We recently caught up with Rachel Harrison, Head of Kaplan’s Academic Support. She spoke about the importance of having access to a tutor and support when studying.
Could you tell us about your career history so far?
I studied French and German as a degree and taught English at a secondary school in Germany for a year as part of that, and I really enjoyed teaching while travelling. Then, when I graduated, I wanted to work in business, so I completed the ACA qualification with the ICAEW to become a Chartered Accountant because that seemed like a well-regarded qualification that could open a lot of doors.
So I studied for my ACA exams for three years, and whilst I was doing that I was also working in audit for a small audit firm in Yorkshire, and continued to work in audit for another two years after I qualified. After that, I decided to take a career break and have children. I was at home with my children for around nine years, but during that time I was doing freelance accountancy work and also marking for the ACCA and Kaplan.
Someone I knew at Kaplan told me that a maternity cover position had arisen in the former Kaplan Distance Learning department. This required helping learners who were studying ACCA, CIMA and AAT via a distance learning course. I initially worked there for a couple of days a week which then turned into a full-time job. Eventually, we became the Academic Support team, supporting all learners at Kaplan. This led to my promotion to tutor manager and then the Head of Academic Support.
What is your job role and what does this entail?
I'm Head of Academic Support and I lead a team of around 45, made up of Functional Skills tutors, Progression Advisors, and accountancy and tax tutors. Learners can send us queries about any of the content that they’re stuck on while they’re not in class or when they are studying remotely, and we’ll help them with that.
The Progression Advisors help OnDemand learners stay on track with their studies so they make good progress through their professional qualifications, and they support those who have failed an exam. The Functional Skills tutors support apprentices with Maths and English skills.
What does the Academic Support Team do specifically to help students?
So, it’s like three mini teams within one department: the Accountancy and Tax tutors, Progression Advisors and Functional Skills tutors.
For Academic Support tutors, if a learner has been in class, when they come home they might be looking at questions and are not sure what to do. Whatever they might be struggling with, they can go onto their MyKaplan account and send us a live chat, email or request a call back from a tutor to get help. They don’t have to wait to go to the next class to ask for help, they can get it straight away.
But that’s the same with anyone studying through a Kaplan course. You don’t need to have a classroom tutor to get help. All learners have us there to help whenever they’re struggling. We also aim to answer queries within four hours for most qualifications, so they know that we will have a quick turnaround time.
If a learner needs to achieve Level 2 qualifications in Maths and English as part of their apprenticeship as they don’t have prior exemptions, their Talent Coach will refer them over to us. The Functional Skills Tutors will see them through their Maths and English journey, making sure they complete the relevant exams and help them overcome any weak areas. They run live online classes for Maths and English and will help the apprentices outside of those classes on a one-to-one basis.
The Progression Advisors reach out to learners who are falling behind with their studies and track their progress. They help to keep learners motivated to book their exams and prepare for the exam date to help them pass and progress through their chosen qualifications. The Progression Advisors will also reach out to anyone who’s failed an exam and give them some tips on how to get back on track. After that, they’ll pass the learner over to the tutors on the team who will give them technical advice.
What would you say the biggest improvement has been since you joined Kaplan?
I think creating the Academic Support team because learners don't have to wait now for a response from a tutor. They've always got a tutor on hand. We're open on Saturdays, (9 am to 5 pm), and then Sundays and bank holidays (9 am - 1 pm), as well as weekday evenings until 8 pm, so learners can know that they've always got access to someone who can help them and that just enables them to keep going and not feel like they need to struggle alone at home.
Is there anything that you do that some learners might not already know about?
Sometimes I’m surprised when a Talent Coach tells a learner about us and they don’t always know that Academic Support is there. I also don’t think people know that they can reach out to us for resit advice too, and that’s something that we’re trying to work on raising awareness of at the moment.
As well as supporting learners, we also help out with reviewing the quality of marking of course assessments and the quality of the OnDemand study materials.
What makes Academic Support important?
As long as you are enrolled on a course, you’ll have access to Academic Support tutors. And I think that having access to a tutor is vital because I can remember when I was a student, being at home and staring at my books not knowing what to do. Then I used to have to wait to go back to class and wait for someone to help me then.
There are times when you don’t feel comfortable asking in a class full of people, so it’s easier to talk one-to-one through email or chat. The fact that we have live chat access means that you can still talk through a query but in your own home. You’ve always got that access to a tutor but you can do it at a time that suits you and in a comfortable environment.
We also have the Progression Advisors on hand to give learners tips on how to keep motivated, prepare study plans and plan their revision time, and the Functional Skills tutors to help learners with the fundamental Maths and English skills that they need for their working and personal lives
We are here to support you.
If you need any advice or guidance with your studies, reach out to the Academic Support tutors via your ‘contact a tutor’ option on your MyKaplan. You can email, live chat or request a call back (UK only) from a tutor.
If you are interested in starting your accounting journey, AAT is usually a great place to begin. Have a look at our AAT courses for more information. We are always here to help you through your studies.