Feature: Thoughts About Tutor Training At Oum

Interview with Assoc Prof Dr Santhi Raghavan (santhi@oum.edu.my)
by Dr David CL Lim (david@oum.edu.my)

Dr David: Tell us a bit about yourself and your position as Director of CTMD.

Dr Santhi: I started off as a tutor in August 2001 at UKM. 3 months later, I was interviewed by the late Tan Sri Dr Abdullah Sanusi for a permanent position as a lecturer at the then School of Business & Management, OUM. I currently teach postgraduate students pursuing PhD in Business Administration at the Centre for Graduate Studies.

In late 2008, I assumed the position of Director of the Centre for Tutor Management and Development (CTMD). CTMD was set up for the sole purpose of enhancing the pedagogy of face-to face tutoring, online tutoring and selfmanaged learning in an open and distance learning (ODL) environment. My team and I are responsible for the overall management of tutors, ensuring that they support OUM’s blended learning pedagogical approach.

Dr David: OUM has embarked on numerous initiatives to lift the standards of its tutors. Which areas of tutor management and development do you think require rethinking? Can you elaborate?

Dr Santhi: We continuously guide and coach OUM tutors to enable them to be more effective in delivering content during tutorials and facilitating online interactions. Our recent series of colloquiums for tutors titled “Knowledge Sharing & Knowledge Building through OUM’s Quality Open Distance Education” held both at the national and regional level (Southern, Northern, East Coast) were avenues where we enhanced tutors’ capabilities through the exchange of ideas and experiences in teaching and learning. Similar colloquiums will be held in Sabah, Sarawak and the Central region this year.

There is also a need to provide innovative quality services and products that exceed tutors’ expectations. From our continuous effort of rethinking our products and processes, I am pleased to share that we are embarking on a new e-learning methodology. Selected tutors have been commissioned to develop online repositories of FAQs that have emerged in recent years in our myLMS which include detailed descriptions of questions and answers, tips, secrets and the beginning-to-end guidance. The objective of this initiative is to supplement learning with appropriate questions and answers to be used as reference in their myLMS forums. In the World Wide Web, FAQs nowadays tend to be stored in Content Learning Management System (CLMS). We at OUM are planning to do the same for the benefit of our learners.

Our modules too will be developed in HTML format and uploaded. This new format will increase the quality of modules where tutors and learners can go beyond the boundaries of hardcopy texts into a virtual learning environment.

These two initiatives support CTMD’s mission to help tutors integrate new and innovative print and e-learning content into their tutoring processes.

Dr David: What other plans are in store for OUM tutors?

Dr Santhi: Subject matter and skills are not enough to ensure our tutors’ success and performance in teaching. More important are the tutors’ behavioral traits, for example, who they are as a person, what drives them, how they make decisions, how they work and how they interact with our learners.

These traits are usually very difficult to identify or measure without the help of measurement tools. We plan to conduct “Psychometric Profiling” on our new recruits as well as our senior tutors (in batches) to help us describe the indescribable – the human personality. Research shows that psychometric profiling can assist our tutors to realize their full potential to achieve success not only in their career with OUM but also in all areas of life. This goes in line with CTMD’s mission to continuously attract, retain and develop tutors.

Dr David: What are CTMD’s long term plans for tutors?

Dr Santhi: At present, some overseas universities such as University of Sydney, Western Caroline University and The Association for the Tutoring Profession (ATP) provide training that leads to tutor certification. Currently, there is no such tutor certification offered by local universities. Certification adds credibility and professionalism to OUM. We would like to call this programme CODLT (Certification for ODL Tutors).

It is undeniable that the majority of OUM tutors are of high calibre in their respective fields. However, not all the tutors have higher education background as some of them come with industrial exposure. There is a fraction of tutors who have not undergone a formal teaching course, especially in ODL pedagogies. CTMD looks at this issue as a major challenge.

At present, OUM tutors are given training in the principles of ODL which underpin the University’s delivery mode. CTMD finds that this proposed certification programme is crucial as most of our tutors have been exposed more to the conventional teaching method which is traditional face-toface lectures. We are hopeful that this CODLT programme, which consists of a series of planned short courses, will produce effective ODL tutors/facilitators.

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As a tutor, I believe that I can help learners to create learning spaces by:

Encouraging them to think independently by giving them short essay tests
Encouraging them to work as a group
Adding variety to the assignments and encouraging them to think from a different perspective
Ensuring that the tutorial room is always conducive for the learners
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