Online BA in management opens doors for teachers
When Brechin High teacher Scott McGarvey packs up his books and heads home from school, there is not much chance to put his feet up. For the last academic year he has been studying for two degrees - one in management, the other in education.
This summer, the 28-year-old science teacher will be one of the first to graduate BA Management Studies in a new distance learning degree, delivered by Angus College and The Robert Gordon University.
What drives Mr McGarvey is his ambition to become a guidance teacher: "I am really interested in becoming more involved with the pastoral care of pupils. I always had a thing, when I left school, that I would quite like to be a teacher or social worker, and I decided teaching would probably be best.
"I think as a guidance teacher, you've got that mix of almost being like a social worker and a teacher as well. And the BA Management has so many relevant topics, because you have to manage other staff members and you have to hold effective meetings, you are managing budgets, and this is all being covered. It also gives me professional registration to teach business studies in school."
The two-year course is delivered online, using podcasts, interactive live broadcasts, video clips and voice-overs, to busy people like Mr McGarvey who start studying once they have finished the day job. The programme has attracted interest across the public and private sectors, including the NHS and education.
Mr McGarvey managed to complete the course in just nine months, allowing time to concentrate on the dissertation for his M.Ed, which he plans to finish in January. It is a two-year diploma in pastoral care, guidance and pupil support, delivered by the University of Aberdeen through webcams and e-learning.
He appears to thrive on studying - his skin has a healthy glow and there are no dark circles under his eyes from burning the midnight oil. He's almost apologetic about his reasons for extra-curricular studies.
"I am a bit of a geek, because I like to learn new things," he explains over the lunch break in his classroom. "I always enjoyed management information studies and business management at school, and wondered whether anyone offered any distance learning courses."
His experience also influenced his adult goals: "When I was at school, I saw so many pupils bullied, and I would like to be the person responsible for putting an end to it and helping them holistically to get their goals and see them progressing."
He discovered the management course on the Angus College website and started last August. "I like to get things done quickly and it was over two years, so I asked if it was possible to take cohorts 1 and 2 together, so I could get the degree after a year."
The college agreed and, with the final assignment completed, graduation is in sight. "It was nice of them; I felt they were looking at my needs and working around them," says Mr McGarvey, who started at Brechin 18 months ago after a year teaching in Gran Canaria. "A lot I remembered from school and a lot is things I have used from my Masters in guidance and pupil support. I started the Masters in 2008."
Headteacher Steve Dempsey says Scott's skills are also useful in his role as the school's enterprise co-ordinator, developing enterprise in science modules and an enterprise team building day for P7s from the cluster primary schools. "The theme was to create a Fair Trade display in a vacant shop in Brechin, which has created a very positive response from the community," he says.
As a new teacher, Mr McGarvey knows he is one of the lucky ones. His younger sister, a music teacher, is working as an after-school club manager, and only three out of the 19 student teachers from his class at the University of the West of Scotland are employed as teachers. "Opportunities are few and far between, so they are working night shifts at Asda and Tesco."
The BA Management Studies by distance learning is a unique course, which was recognised as an example of good practice by HMIE and shortlisted for an e-learning award last year.
It was developed in partnership by Angus College and The Robert Gordon University, and is part of a Virtual Learning Angus programme supported by the European Social Fund. The idea was conceived when research revealed that fewer people had management degrees in Angus.
"The research recognised there was a degree deficit in the Angus area, which was 11 per cent below the national average," says Barbara Nelson, director of learning and teaching at Angus College. "Because it was a rural area, it was difficult for people to access higher education on a part-time basis."
College staff worked alongside colleagues from Aberdeen Business School at The Robert Gordon University to develop the current programme, which Mrs Nelson describes as having a "broadcast model of delivery", where students can download material online, join interactive live broadcasts, watch video clips and podcasts.
Students have the option of some face to face classes and are encouraged to use Skype to promote social contact and collaborative working.
"It is unique in terms of the broadcast element, but also because it genuinely is delivered by both college and university staff," she says. "You would get something similar in the UHI, but not in a college of further education."