4.4 What are the roles that our tutors play?

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Given the broad curriculum, most of the computing and communication tutors are specialised in part of the curriculum, but many teach across several modules and stages. In this section, we explore some of the main roles that tutors fall into within the curriculum and explore the skills and knowledge needed in these roles:

  • Stage 1 tutors typically need a broad subject base as each of the modules cover broad subject areas integrating elements of computing, maths and technology at an introductory stage. These tutors are typically skilled in pastoral support helping students to start their study and develop appropriate study skills. They are confident in bringing the subject alive to inspire students and help them understand how the subject is studied academically.
  • At stage 2, our tutors help to develop the core skills of computing and communications technologies, this includes developing programming, teamworking, analysis, design, networking and algorithms. These tutors are skilled in helping the students develop new skills and ways of thinking.
  • Students' specialist skills are developed in the third stage of study. Our tutors at this stage have in-depth knowledge of the area in which they teach. Students at this stage are encouraged to use a range of sources, so tutors support their study in the subject outside of the module material by drawing on their own experience and professional development.
  • Some tutors are experts in helping students develop programming skills. Learning how to program is an essential part of any computing degree, but also something many students struggle with. At stages 1 and 2 there is a focus on developing these skills starting with computational thinking, and then applying this in software design using Java, and data structures and algorithms using Python. The skill is further developed in web design to develop simple applications.
  • We work with Cisco to deliver courses in networking and cybersecurity across all stages. Some of our tutors are Cisco accredited and support students on these modules using a mix of Cisco and Open University materials online, as well as Cisco day schools where students make use of physical hardware.
  • Modules in computing and communications can be very technical in nature (such as teaching programming or networking) but can also focus on people and society. These themes look at ethics, how software is designed for human use, and the effective use of software within organisational change. Tutors who specialise in this are able to explain the big issues in computing and set them in context. They help our students grow in their understanding that humans define technology rather than vice versa.
  • Postgraduate tutors are typically experts in their field and able to provide students with support that builds on their academic and practical experience. Most students at this stage are able to study independently, so the tutors focus on building and developing knowledge and skills primarily through feedback on assignments.
  • Tutors who can act as a project tutor in undergraduate and postgraduate modules are always in high demand. These tutors would typically have the knowledge and skills to teach at least one of the other stage 3 undergraduate modules or postgraduate modules, respectively. The project would be based on the material in the other module and build upon it by seeking to apply other appropriate academic and professional sources relevant to the stage of study. The tutors help guide the students through the project, developing project management and research skills alongside applying technical knowledge in a real project.
  • Practice tutors work with our apprentices in England, Scotland and Wales. They regularly visit the apprentice in their place of employment to discuss progress with the apprentice and their line manager. They help to relate study to the student’s workplace to develop high quality applied skills and knowledge.

Our tutors are typically given a lot of freedom in how to manage their time best to support their students. This allows for the fact that students studying in the school often have different expectations and needs from their education.

Activity 2

Part 1 Identify the modules that fit your practice

Explore our modules available for undergraduate [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] and postgraduate study.

Identify which modules relate to your experience and interests, then select one or two that feel the most relevant based on the role profiles above.

Part 2 Mapping your experience

In the discussion forum, make a post to map out what you could offer our students.

Then comment on a couple of posts, highlighting what you see as being an important part of their contribution.

Do any of the highlighted skills or experience fit well with other modules you have looked at?

4.3 What could you teach?

4.5 Teaching in computing and communications