Season’s Greetings & A Year in Review
2021 seemed like a busy year, then came 2022!
The college announced the transfer to the Open University this year. The public announcements were managed over the Summer to reduce student concerns and through our webinars and change mailbox we are providing support to students to understand change. Huge thanks to the student and learner support teams for managing the messaging to students and dealing with the questions and concerns raised by students.
Behind the scenes the year began quite manically with an Open University (OU) institutional review. This was the most thorough and intensive review OCA has ever experienced. It identified over fifty-five policy and procedural changes that were required of us prior to the OU signing our legal agreement in July. Between February and April the team at OCA managed to update, refresh, create and shape our environment to meet these conditions. A huge endeavour!
All of our programmes have been scrutinised by OU as part of this process, with OU colleagues recognising the good practices we already have in place, and recommending enhancements to further this good work. It has been great to talk to OU colleagues who understand the challenges and opportunities of online and distance learning.
These changes are all to better OCA, creating an ethical and inclusive environment, but will have felt like an imposition to many of us as we tried to fit this into our busy schedules. For example the safeguarding training ensures that we all understand what it means to work with and assist students to feel safe whilst studying with us, and what to do if we believe their safety is compromised.
We continue to innovate in how we operate. The new curriculum pathway changes are starting to bed in. We are getting positive feedback from students and beginning to see clear improvements in progression and retention. This statistical evidence is brilliant as it really emphasises how the change to more tutorials and group activities, and more frequent feedback are benefitting our students. There have been some teething issues of course and the New Model Admin project was established this year to help make improvements. Thanks to those academic staff who stepped forward to lead and pilot that work. The recommendations from this project are starting to build the framework for success.
Each academic department has had their own successes and changes this year, with excellent student results, changes in staffing, and the continued development of new curriculum and content. The National Student Survey challenge of developing a stronger sense of learning community, has been met positively by developing new online Department spaces, and these are starting to bring students together more regularly. A huge thanks to all of the Flexible Tutors, Programme Tutors, and Programme Leaders, and the other staff who support them, for their valued contribution in making our learning community so vibrant and supportive.
We are starting to see sustained successes with the short courses too and some ‘five star’ reviews from students, the Royal Photographic Society had a focus on those courses at their annual event this year.
There are many other changes bedding in, the digital assessment process is now being refined and automated more as we get ever more students submitting for assessment. Assessment has grown from just over 200 submissions per event, to now nearly 400 submissions, which is testament to improvements we’ve made to retain our students and help them progress. The effective collaboration between the TEL and Academic Support teams is ensuring that we can cope with these numbers and move to more manageable and automated approaches. Feedback from our External Examiners continues to endorse our ‘assessment for learning’ approach and for the robustness and quality of the assessment process.
We have lots of new wonderful staff joining us this year adding to our family at OCA, welcome goes to Lauren and Tom who joined the student support teams at OCA, Dean as IT Manager, Malcolm joining OCA from UCA to establish our IT support, and to Hilary who has taken charge of Library responsibility, within the TEL team. We’ve also expanded our academic staff recruiting Barry as Programme Leader for Graphic Design, Gill as Programme Leader for Garden Design and Louise as Programme Leader for Visual Communications. Many tutors have now taken up Programme Tutor roles at OCA, strengthening our academic teams.
The OCA community has also been saddened by the loss of Jeff this year, his absence is keenly felt. We also said farewell to Leanne in TEL and Catherine and Allyson in the student support team as they moved onto other roles outside OCA, we wish them all the best of success.
Everything that has been achieved this year is down to all of the amazing people at OCA who have repeatedly gone above and beyond in order to make things happen, whether it be running programmes, supporting students, or managing the transfer to The OU.
The college is closing its offices from 23rd December to 3rd January.
There will no doubt be more changes and challenges to face in the new year, but for now we wish all members of the OCA learning community a well deserved break over the Christmas period, and a healthy and happy new year.