Deborah* is currently on maternity leave and studying with a view to a career change. Her partner is very supportive of her studies and she has two other personal contacts with whom she often discusses her learning. Her only contact with other students is via the forum, which she always contributes to when instructed, and tutorials. Her only contact with her own tutor is via her assignment feedback. She completed a diary and was interviewed about tutorials 3 and 4. These are her thoughts about them in her own words.
* Deborah chose her own pseudonym.
For tutorial 3, I was set up in my kitchen which is my makeshift study area. I had my baby asleep in a pram next to me and my son watching Netflix. I felt the tutorial was quite fragmented and didn’t seem to flow all that well. It was mainly a PowerPoint presentation, although there was a couple of times when they brought in a whiteboard that we could put our ideas on. I found the whiteboard actually quite a messy tool to use because you can’t see where somebody’s typing until they’ve finished typing, so it ended up quite a jumble of just letters and numbers at one point because everybody was typing over the top of each other. I think the whiteboard is a good idea if you could see if somebody was typing.
There was 22 in the tutorial and from the chat box, it looked like everybody was attempting to take part. They put us into like smaller groups to discuss a video and then we all came back together to discuss what the smaller groups had come up with. It was assumed we had all watched the video. I had watched the video, but it wasn’t shown at the time of the tutorial. I don’t know if that was the intention or not because there were IT issues. I find with the tutorials, there’s quite a few IT issues from those presenting the tutorials.
It was a typed discussion in the breakout room. We didn’t really speak to each other. It was more we typed up our ideas on the whiteboard and again, it was a bit messy. The whiteboards didn’t get brought back into the main room. When we came back to the main discussion, it was just a PowerPoint that was in front of us. We were just asked to put our views in the message box on the right-hand side.
I would have done just as well if I’d asked for the PowerPoint to be emailed and not actually taking an hour and half away from my home life to be sitting listening to somebody read a PowerPoint out. I felt it was just a summarised version of the topics I had been learning. I wouldn’t say it was a complete waste of my time, but I didn’t feel that I got much out of it. I was a bit deflated coming to the end of it.
I always try to do the face-to-face tutorials if I can because it’s easier to ask questions and get assistance with a tutor. Also, it is nice to sit and discuss with people that are doing the same course as you, any little nuances that they may have found along the way. I appreciate that people have got different circumstances, so they need different times, different days, different locations but I haven’t with this course recognised the same name twice in any of my online tutorials, so you can’t really build a relationship. If you do some of the face-to-face sessions, then you do build up a relationship.
Tutorial 4 was a much better tutorial. It was one of the best ones. I actually took notes on the tutorial. Sometimes, I just start doing my assignment and kind of half listen because all they’re doing is reading out a PowerPoint that I’ve got access to anyhow but that one, I was actively listening to it. I got better marks than I have ever done, so looking back on it, I think it did help me a lot.
There was a bit of summarising the two topics that we had been working on in the module, but it wasn’t just reading a PowerPoint that was put in front of us. I appreciated the time being taken to explain the fundamentals of report writing and not just about the subject of the course that I was doing. It wasn’t so much a verbal discussion, but the chat box got to its full capacity. So, people were entering into the discussion and it was helpful because I’m not in a practice setting. It was good to hear from those that do write these reports on a regular basis as part of their job, just giving little hints and tips as to how reports should be laid out, any keywords that should be included in the report, which you wouldn’t have got from the PowerPoint presentation had it just been sent out to you. A tutorial has to have a PowerPoint element, but I wouldn’t have it as just a summary of the topics. I would want it to have more advanced information.
I don’t know what stops people from using the microphone. I know, myself, I don’t like the sound of my own voice. I don’t know if it’s something as simple as that or…. The tutorials that I’ve been in, it’s not been encouraged. It’s been suggested, but it’s not been actively encouraged by the tutors. And it’s not something I’ve done a lot of… to be the person to start the verbal conversation, so I tend to just stick to the typing in the chat box. In breakout rooms, I would try and encourage the verbal communication, rather than typing all the time. Again, it’s very difficult because it’s all to do with people’s personal behaviour whether they’re confident to speak or not but I would try and encourage that more.
The first tutorial, the tutors split the tutorial in half, so that each had a section doing the talking. The other person was keeping an eye on any questions that were coming up on the chat box and answering them. The second tutorial again, they split the PowerPoint into two but when one person was doing their part of the PowerPoint, the second tutor was very quiet, didn’t answer anything that was on the chat box and didn’t really chip in with any additional information. They were letting their colleague do their part. I actually preferred the first approach. I found that better because it meant then that there wasn’t a build-up of questions. You can just keep an eye on the chat box, as well as listening to the PowerPoint. I think the one that’s not actively talking should be looking at the chat box for the questions if they can answer the questions. If not, then maybe stop the discussion to ask for the answer to the question. I find if they can work as a team, that’s probably the best way to do it.
I’ve never actually taken part in a tutorial that my own tutor’s taken part in. When choosing tutorials, I make sure that it is relevant to that stage of my module and it’s something that’s going to give me more information and help me with my assignment. I don’t have enough free time to attend tutorials that are not really relevant to what I’m doing. I only get my oldest son for half the week. He’s at his dad’s the other half, so I try and avoid any tutorials that are based on my half of the week because I don’t want to take any time away from him and also, any tutorials that fall on the weekend, especially if I go back to work. My partner is going to be the one that’s at home looking after my youngest, so I wouldn’t think it would be very fair for him to have to keep the parenting duties at the weekend as well. I try and make my studies fit my home life, rather than my home life fit my studies. At the end of the day, as much as I’m working hard to get this qualification, my family and my home life are more important.