Tutor Profile: Transforming Learners into Skilled Grads

Interview by Danny Chng Loi Peng

SIOW HING SIONG has been tutoring at the Negeri Sembilan Learning Centre since January 2003. He mainly tutored for engineering and education courses. Besides tutoring, he also shared his knowledge in five OUM modules and was appointed as a subject matter expert as well. He is currently serving as a technical/vocational teacher at Sekolah Menengah Teknik Ampangan in Seremban, which is about 20 minutes' drive from the Negeri Sembilan Learning Centre.

Chng: What is your definition of a quality graduate?

Siow: A quality graduate has excellent interpersonal and communication skills, which include oral and written skills. The graduate should also be resourceful.

Chng: What are the requirements to produce quality graduates?

Siow: Firstly, the curriculum must be solid and suit current and future needs of the society. The modules or textbooks must be able to support it. The execution of the curriculum by tutors is also important. Practical or laboratory work is important as well. In addition, learners and tutors should be encouraged to conduct research as this helps the person to become more knowledgeable in a field.

Chng: Do you think the programmes in OUM are designed to produce quality graduates?

Siow: The programmes are of high quality and standard, able to produce good quality graduates. With stringent examination regulations, constant updating of reading materials (modules), and implementation of suggestions by tutors and learners, the process of producing quality graduates becomes easier.

I would like to take this opportunity to suggest that OUM include at least one case study for certain courses as case studies will enable learners to critically review a particular case, suggest concrete solutions, and further sharpen their oral and written skills.

Chng: What is the role of a tutor in OUM?

Siow: It is similar to the role of a lecturer in a conventional university setting. However, it goes beyond tutoring and discussion in the MyLMS forum. At times, I coach learners who face difficulty in preparing their final-year project proposal, getting approval to conduct their project and analysing the results. I also assist the learning centre when required.

Chng: How could a tutor contribute to the development of quality graduates?

Siow: As a tutor myself, I always prepare before every tutorial. I keep a notebook to list the names of learners who consult me as I will contact the learner in the following week or tutorial. I also provide additional materials to my learners and ask questions to stimulate their interest.

Chng: What are the issues in the efforts to produce quality graduates?

Siow: Many learners are too dependent on the modules. They do not use reference books available in the Digital Library.

Chng: What is the best way to handle this issue?

Siow: Perhaps OUM could devise the modules in such a way as to require learners to retrieve information from the Digital Library. OUM could capitalise on experienced module writers and the writers need to communicate with instructional designers. The latter should have relevant academic background to the modules. This will ensure that the instructional designers understand the content and can help to enhance the modules' presentation.

Chng: Can you share with us your experience in helping to produce quality graduates?

Siow: Active learning, independence and motivation are three elements which I work on during my tutorials. Let me explain these:

  • Active Learning - I prepare structured activities to help build interest among learners. I also ask questions and involve learners in answering the questions.
  • Independence - I believe a confident learner will become an independent learner. I often help learners to develop ideas and discuss these with them even if the ideas are not directly related to the course. By doing so, my learners often become more vocal and their confidence level increases.
  • Motivation - Some of my learners come to tutorials unmotivated. They become unmotivated after failing to find certain information online or do not grasp certain parts of the module. I usually hold a short discussion with them after tutorials. Most of them just need motivational talk, guidance and someone to listen to their problems.

Chng: What can OUM do to further improve its efforts to produce quality graduates?

Siow: As I have suggested earlier, the use of case studies would enable OUM to produce graduates who can critically analyse and express themselves, both in written and oral forms.

Chng: What advice would you like to give to new tutors?

Siow: Keep abreast of developments in your field. Prepare for tutorials and modify your tutoring method if you do not get the desired response. One very important thing is to not read from the modules. And encourage your learners to hold discussions during tutorials.

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In my opinion, the most important factor in producing quality OUM graduates is:

Tutors who are capable and motivated
Quality learning materials
A syllabus which integrates both theoretical and practical aspects of a subject
All of the above
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