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Interview with Gail Ramiz, Head of Academic Support

Gail Ramiz, Head of Academic Support, Kaplan UK

Finding enough time to study can be a challenge, so when you do get to opening that textbook or logging on to MyKaplan, you want it to be as productive as possible. That’s why our Academic Support team is now open longer and guarantees that a subject specialist (CIMA, AAT, ACCA and ACA) will get back to you straight away with Live Chat or within 4 working hours by email or request a callback.

We interviewed Kaplan’s Gail Ramiz, who heads up Academic Support to find out what’s changed and what you can take advantage of as a Kaplan student.

Hi Gail. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Kaplan?

I’ve been with Kaplan for 10 years now, starting as an ACA Tutor before becoming Head of Tutors for London ACCA & CIMA. I’ve recently taken up my new role as Head of Academic Support, overseeing the team of expert tutors offering help to students.

What does the Academic Support team do?

We’re here to help our students with their studies and answer subject specific queries when they have them - just like they would ask a tutor in class. The team include dedicated subject specialists who have years of experience in the industry. For example, our tax expert Jenni Hudson has been a Kaplan support tutor for 13 years and our financial management expert Bill McCarthy has been with Kaplan for 26 years. They’re all available to speak to through live chat, email or request a callback when you need them. We also have discussion forums on MyKaplan where tutors will be there to respond to questions posted by students. We think having these experts on hand when you need them most really sets us apart from what anyone else in the market offers.

And how has Academic Support changed recently?

About 18 months ago, we did lots of research with students to understand what they liked about our tutor support, what was missing and what they found frustrating with their studies.

One of the big things that came out was that students wanted a quick response to their problem. It’s great having your tutor’s mobile number or email address, but if they’re busy teaching or with another student, you could end up waiting days for a response, and this was frustrating. And when they did get through to someone, they wanted an answer there and then, without being passed around.

So, we now have a team of subject specialists that are on standby to answer questions instantly via Live Chat. Because you're chatting to a specialist, you'll get the answer you need first time. And if you prefer to email or speak over the phone, someone will get back to you within 4 working hours. So you have the speed of response and the confidence that you'll get the answer you need.

Apart from getting a quick response, how else do you think this helps students?

Well, we also looked at a lot of research on the effect of response times on academic performance. Not surprisingly, getting an immediate response to a problem you have means you’re much more likely to perform better in the exam. If it’s fresh in your mind and you’re engaged with the subject, you’ll get more from the response. So for us, it’s really important that we offer this to our students.

As part of the changes, Kaplan also introduced Learning Coaches. What do they do?

A lot of students told us they found it hard to stay motivated and on track and would like more regular progress checks with Kaplan to see how they were progressing - particularly if they weren’t studying in the classroom.

So our Learning Coaches were introduced to do just that. They’ll monitor a student’s performance and progression in the background, intervening if they see them struggling or falling behind. This allows them to then provide individual support and arrange tailored one-on-one coaching sessions to get them back on track.

And how do Learning Coaches help improve a student’s performance?

Learning Coaches can see a student’s individual progress through the course, test scores etc. So they can provide much more individual feedback and pointers on how to improve. They can also see at what point they should intervene, without a student being ‘too far gone’ to get their studies back on track.

This all aids with motivation and helping them stay engaged with the course. Research we did with CIMA shows that students are much more likely to pass if they stick with the course, book their exam and sit it within a few weeks of completing their studies.