lecturer