UCL: talk and training

We have just held our second training session at UCL with tutors from UCL SSEES and SOAS. We spent an enjoyable day talking about the project, showing each other the resources that have been deposited so far and planning the next phase of the project.

SSEES tutors Riitta and Ol’ga were keen to showcase their work: they have been depositing resources in the LanguageBox related to Finnish and Slovak. Riitta has shared many of her conversation topics and Ol’ga has shared a range of resources for use in teaching Slovak – I was intrigued by a document she uses in class on the topic of ‘False Friends – Zradne slova‘. She focuses on words that you may know in other languages which sound similar in Slovak, but actually have a different meaning. I liked the fact that ‘divachi‘ in Slovak means ‘audience‘ but in Polish, it means ‘wild boar.’  I’m sure there may be some audiences thus described…

We also talked through some of the issues faced by hourly-paid tutors when engaging, not just with open resources, but also with projects like FAVOR. Jo Eastlake at SOAS reported a range of admin delays simply because SOAS has no current procedure in place for allowing its hourly-paid staff to participate in this kind of project, and this impacted on processing payments and partner agreements. Jo’s work on this project should lead directly to the creation of a process which will make it easier for hourly-paid tutors at SOAS to take part in projects.

Another issue which was flagged in relation to tutors taking part in projects was the fact that part-time tutors often need to take work at a moment’s notice, and this impacts on ongoing project work. This has been the case with some FAVOR tutors, who were required to work on a new course through the entire month of March – this has led to a short setback in their work on the project.

Hourly-paid tutors also tend to load themselves with work in advance, taking on anything they are offered, as they are never sure how many teaching hours they will have (across different institutions and organisations). This necessity means that once student numbers are confirmed, tutors may well discover that they have a large amount of teaching work – leaving no time for engagement in any external project which may offer CPD and the chance to raise their academic profiles. It is difficult for such tutors to plan ahead in terms of their broader career in an institution.

Some technical issues were also reported with LanguageBox, for example, coping with foreign scripts seems to be an ongoing problem…and I left UCL with a list of new tweaks that tutors want to see on the site. Time to lift the hood and do some tinkering on LB again…

Kate B