Letters to the Editor


I have been a tutor with OUM for nearly three years now. I would like to say a few words on the issue of learner participation in both face-to-face tutorials and online forums. During the initial stage of my teaching at OUM, learner participation and involvement was very encouraging. There was almost full attendance in face-to-face tutorials; although some admittedly attended grudgingly, given their other commitments.

But the situation has changed. Correct me if I am wrong, but this is probably because it is no longer compulsory for learners to attend tutorials or to participate in online forum discussions. We do know that marks are no longer given for online participation. This may have some dire consequences.

The message we seem to be sending to learners is that tutorial attendance and the role of face-to-face tutors have become less important, and that it is alright if they do not attend tutorials. These days some tutorials are practically empty! Ask any tutor and he/she would wish that classes had full attendance. Good attendance means that the tutors are appreciated and that they are a major part of the learning process.

While we acknowledge that adult learners may have certain constraints that prevent them from fully participating in tutorials and online discussions, we cannot deny the importance of regular contacts, real or virtual, between learners and their tutors.

Selvarajan Velu
Shah Alam Learning Centre


Dear Selvarajan,

We appreciate your concern. However, the final measure of importance is whether learners have learnt from the various avenues of learning we have provided for the various courses constituting the building blocks of their respective programme.

From the very first day of our operation, we have defined the load of credit hours in terms of learning hours rather than lecture hours. This reflects our relative emphasis on learning rather than on coming to class, as is the conventional measure.

Further, we offer our learners a blend of three delivery modes: self-managed learning, face-to-face (F2F) tutorials, and online learning. It is to be noted that, of the three, self- managed learning constitutes the pillar of our delivery mode. The F2F and the online sessions could be regarded as complementary modes. Thus in principle, to OUM, class attendance is not mandatory. (It is to be noted however, that although it is not mandatory to OUM, we do monitor class attendance where such is the requirement of our major learners' sponsors).

Though in the past we have been delivering through a rather fixed blend of the three modes, we are gradually shifting to a more variable blend. Ultimately, our wish is to offer a continuum of different blends, from total independent learning to a full blend as we done in the past. We would like to see ourselves empowering learners to learn rather dictating them to do so.

As for the online forums, what we have done was to decouple them from the F2F sessions. This has enabled us to value-add to our learners' experience. As I have noted in TCX31, the availability of qualified and experienced tutors varies among localities. By decoupling the forums from F2F tutorials we have increased the avenues for learning. Learners' peer- to-peer networks have now expanded well beyond the confines of their F2F classes to wider groups, at times even nationwide. Additionally, learners now have the benefit of interacting with an additional resource person, the e-tutors. Also, since the number of combined virtual classes is now smaller, we can afford to be more selective in appointing e-tutors from among those who are better qualified, who have more extensive experience, and who have proven track records. What we are aiming now is for more meaningful discussions to take place in the forums.

The decline in learners' attendance in tutorial sessions has been anticipated by some of our tutors, upon seeing the development that is taking place with respect to our online learning materials. For a large number of courses now, learners have the privilege of downloading the html version of the modules. Try to view some of the modules whenever you have a chance to do so. Some tutors have enriched the learning experience of learners by utilising these modules in their F2F sessions.

My word of advice to tutors at large is this: the facilities that we have provided to learners through self-managed learning and online learning have gone through a lot of improvements. Tutors are encouraged to improve the conduct of their F2F sessions to remain relevant

Thank you.

Prof Dr Shaari Abd Hamid
Deputy Vice President
Institute of Teaching and Learning Advancement (ITLA)


I refer to a letter titled "E-Tutors: A Good Idea?" in last semester's issue of TCX.

Jennifer Duarte from Perak Learning Centre wrote that the new e-tutor system at OUM is causing hardship to learners. I have to agree with her. I have received complaints from my learners that responses from their e-tutors have been very slow, which frustrates them and makes them reluctant to participate further.

According to Prof Dr Shaari Abd Hamid, Deputy Vice President, Institute of Teaching and Learning Advancement (ITLA), as a result of the new e-tutor system, the quality of online discussions has improved. This may be true in some areas but not all of them.

I hope Prof Shaari would monitor these online discussions, paying particular attention to the rate of responses given by the e-tutors. Hopefully, some improvements will take place.

Thank you.

Hj Ali Sabri Kamaruddin
Kuala Terengganu Learning Centre

Dear Haji Ali,

Many thanks for your feedback. The e-tutor system is relatively new, so some teething problems are to be expected. Hence, while we have seen increased peer interactions and discussions in some forums, we have also found that some tutors had not been as regular in other forums.

We are continuously trying to improve the monitoring of our e-tutors and F2F tutors as well. E-tutors are sent reminders to be visible in their forums and to respond to questions and requests for help from learners within 48 hours. They will be contacted via sms if necessary. We hope in time to come our e-tutors will realize the importance of their commitment to be constantly available to provide support and immediate help as and when required by learners.

Prof Dr Shaari Abd Hamid
Deputy Vice President
Institute of Teaching and Learning Advancement (ITLA)


I have been tutoring at OUM since 2008 in Human Resource Development (HRD) and I have to say that tutoring adult learners can indeed be challenging. As a relatively young- looking tutor, some of my more senior learners may regard me as lacking in experience to teach them. I believe a number of other tutors have faced a similar situation too.

When you are dealing with this type of learners, there are two possible classroom scenarios: one, a few of them may constantly argue with you during tutorials, or two, they may not be very cooperative.

How have I been able to overcome these issues? Well, for the argumentative ones, I always try to lead the discussion with facts. Adult learners tend to be very accepting of factual statements and this is usually the best way to end arguments. However, if a learner has personal experience related to the topic, I will give him/her the chance to share this experience with the rest of the class. Nevertheless, it is my job to keep track of the time and bring an end to the discussion if it becomes too lengthy.

Then there are the uncooperative learners. Usually, I resort to adapting the principles of adult learning. I try to reason with them when they refuse to participate in the classroom or are undisciplined. In andragogy, there is no such thing as coercion. Forceful ways only work with children or teenagers.

I hope my suggestions will be useful for OUM tutors, especially those who are new to teaching adults.

Nor Asiah Mahmood
Bangi Learning Centre

Dear Nor Asiah,

Thanks for sharing your experience and tips! It is great that you are using TCX as a way to connect with your fellow tutors. Tutoring adults can certainly be a challenge because one cannot use the same teaching principles that apply to younger learners. Being relatively young-looking yourself, I am sure that developing a deferential and civil tutor-learner relationship requires some ingenuity. I do hope that others who have had a similar experience have learned a thing or two by reading your views. Keep up the good work!

Prof Dr Shaari Abd Hamid
Deputy Vice President
Institute of Teaching and Learning Advancement (ITLA)

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