Last week we were delighted to host The Faculty of Business and Law (FBL)’s two-day joint Associate Lecturer (AL) and student conference. The event aimed at placing the spotlight on improving the understanding of what goes on behind the scenes when working with tutors and students, developing these key relationships and enhancing the student experience. With over a hundred registrations we enjoyed a warm welcome from Carol Sherriff, Associate Dean, FBL, who got us thinking about what it means to belong, this is an idea which resonated keenly given the nature of work for our key audiences, and perhaps all the more so in light of the global pandemic in which we are working.
Carol noted: ‘I opened the AL and Student Conference raising the question of how, as a university whose main teaching and activities are online, we can cultivate a sense of belonging and being part of a community among students and ALs. A sense of belonging is an important part of learning. It is very difficult to be open to new ideas and knowledge if you feel like you don’t belong. Similarly, one of the huge advantages of the OU is that our students and ALs come from different walks of life. To fully benefit from that, we need to build a community that people are proud to belong to. How we do that is not easy. Events such as the AL and Student conference, Student Voice Week and Black History Month help us. But we still need to do more. I will be taking the ideas raised at the conference forward and would also be interested in hearing more views about how we foster a sense of belonging and community.’
We welcomed two external keynote speakers who spoke passionately about their areas of interest. Jim Dickenson of WonkHE considered the future of Higher Education (HE) post-pandemic and Sonja Piontek, a global keynote speaker explored the Phoenix Mindset required to succeed.
Following each day’s keynote speaker we ran a number of excellent parallel sessions aimed at developing students and ALs alike, for example, the importance of mental well-being, mooting and de-mystifying the work of the Student Support Team (SST). Attendees were engaged and clearly valued the opportunity to learn more about the work of the OU.
Day 1 was brought to a close with a great session from Devendra Kodwani, our Executive Dean and Siv Vangen, our Head of Business School. The focus here was on FBL’s medium-term 3-5 year strategy and highlighted what a forward-thinking faculty FBL is.
Day 2 was brought a close by Dev and Carol who eloquently answered a series of questions from students and tutors. It was great to see the absolute willingness of Dev and Carol to engage with our audience and give such thoughtful answers. Dev commented,
‘I always enjoy the chance to meet OU students and ALs in events such as the AL and Student Conference. They give me an opportunity to find out what’s on your mind. What we are doing well that you want us to do more of and what we could improve so that you have a better experience of teaching and learning. I am always impressed by the commitment to the mission of the OU and FBL and the ideas discussed about the future of business and law education. I look forward to future opportunities and hope in the coming year, we will be able to organise some face to face as well as online events.’
The sessions highlighted how engaged our student and tutor communities are and feedback showed how important it is to continue these events in the future,
‘Thank you for setting this up…it’s my first event as an OU student and it was a great, high-quality introduction that has helped me get excited for my studies and feeling part of the OU community and understand how the teaching and learning in the faculty is being evolved.’
We have already been reflecting on our event and are excited about how we may run future conferences!
Our thanks go to everyone involved in planning and making this event happen, and especially to our wonderful presenters – we really value the time and effort which went into making this a great conference. We hope to have videos from most sessions available via the FBL YouTube channels soon.
– Gareth Jones
Faculty Association Representative – FBL
On behalf of the Conference Organising Team