The University of Southampton

Introducing the Peer Mentors: John and Gordon

Our Learning in the Network Age MOOC with FutureLearn is running again for two weeks from 24th July. You can sign up here.

Here’s our review of the first running of the course.

This time Nic and I are very pleased to be joined by two experienced Peer Mentors who participated as learners in the first running of the course back in April. John and Gordon introduce themselves here:

John Bothams, Peer Mentor
John Bothams, Peer Mentor

After 5 years in Chemical research alongside doing day release and evening classes ONC/HNC, then the last two years on an Honours degree, then two years of DMS alongside making Sharwoods Mango Chutney and other sundries – my early career was supported by almost continuous ‘formal’ learning whilst doing. A further five years of doing practical learning including managing of the manufacturing Pharmaceuticals for MSD and the setting up of a factory from scratch for making noise insulation for tractors. Then I made a planned change to Higher Education to teach Management. Within a couple of weeks, I realised nobody understood what was happening within learners’ heads, or what needed to happen to manage their learning effectively, as had been the case with my previous jobs.

I used to have a sign above my desk – What can I get my team members to learn so they can do my job? – Important, as I needed, when getting the factory set up, time to be able to go on holiday with my young family. It needed to run without me for a couple of weeks. Fortunately, I was allowed, by what was then Newcastle Polytechnic, to go on the first ever MA in Management Learning at Lancaster University. It comprised week long face to face sessions spread out over two years with a major emphasis on reflection and research on my practice – learning by doing. It had a major impact on the way I did things from then on, as I realised that any good learning process had to recognise that every individual would respond differently and need some individual response and that often this was most effectively provided by other learners.

I am retired now, but I joined the Networked Learning MOOC to explore, out of curiosity, what was happening now, and what were the new opportunities networked processes offered to support learning. I had managed the Open learning route and developed the mixed mode delivery of the MBA whilst at Strathclyde University. I was more than pleasantly surprised by how relevant my previous practice and approaches still were. Many participants were as desperate to improve what and how they did things, as I had been at the end of my first two weeks of being a lecturer.

This is in my top two of Mooc experiences, because of the content, the engagement of the tutors and participants, and how involved and stimulated I was. The other one, for those curious, was one on Forensic Science which was learning by doing – using the forensics in a real case, but filmed at Strathclyde University’s (where I taught for ten years) premises on Loch Lomond. So, I am looking forward to helping more overtly with the learning this time, which I know will require patience and perception of what is needed.

Gordon Lockhart, Peer Mentor
Gordon Lockhart, Peer Mentor

I’m a retired academic with many years of experience in teaching engineering subjects. I was lucky enough to join one of the original Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on Connectivism in 2011 as a learner and since then I’ve participated in many other MOOCs. These have covered a wide variety of scientific and other topics and include a previous run of the University of Southampton’s, ‘Learning in the Network Age’. A large number of participants in a MOOC can make it difficult for the experts to divide their attention among learners. I volunteered to join the mentor team because sufficient numbers of mentors, who are also learners, can make a difference by helping and encouraging other participants. Those approaching online learning for the first time may appreciate some friendly assistance and mentors can also be useful in responding to frequently-asked questions and helping with the smooth running of the forums.