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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

ActEd out of interest

John Potter
After graduating from university I studied for the actuarial exams while working in a life office, using the ActEd tutorials. I was very impressed with the tutorials but more impressed with the tutor occupation. So, aged 24, with premiership football no longer a feasible option, I decided that being an ActEd tutor was my destined vocation. This conviction must have shone through an otherwise bungled interview, and I joined ActEd in 2002.

The fact that I love teaching was the main attraction, but I was also looking for a change from the corporate office culture, which was no place for a leftwing cynic. For me, teaching is still the most rewarding and enjoyable aspect. The subjects I teach (currently CT4, CT5, CT6, CT8 and ST5) involve some difficult technical and mathematical concepts, so it is not uncommon to be presented with 12 very worried students at the beginning of a three-day tutorial. To witness the transformation from very worried to very confident, and to know that I played a major part in this transformation, is a heart-warming and empowering feeling.

I’m always extremely grateful for the positive feedback I receive from students. Occasionally, I will receive one or two personal messages of thanks. This is the pinnacle of the job. Just as my usual high spirits start to wane, I will receive a lovely e-mail from a student that reminds me why I’m doing the job.

“What do you do when you’re not teaching?” is the question I get asked most. Once, this was even phrased, “So, John, do you actually have a job?” I had to laugh, as there is always a lot of work to be done outside the tutorials. These days, we are selling many different types of study and revision products, all of which need to be produced and maintained, and we also need time to prepare for tutorials. I hope I am able to continue in my role for many years to come. I have great ambitions to continue excelling in this very rewarding job.

Anna Bishop
I joined ActEd in 2003 for similar reasons to John, notably a love of helping other people understand difficult concepts. Since then, many people have expressed to me an interest in working for ActEd. Several are disillusioned with their current situation, but this is not enough on its own to justify applying. You also need a passion for teaching and learning. Receiving appreciative comments from students and seeing names on pass lists make the job 100% worthwhile.

Six months into the job, I embarked on a part-time, adult education PGCE. This was by no means a requirement of employment, but it did give me a chance to examine issues such as learning styles, memory and dyslexia. For example, did you know that you are likely to forget 80% of what you have learned on a tutorial if you do not review it within a week of attending? I’m glad I did the PGCE, as it resulted in a greater recognition by ActEd students with special learning needs.

Shortly after joining the company, I remember that a fellow tutor conducted a survey in The Actuary on whether students preferred print or electronic learning. It suggested that most students were not interested in electronic learning. How things have changed over five years! Most students now have access to a high-speed internet connection at home or in the office, and so the role of ‘ActEd innovation champion’ was born.

It has been a fantastic experience over the last couple of years leading the introduction of webinars (live online tutorials) and CA1 Bitesize (online, prerecorded tutorials). As well as helping domestic students, we can now add real value to the learning experience of overseas students. It is truly amazing to be able to simultaneously deliver a tutorial to students from the UK, India, Tanzania and Australia. The two products have really taken off. We have received some great feedback, and I feel very proud that tutors and students have embraced the new learning experiences. Add into the multimedia bag the ‘Sound Revision’ CDs and the computer-based revision tool, Smart Revise, and I would be very surprised if a new survey would yield the same results now.

Far from being a standstill job, mine has been a constantly evolving experience combining actuarial, teaching and IT challenges. What will the next five years bring?

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