Description of OU Staff Roles
People in the department are divided between central staff, working at the Open University campus in Milton Keynes, and regional staff working in one of the Open University teaching regions. There are thirteen UK regions, and a well-developed network of support centres across Europe and Worldwide. With upwards of 2000 students a year doing courses developed in the department an efficient support network is vital. The diversity of students and staff in a wide range of local situations is one of the primary strengths of the Open University and is integral to the department's research, particularly in the research theme of sustainable design.
Centrally based Academics
The role of central academic staff is perhaps unique within the UK university system. Academics have responsibilities of teaching and research in common with academic colleagues at other universities but with all undergraduate students taught via distance learning the nature of the teaching work is very different. The teaching responsibilities of academic staff are mainly involved in developing course material which typically takes several years. When a course has been developed it is handed over for presentation, and is then the responsibility of the course chair and the regional staff tutors.
With a great deal of teaching work spent writing course materials it is no surprise that the relationship between teaching and research is very strong, with research often being carried out within the context of new course development. However, academics spend most of their research time in traditional research activities such as applying for funding, carrying out empirical work, supervising phd students, and publishing research papers.
Staff Tutors are regionally based Faculty academics who provide the link between the Department of Design and Innovation at Milton Keynes and the students and associate lecturers within the Regions. They contribute to the depatment's research, and in the development and presentation of courses.
Supporting the students doing the department's courses are associate lecturers who are based in the Open University regions. Associate Lecturers hold local tutorials for individual courses, are available for individual discusssion with students (both online and by phone), mediate online course discussion forums, mark all student work, and teach at summer schools when included in courses.
Research staff are based both centrally at Milton Keynes and within the teaching regions of the Open University. Research assistants and visiting research fellows work together with academic staff on research projects within the broad themes of the department. Full-time PhD students are based centrally at Milton Keynes while we also have, again perhaps uniquely in the UK University system, a large number of regionally-based part-time PhD students.
Academic-related staff are centrally based and comprise of course managers and project officers. Course managers have the essential role of managing courses that are in development or in presentation to students. They ensure the smooth running of course development co-ordinating academics, administrators and publishers, and provide a valuable point of contact for students and staff during course presentation.
Project officers look after the various research laboratories that the department has and support the academic staff with graphic, audio-visual, and other equipment that needs to be built for both education and research purposes.
The Department has one Department Office Manager, two full-time secretaries and one part-time secretary, all centrally based.
Last Updated: 26 February, 2009