Laura’s Cloudwork (H800) – From applicant to student: learning who can study
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13 April 2014
In this particular context, I was a relatively new member of the team (about six months into the job) and had experienced one admissions period where we take on a cohort of new students at Masters’ level. I was asked to train a new member of the team so they would be able to administer a new application to the course.
The interaction took place in an open-plan office, so it would be witnessed by other members of the team including my own line manager. At the time, I was being monitored for possible promotion to a higher level, so it was a test of my skills, knowledge and ingenuity.
My new colleague and I were still establishing our personal boundaries with each other, so it was a difficult situation to judge. I wanted to ensure they understood the regulations and procedures involved without making any assumptions of prior knowledge but also did not want to appear condescending.
I feel that the learner, in this scenario, also wanted to show that they were able to pick things up quickly with little guidance.
The task I was charged with teaching is a somewhat linear process that takes place over several weeks with many stages and checks. These checks are in line with the organisation’s regulations and procedures so it is essential that they are met in the application, or the applicant is deferred or rejected. A measure of success is that when the applicant is released to the central Admissions team with an offer of study, it is not returned to the department with changes or as a rejection as they have not met the criteria of the University. An example of this could be a lack of proof of English language skills in an overseas student.
A student application needs to be dealt with swiftly from beginning to end, regardless of whether it is a rejection, offer or deferral until a later date. This is due to the number of applicants we receive each semester compared with the amount of administrative support available.
- I explained to the learner that I was going to show them how to process a new application that we had received that day. The reaction was one of wanting to show knowledge immediately, i.e. knowing where to go on the Intranet to view the application (and consequently going to the wrong place). I dealt with this by explaining that I would walk them through it, and then I would allow them to process the next application alone. My aim was to instil the idea that I trusted them and thought them competent, but also had a job to do as a teacher of this particular task.
- I then proceeded to explain where all applications were viewed, how to generate the search and know which applications were new and needed action.
- When viewing a new application, there are basic checks to be carried out in the first instance. I explained how to check:
- If the student has been correctly listed as a Home/EU or Overseas student (which affects their fee status)
- How they plan to pay their fees (useful for identifying students who have applied for scholarships)
- The student’s basic information and any anomalies that may cause problems later on (i.e. name, address, date of birth)
- Following this, we must carry out checks of the student’s course eligibility. They involves checking if the applicant:
- has a BSc in Optometry (and if not, if they have a valid equivalent)
- is GOC registered and if not, why not
- speaks English as a first language or second language. If they speak English as a second language, they must provide proof of their abilities
- has applied for the correct course. This can usually be worked out from their personal statement (e.g. they may make reference to a specific module but have applied for the full MSc course)
- The application must be checked for relevant documentation, including:
- Filtering of unacceptable documentation, e.g. a reference as proof of English language requirements
- The documentation must then be verified by a central team – this is an automated process
- Releasing an offer/rejection:
- a genuine degree certificate
- two references (one from a current/recent employer and one other professional reference)
- GOC registration (if applicable)
- Proof of English Language requirements (if applicable) with an appropriate score (i.e. 100 points for a TEOFL test)
- If the candidate meets all the criteria they are given an unconditional offer
- If they meet all the criteria with the exception of English language, they are given a conditional offer, pending an IELTS/TEOFL test score
- If the candidates do not have suitable qualifications for entry at this time they are rejected and receive feedback on the reason for rejection
I expected the learner to be able to review an application and decipher fairly quickly (10 – 15 minutes per application) what was missing, what needed querying with the applicant and filter unsuitable candidates, and be able to act upon the outcomes of the review.
The process with the learner was repeated several times, with progressively less input, allowing the learner to implement what they had learned on previous occasions.
Referring back to the measure of success, I feel that the objectives were not entirely met as there were numerous returns from the central Admissions team for varying reasons. For example, one applicant was returned due to insufficient proof of English language skills. On investigation, it was found that a reference had been submitted as proof, which is unacceptable within the University regulations. This was addressed by advising the learner of the regulations, why the application had been returned and guidance on how to proceed (and how to act in future cases).
Each application has to be treated on an individual basis, so it’s unusual to process an application without learning something new about an organisation, country or culture. The experience has made me appreciate that different people have different ways of processing information and what seems to be a logical and linear process to me may not be so to someone else.
If I were to go through the same process again I would put aside my fears of coming across as condescending or patronising and focus on transferring the skills related to the task. In this instance, I chose to teach the learner through a ‘learn by doing’ method, so they processed an application from start to finish through guidance. However, the learner would have preferred to watch the process taking place before attempting it for themselves.