The Extra Mile
Compiled by Assoc Prof Dr Tan Toh Wah (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Even though ODL learners are expected to spend at least 80 percent of their study time doing self-managed learning, the majority of our learners still consider face-to-face sessions with tutors as the most important component in the blended mode of learning.
Learners, especially those at-risk, would especially like to see their tutors go the extra mile to help them stay on track and improve in their studies. The following pointers were distilled from learners whose views I had solicited in order to find out what they would like their tutors to do to help them in their learning journey. Whether all their expectations are reasonable or justified is something that remains open to debate.
Systematic handling of tutorials
Tutors play a crucial role in optimising the tutorials they lead. They need to ensure that learners get the most out of what little time they spend with them.
Learners expect systematic content discussion, meaning they expect to see an orderly build-up instead of seeing their tutors jump back and forth erratically from topic to topic, which can be confusing.
At the same time, tutors must pace their delivery in such a way that it is neither too fast nor too slow for the learners.
Building rapport with learners
Despite living in a technological age, the human touch is still valued. Tutors should attempt to develop rapport with their learners to make sure that communication channels remain smooth and open.
Learners want to be treated as friends; there should be respect but there should also be a degree of closeness.
Also, tutors should try to understand the limitations of working adults who have to juggle work, studies and family.
Guiding the Learners in completing assignments
Tutors are expected to be knowledgeable and well-prepared so that they can provide definitions, explanations, examples and relevant information other than what is already in the modules.
They should be able to answer questions put forward by the learners instead of posing the questions back to the learners.
Learners can look for the answers themselves, but they need guidance on how to filter and use that information effectively. This will be useful especially when it comes to working on their assignments.
Providing additional learning materials
The modules only provide the basic knowledge required by learners to get them started with their courses. To excel, they need to refer beyond the modules.
Learners expect their tutors to provide them with additional learning materials to further reinforce their learning. These include lecture notes, handouts, power point slides, topic summaries and past year questions.
Before we jump to the conclusion that learners are unhappy with their tutors, I would like to reiterate that the majority of our learners are satisfied, if not happy, with their tutors and think of them as helpful and approachable.
However, many feel that their tutors could be even more effective if they make the effort to deliver added value to tutorial sessions by taking into consideration the expectations sketched above.