Can you tell us a little bit about what you do at Kaplan and what sort of responsibilities you have?
My current role within Kaplan is a varied one! Up until this year, I was the ACCA/CIMA Tutor Support Manager for the Distance Learning section of the business. The main focus of the role is to provide support to our Online and Distance Learning students preparing for their CIMA and ACCA exams. I manage a team of excellent tutors, who are all committed to ensuring we provide the best level of service to all of our students. As our courses have developed, we have also developed the way in which we support students, and have introduced many different coaching aspects for students, to help with all aspects of their student experience.
This year, I have also become heavily involved in the creation of our new OnDemand courses for CIMA. I have been project lead for some of the papers, which has also involved creating the content for the courses, as well as leading others in the creation process. This has been an incredible and challenging opportunity. It has meant that I have been able to use my tutor skills to create online content that will really guide students through their courses from start to finish, in almost the same way as they would receive from a tutor in class; but with the added flexibility that they can study from home instead. So it has meant really having to think about the best way to use online content to 'teach' a concept to students, so that they feel they have been guided through as if they were sitting in a classroom.
What was your background before joining Kaplan?
When I left University I went straight to work in an accountancy practice and enrolled to study for ACCA. As it was a fairly small company, this meant that I had the opportunity to become involved in many different aspects of accounts preparation, tax and audit. I continued to work there for two and half years, whilst I completed the ACCA qualification and became qualified.
After qualifying, I started a family straight away, and so left the firm where I was working. Whilst on maternity leave, I made the decision to set up an accountancy practice of my own, rather than going back into employment. It was very challenging, but at the same time rewarding. I built up a great client base, and worked with some very interesting companies. The assignments I worked on were really varied, ranging from monthly management accounts preparation up to Board level presentations for some very large companies. I grew my own company over the next 4 years to the stage where it needed additional staff and also premises of its own (apart from just the study at my home!). Although it was a great company, and is going from strength to strength today, I reached the point, after my children went to school full time, of needing a fresh challenge. I wanted to get involved in something where I wasn't just going from company to company - I wanted to be a part of something bigger, if that makes sense!
I wanted to be able to use the knowledge I had learned throughout my degree and subsequent ACCA studies in my day-to-day work. So I went straight to the vacancies page on the Financial Training Company (now Kaplan) website. And much to my surprise, the Distance Learning arm of the company was looking to recruit a new tutor! And so that is how I came to join the Kaplan team, and started to work as a tutor for Distance Learning student!
How have you used your previous experience to help students?
Whilst studying towards my professional exams, on average I sat two or three papers per sitting, and so I can fully appreciate how difficult our students find it to juggle study, a work life and also family commitments – it can be quite a struggle to find the time to fit it all in, and also to keep motivated. I actually studied through Kaplan myself and I was always delighted with the level of service I received. So when I joined Kaplan I wanted to be able to offer the same excellent level of service to other students, who were facing the same challenges I once had. I wanted to ensure that we were offering the kind of support that I knew I had needed, and so as a part of my role I designed and implemented many different coaching schemes to help students with not only their 'technical queries' on the course content, but also to help them in terms of motivation and staying focused while they were feeling a little overwhelmed with it all. I think that if a student is studying alone at home, it can be easy to feel isolated - and this was what I wanted to avoid as far as possible. Our coaching schemes were therefore created to let students know that there was always someone they could contact if they needed help on their learning experience.
How does the work you do impact our students and improve their overall experience of studying with Kaplan?
For those students who are studying at home, primarily on their own, then knowing that there is someone they can turn to for support and guidance can be invaluable. It isn't always that a student needs an answer to a technical question from their course text - it's quite often that they need someone to chat through their thoughts about what paper to take next, or how to structure their studies, or even how to get back into studying when they've had a break and are feeling like they can't see the wood for the trees! And so knowing that we are constantly tailoring and customising our courses to be able to offer the most student focused resources and support gives me a great feeling of pride in our company.
Did you know?
At Kaplan we have experts who work in every part of the business, to guarantee that all our courses are designed with one thing in mind – making it as easy as possible for you to succeed in your exams.
How are our courses structured to ensure our students learn in an efficient way that aids their motivation and develops exam confidence?
Our new OnDemand courses for CIMA students provide students with a new and fantastic opportunity to study towards their exams. They are tutor led from start to finish: students begin by watching a tutor talk them through an overview of the OnDemand course structure, to explain what they should expect from the course and how to access support as and when they need it; in the same way as a tutor would in class - but with the added bonus of being able to watch it in the comfort of their own home!
They will then be guided through their particular paper from start to finish, with a variety of tutor videos, online questions and full mock exams. Within the videos, tutors will outline and explain the syllabus content; using worked examples to demonstrate where appropriate, and will then provide students with the opportunities to check their knowledge at every step of the way with online questions. These are all provided in manageable bite-sized chunks, so that students can plan their study time effectively around what they need to cover. We also provide online study planners, to help students structure their studies from start to finish, using all resources available to them.
After working through the full syllabus, students are then provided with a number of online mock exams, to really help them prepare for their upcoming exams.
As well as having the tutor led course content, students also have access to a team of dedicated and excellent tutors who are available to help them with any questions they might have as they work through the course. Using live chat facilities, students can log on and chat with the tutors in real time, thereby clearing up the concern as quickly as if they were to put their hand up in class and ask the tutor in that way. This support is invaluable to a students studying from home, who wouldn't otherwise have a classroom tutor to be able to turn to.
What has been the biggest development or improvement that you’ve seen since joining Kaplan?
When I first joined Kaplan, there were two main ways in which a student could study: attend one of our classroom courses or study from home using Distance Learning. However, at that time, Distance Learning courses were nothing like the courses we offer today. Students would receive all of their materials in hard copies, and would be advised of the contact details for the tutor support team; and then they would be left to work through the course.
However - there have been radical developments since then! Kaplan courses have changed dramatically; obviously we still offer traditional 'classroom' courses, but the other channels in which a student can study now are hugely varied. Students looking for the classroom experience, and who still want live contact with a tutor, can now attend Live Online courses. And students who prefer to study from home can still do so, but with a number of different Distance Learning options available to them - all of which include coaching, much more personalised tutor support, and a huge variety of online resources!
We also now offer the OnDemand courses, which sit somewhere between Live Online and Distance Learning - and so the course options for a student are such that they can really choose the method and style of teaching that suits them best. I think that the key word has to be flexibility - students can even study using different methods if they wanted to - as the course resources used by classroom, Live Online, OnDemand and Distance Learning are all the same.