Hoorah for (good) online Tutors

I’m afraid I did a *bad thing* and printed the whole week’s reading out to give me something to do for airport and plane journeys around our extended bank holiday weekend. So I read Price  (2007) swiftly followed by Richardson (2009), and before turning to this blog posting also read a bit about e-moderating from Salmon. So to do the activities in order would be a bit like reading the end of a whodunit and then having to guess what you would have thought had you not known the ending.  

What was it all about?

 The first study looked at a students doing an international development course described as  a “multidisciplinary” and “intermediate level” undergraduate course.  It 99 students – 66 who had f2f support and 33 who had an online experience.  The online students (many more women in this group) were not as satisfied when marking “Good Tutoring” on a scale of 1-5.  However, the later study looking at “Introduction to Humanities” (introduction) and “20C Literature” (honours course) showed no real difference in perceptions of tutoring.  The second study was much bigger (616 questionnaires).  Given my previous confession, I’ll not comment on the stats.

Expectations of Online Tutoring

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the on-line tutoring experience.  The present H800 experience is at least 2.0 points above my last one. (another MAODE element so presumably the same “culture”).  Embracing the sort of good practice presented by Salmon makes a real difference – but clearly takes time and commitment. My expectations had been low, they have been exceeded and raised!

Regarding pastoral elements – does online tutoring encompass pastoral elements?  Well… no… I’m not an 18 year old away from home for the first time, but an almost-grown-up with a full time job and a settled life.  However, if pastoral is defined as “community building” things on the fringes then yes.  I enjoy outbreaks of humour, like to hear about adventures that go on,  like finding out about spiders by the microwave.  Ultimately it’s the tutor who sets the tone and “gives permission” for this to take place.

So my feeling is that Tutor Skills are of primary importance.  What neither of these studies had was any form of questionnaire or “secret shopper” to score the quality of the on-line tutor – that I think is surprising!

Paralinguistic clues?

Ok, some of these are missing, but we all have a responsibility to work hard to overcome them.  I don’t think their lack makes for an impossible gap. I’ve been surprised that the asynchronous elements have worked so well.

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