Joanne* is working full-time with children and young people. Her work colleagues are interested in what she is learning. She receives a lot of support from her partner who is a student in a different faculty of the same University. She is part of a large student WhatsApp group and a Facebook group and has one student in her tutor group whom she messages individually. Joanne says that she does not usually initiate contact with her own tutor but appreciates their regular emails and she sometimes replies. She completed a diary and was interviewed about the third and fourth tutorials in the module. Here are her thoughts about them in her own words.
*Joanne chose her own pseudonym.
When choosing a tutorial, the first thing I will go by is to try and get on the tutorial for my tutor cos obviously, sometimes they differ in things that are more important to them in your assignment, so I normally try and gauge what they like. The only other thing after that is just my availability. I’m generally looking for evening ones. I don’t think there’s any weekend ones that would work for me, but I would look for evenings or weekends because I work from Monday to Friday, 9 to 5.
I normally try and get on when the room first opens, so five or 10 minutes before it actually starts. I normally try and say hello to the people when I first go on. I don’t like to speak on a tutorial, but I think we don’t have that option this year. We have the option to do it, but it’s not utilised. I prefer to type in the chat box than to actually speak on the microphone. The microphone is weird because you can’t see anyone, and I just feel like there’s a delay and it can be quite awkward. Way at the very beginning of my studies or maybe in the second year, there may have been once where a tutor had a camera but since then, I’ve never experienced that.
So, I think I started having a bit of chitchat with another student. I don’t really talk to a lot of the other students on my course, so it was just quite useful just to see you know ‘How are you?’ ‘How are you getting on?’ That’s quite good. I always find that quite a nice thing to check against how I’m getting on. If I’m thinking [slight laughter], ‘I don’t know what any of this is about’, I find someone there who also feels the same.
Tutorial 3 was informative. I find my tutor very good. At the end, it seemed to start to drag on a little bit, but I don’t know if that’s because of the amount of time that you’re sitting in front of a screen. I don’t think I’ve had one this year but sometimes, you do get a tutorial where you’ll have even just a five-minute break. You might need a rest break or to get yourself a drink and I think that helps greatly. If you don’t get that, my brain does start to wander. Also, when I’m on the laptop, I’ll be thinking, ‘Oh, I wonder what happened with that in the news today’. I know towards the end that definitely happened. My mind wandered off a little bit.
The tutorial restored my confidence. I don’t speak to many other students, so for me, I kind of think, ‘Am I on the right track?’ You’re asked to contribute, and the tutors do make sure they pretty much try and respond to everybody, whether it’s just, ‘That’s a good suggestion Joanne’ or something like that. That’s good cos it’s encouraging you.
We had two activities where you can type on the page. It would be something like ‘What does this word mean to you?’ or ‘What does this sentence mean to you?’ It was obviously around health and well-being. And I think we had the same with resilience and you would type out what you thought. If you couldn’t do it on the actual page, then they encouraged you to just do it in the chat box. I think on the first time it did work. The second time it didn’t, so I just wrote it in the chat box.
We’ll have a tutor who talks us through the tutorial and we’ll normally have somebody else who monitors the questions and pretty much kind of controls the chat box. So, one tutor is normally talking to you verbally through the system and the second tutor is normally responding through the chat box. Sometimes they might speak, but I think most of the time they’re just trying to keep on top of any questions that come up in the chat box. Whereas in a normal class environment, where you’re face-to-face, you might wait until the end to ask your question, people generally just ask their question as and when they think of it, so I think that’s why you then have that second tutor trying to address those. If you’re paying attention to what is being shared with you on the screen, sometimes, if there is a flurry of questions, you can miss those. I think it could be a bit more structured because there might be a question there that I’d find really useful to know the answer to. I feel like there should only be two or three times when you have times for questions.
What I gained from tutorial 4 was the difference in writing styles between a normal essay and a report. In that one, we did have a video that we watched. Then afterwards, we were asked ‘What practitioners would be involved with this situation?’ It was like assessing a child or young person’s situation and then who you might signpost them to. I would like to have more interactivity, so I quite like it when we’re refreshed by doing an activity from the materials, such as watching a video. That really brings your focus back to that particular thing and obviously, it’s a bit of a wave like ‘Hello! You need to pay attention to this section’ [slight laughter].
It was easy to get a response when typing in the chat box from both tutor and students. I’m always happy to join in and contribute in answer to the questions that are phrased to us. I do quite enjoy the tutorials [slight laughter]. I think there were around 10 to 12 people. With most tutorials I’ve ever done, there’s really only about three or four people that generally would ask questions.
I think our tutor was on their own for this one. The questions were still addressed in the chat box, but again, possibly because they couldn’t answer them all straightaway, that helped because questions were saved for where there’s a particular prompt for questions. It definitely made it easier to follow the tutorial. I’d rather focus on the person that’s talking and the slides that they’re showing and then have a moment that’s like, ‘Okay, ask questions.’ I think if everyone knows you’ve just got that one tutor on their own, they understand that they’re not going to be able to speak and look at questions at the same time, so then you save your questions maybe.
In this tutorial, I felt confident, but I sometimes lost focus. Sometimes I feel like I already know about a particular thing. I was more interested in part one, which was the writing of the report, rather than part two, which was reflecting on the report. So I think in a way, that’s why I lost focus. Not that I thought, ‘Oh I already know this’, but that wasn’t necessarily my need.
I think it’s really interesting to be part of this study that you’re doing. It’s made me think a little bit about what could add to the tutorials and maybe I need to think about how to focus a little bit more as well [laughter].