The course comprises 15 units which are released on-line fortnightly between February and August. There is a question sheet after all but the last unit. (See Sample units) The questions are intended for learning, not assessment, so tutors are expected to show the students how to improve their answers, and not simply to mark them as correct or incorrect. They do not give numerical marks or grades.
As well as marking answer sheets the tutor needs to support and encourage the student, especially those who find that plant identification is much more difficult than they had expected. Email is used for general messages and questions from the student, so the tutor must read and respond to emails promptly. The telephone is not used nor do tutors and students normally meet face to face, although this is possible.
Answer sheets are not submitted at regular fortnightly intervals but irregularly throughout the season. Provided that the students are informed, absences of a week or two are not a problem, but the role is not suitable for anyone who will be away, without access to the internet, or too busy, for long periods during the summer.
There are no formal qualifications for becoming a tutor but the following are necessary:
- Experience in botanical recording locally (able to handle the BSBI recording card comfortably OR able to conduct a full NVC survey OR have a FISC level 4 or above). Students are allocated on a regional basis so local botanical knowledge is essential but tutors do not have to be national experts.
- Reliable internet connection and email system and reasonable computer literacy (familiarity with Word documents and downloading material).
- A desire to help keen beginners to become competent field botanists. Sympathy towards the difficulties of beginners and an encouraging and supportive attitude.
Tutors generally enjoy their role and students are very appreciative of their efforts. If you would like to participate please email firstname.lastname@example.org giving details of your botanical experience and your location. You may be asked to provide a botanical reference.