Vicky* works in education. She often discusses what she is learning with a family member and her work colleagues. She sometimes talks with her tutor and with other students. She is a member of a module Facebook group, but only reads messages, rather than posting. She completed a diary and was interviewed about tutorial 3 but also mentions tutorial 1 during her interview. She did not mention this on her diary sheet because it ‘didn’t seem like a tutorial, as it was not about an assignment’. Here are her thoughts about tutorials in her own words.
* Vicky chose her own pseudonym.
We came in and the tutors thanked everyone for being there. Everyone checked the microphones. They signposted where to raise your hand for a question and how to test your mic. One tutor was leading it and going through the presentation and the other tutor was in control of the chat box and answering any questions that didn’t get picked up.
They had an overview of the tutorial and they checked what everybody was expecting and then we worked through each slide and we did a few activities. We watched a video all together and then the tutor asked us questions. Most people just used the text box on the side, rather than talking. I think people are a lot more comfortable with that, rather than talking in front of load of people without being in front of them [laughter]. Videos should be included because listening to how the tutors and how the students in the chat box were tackling it made me think about it in a slightly different way. I think the more ideas you get on the same subject helps you build that sort of opposing argument in your head and in your essay. In our tutorial, it threw up a conversation about the fact that the child’s mum was relying on the benefits and that’s never going to be the child’s fault.
We worked through an overview of the assignment and they broke down part one. We looked at different wider social factors that would affect a child’s well-being and we revised Bronfenbrenner’s model and then similar for part two. We looked at several services and practitioners and looked at different ways that they link with the social factors that we’d already spoken about. I think a lot of people in that tutorial are looking to go into teaching, so the conversation did go on to talking about how the practitioners within a school would pick up on these things.
We did a very quick referencing activity right at the end with a few simple examples of different ways people have referenced and we picked which we thought was the right one. The referencing activities are useful, and I know a lot of people do struggle with the referencing, but I wouldn’t put it in every tutorial. I don’t know if there could be referencing specific tutorials. I do know that people find it tricky and different modules want different ways of referencing. I almost sort of switch off when it gets to that point in the tutorial because I’m okay with referencing. My ideal tutorial would have more time focused on the actual essay question, I think, as some of the essay questions from the university are, as a rule, quite broad.
I’ve no idea of the ideal number of students for an online tutorial but the text box on the side goes quite quickly the more people are typing. I just spend a bit longer scrolling back to see what the questions are because sometimes, you can miss what someone’s written and the tutor’s answering a question that you’ve not read. But I did notice, the tutor was reading out questions before they answered them, and they’d say the person’s name who’d asked the question. So that worked quite well.
The person leading the tutorial, they don’t always get to answer all of the chat box questions because obviously, as it goes up and up and up, some questions get missed but the tutor who was looking after the chat box is my tutor and they were answering the questions that weren’t necessarily being answered vocally. I only used the text box for this one because I was slightly behind on the reading. I didn’t feel overly comfortable putting myself forward to answer questions because it wasn’t necessarily on things that I’d read yet.
It can be quite tricky to follow what is going on in the tutorial when one tutor is talking and the other is writing because I’m focusing on the text box waiting for an answer, but the two conversations are normally surrounding the same sort of topic or part of the essay.
I did use the microphone at the first tutorial. We introduced ourselves in the chat box and the tutor asked me to explain to everyone what my job role is. It was only a brief chat about myself and that was it. I normally would stick to a text box. The first tutorial was just the initial ‘Welcome to the module’ type, ‘This is what you can expect’ sort of thing. I think there were only 10 or 11 people.
With face-to-face tutorials, it’s a lot more personal. You can just get more into a conversation, rather than just listen to someone talking at you. Sometimes it’s slow online as well compared to face-to-face. I’ve only done one face-to-face one this year and in some way, and in the first online tutorial as well, they tailor it a bit more to the group that are there.
Tutorial 3 was fine because one of the hosts was my tutor. I’m a member of the Facebook group and advice on that the essay structure for the second assignment was so different from different tutors. My ideal tutorial would be with my own tutor, laying out exactly what they were expecting. Obviously, they can’t tell us exactly what to write, but just guide us down the right path. I think if the tutorials were more focused on the essay and what the tutors were expecting, then I think more people would feel a lot more confident when they were submitting because the general consensus on the Facebook group from this module isn’t very confident [slight laughter]. I wouldn’t choose to do one with any other tutors. If they give me advice and it’s the opposite of what my tutor wants, that would be quite a struggle.
I haven’t had any experience of small group work in online tutorials. In previous years, we did loads of small group work in the face-to-face but nothing ever online. If I’m sat with other people that are going into education or already work in education or even the tutor is from a social care background and I get the different experiences from different people, then yes, I enjoy group work. Some people don’t get as involved as others, which makes it awkward because you feel like you’re doing it all or you’re not getting as much out of it as you might if you worked with other people.
It would be helpful for a lot of people to see an example of what the higher-level writing is. Just an example of what they’re trying to teach you would be a lot clearer than just all of these different acronyms, like PEEL and PIE. Something that we did in another module was critiquing a bit of work, but it was only like a paragraph. We had to pick out whether the references were right or how else they could have worded certain parts. To do that activity in an online tutorial, there could be an excerpt of an essay up on the screen, so you’ve got like a visual of how it’s set out. Get the students to mark the screen and highlight a bit that was the right way of doing something. There’s lots of tools you can use in online rooms, isn’t there?