Throughout the process I had excellent support from my tutor, who was always available by email, phone or meeting as well as connecting with my peer group via the online forum and wiki area.
At present my role as Workforce Development Team Manager with Fife Council holds responsibility for overseeing the delivery of all learning, development and qualifications to around three thousand social work and social care staff. This involves managing a team of professionally qualified staff who are responsible for specific practice areas, alongside a commissioning budget devolved by the Chief Social Work Officer to ensure all statutory requirements are met and staff have the skills, knowledge and abilities to deliver a high quality, professional service to vulnerable people in Fife.
I believe the public sector is at a crossroads as resources diminish and demand increases for services, particularly within the field of health and social care. There is a narrative within the Council at present with regard to the need to become more commercial and entrepreneurial to ensure we can continue to deliver high quality services within the ever decreasing resource allocations to the public sector. For that reason, I decided to apply to study B716, which as well as being the first year of the MBA, offers a broad range of learning in key business areas and the opportunity to apply these to genuine practice issues through an ‘Evidence Based Initiative’.
I had decided to undertake this course with The Open University, my first experience of studying with the organisation, due to the outstanding service I had received when commissioning the OU over the last eight years and the excellent relationships I had with people within the organisation. The flexible approach was essential, due to my work schedule, and this proved to be crucial to my ability to work within deadlines. I received sponsorship via Scottish Government funding which was implemented through a competitive application process by the OU.
Throughout the process I had excellent support from my tutor, who was always available by email, phone or meeting as well as connecting with my peer group via the online forum and wiki area. Although the learning approach is mainly self-directed, utilising the online materials and a clear schedule of expectation around achievement of the course, I always felt that support, advice and guidance was available when required.
As with the majority of OU students there is a need to balance the study with work and personal commitments, but the benefit of the OU scheduling is to continually provide an expected framework of achievement whilst offering the space for individuals to adapt this to their own circumstances. Therefore, as a student you are continually aware of where you should be within the course but can slow down or speed up dependent on other priorities you may have at any given time.
Another very positive aspect of B716 is the residential school included in the module. This created space to work with peers in intensive and stimulating learning situations, which generate huge learning to aid both analysis of real work situations and reflection for revision.
The most challenging aspect within the course I found to be the exam, having not undertaken a formal exam situation for 32 years! Whereas with the six ‘Tutor Marked Assessments’, the student is able to construct a written piece that is worked on for a considerable period and I felt was reflective of the work put into it, the exam felt more like a memory test rather than a thoughtful, considered piece, with the course being so all-encompassing in key areas of business practice, this meant there was a lot of material to memorise to attempt to do justice to one’s work over the year.
For those people who are contemplating undertaking the module I would offer encouragement. I believe I have learned a vast amount from B716 that I have taken not only into the workplace, but into my reflective thinking about the world and the business approaches taken that will affect our future.
Finally, don’t be afraid to critique the theories and models you are presented with because no model is perfect. Have the courage to contest thinking and assumptions where you feel they need to be challenged!