Meet Open Study College Tutor Dr Ben Williams
October 4, 2019 / Libby Barrett
Just because distance learning doesn’t require students to attend classes doesn’t mean they don’t have help from tutors. All students who enrol with us will be allocated an Open Study College tutor, who is available for unlimited help and support by email for the duration of the course.
Dr Ben Williams is an Open Study College tutor; supporting, guiding and assessing students of History (GCSE, A Level) and Politics (A Level). We caught up with him to find out more about his background, his role, and how students can get the best out of distance learning.
Could you tell us a bit about your professional background?
I’ve been a qualified teacher for twenty years. I worked in further education for most of my career, and then I decided to undertake some further study myself. I did a Masters in Politics and Irish Studies, then went on to do a PhD. During that time, I carried on teaching part-time.
Now, I do online and classroom-based teaching, including lecturing at the University of Salford. I’m also an examiner for two exam boards and have been published in a number of journals and magazines. I’ve been a distance learning tutor for ten years, and I’ve been an Open Study College tutor for three years now.
What does your role as an Open Study College tutor involve?
I support students with all the academic aspects of their course. I’m always available to discuss things with my students via email, for example, they may want to discuss a complex piece of coursework.
We have a student learning platform, which allows students to upload their assignments for me to mark. The platform works really well as a means of communication, with notifications to keep students and tutors updated.
What difference does having a tutor make to a distance learner?
It’s crucial. It’s really helpful to have someone with a knowledge of both the subject matter and the course. You are the first port of call for any queries or questions. I think without a tutor it would be far more difficult and problematic to get through any course.
Can you tell us about a student or occasion that made you feel particularly proud?
Generally, it’s always fantastic when someone who started off struggling with assignments and getting poor grades manages to turn it around. I can think of many students who responded really well to feedback and managed to get top marks by the end of their studies.
International students sometimes find it challenging as they don’t know the UK education system and may not speak English as a native language. But we guide them through and it’s really impressive how they can overcome language issues to get good grades.
Having been involved in both traditional and distance learning, how would you compare the two?
They’re both interesting in different ways and, as a tutor, different skills are involved. Traditional teaching is focused on speaking and actions, but when it comes to distance learning, the crucial thing is often having very clear written communication.
From a student point of view, distance learning is flexible and fits around other commitments. Many of our students are in work already and want a qualification to improve their prospects. Thanks to the advent of internet, email and other technology, students can now learn on their own terms.
What should students do to ensure they get the very best out of distance learning?
Stay in regular contact with their tutor!
It’s also very important to have a plan and a schedule – decide exactly when you plan to sit your exams and work towards that. Have a plan of action and don’t just make it up as you go along, otherwise people lose motivation and fall by the wayside.
How would you describe the overall experience of being an Open Study College tutor?
Positive! They communicate well and keep you in the loop with what’s happening. It fits around my other work and teaching commitments, so it’s flexible for the tutors as well as the students!
Finally, what difference do you believe teachers can make in the world?
I believe they can make a big difference. People everywhere want to learn and better themselves, but you need those who have knowledge in the first place to be able to share it. Teaching is a skill – it’s all very well having the knowledge, but you have to be able to communicate it effectively. Teachers with the right skills can make a big difference.
Visit our website to find out more about any of our courses, our tutor support, or our finance options; or give our student advisers a call on 03300 563100.