Student Hub Live. February, 1st 2017. Part 12 – Tutor Q&A session


[MUSIC PLAYING] KAREN: We’ve been
talking a lot today in this refreshers week
about the relationship between student and
tutor, which we’ve agreed is very, very important. And on your screen you’re going
to see three widgets, where we’d like you to fill in. How often do you usually
contact your tutor? Now if you’re a new
student, you may not know. So you can maybe
put what you think would be the right
answer in that for you. We’ve also asked about your
three main study concerns. Now if you don’t have three–
if you’ve only got one or two, just put a full stop
in the other boxes so that you can
submit your answer. Also, how confident do you feel
about contacting your tutor? So, very confident,
fairly, confident, or not very confident at all. We’d love to know
your thoughts on that. And in this Q&A session
we’re going to try and answer any question you throw at us. So if there’s something
outstanding, let us know. But I’ve asked Jonquil
Lowe– and welcome Jonquil to the studio. Thank you for coming. I’ve asked you to prepare
all of your common questions that students normally
ask you, and also the ones that they don’t ask you, which I
think is even more interesting. But you’re a senior
lecturer here in the Faculty of Arts
and Social Sciences, and you teach in economics. And you’ve been a
tutor for a long time. JONQUIL LOWE: Gosh,
about 10 years now. KAREN: It feels
like a long time. So often now, students
are being allocated tutors right at this moment
in time, and some, as we were talking about
earlier with Georgina, may have been with their
tutor for quite a while. But the assessment may be
getting a bit more tricky. So I wondered what
sorts of things students would tend to ask
about their tutor– maybe if they didn’t know
anything about the Open University, or even what a tutor
or a associate lecturer was. JONQUIL LOWE: I think there’s
actually a lot of confusion if you’re completely
new to the OU as to just what your tutor is there for. And your tutor is
there to support you during your studies,
and to help you engage with the materials
in your module, but also developing your
skills as a student. And ultimately
helping you develop as an independent learner– though that’s not going to
happen in your first module. It’s a gradual journey. KAREN: It is. It’s all very well
planned, isn’t that? But Georgina was telling us
about tutors being allocated to students, and the importance
of students making contact with their tutors. And she also said that most
tutors will work part time for the Open University. But I wondered if you could say
something about the grouping. So how many students would
a tutor normally have? I mean, how well might
students be expected to get to know their tutor? JONQUIL LOWE: OK. So typically a tutor might
have around about 20 students. So it’s quite a small group. And you as a student,
you get a chance to know the other
students as well, partly online through forums. But also your tutor might be
running face to face tutorials, or tutorials in an
online classroom. So you get a chance
to get to know the other students in your
group, not just your tutor. KAREN: And you might also get
to know other tutors as well, because sometimes you
might have sessions where you’re taught in a team. So whilst your tutor’s
marking your work, you may have access
to other tutors. Why is that a good thing? JONQUIL LOWE: Right. Well, as you said, most of
our teachers are part time. And I think that’s
actually a huge strength, because most of them come
from the industry that’s related to the discipline
you’re studying. So they’ve not just got
that academic knowledge. They’ve got that hands-on
knowledge as well about applying that
subject to the real world. And you’re going
to tap into that as you get to know the
tutors in the cluster. You’re going to get to know
all those different angles. So I think it’s a really, really
positive, good experience. But you will have that
special relationship with your own tutor,
who is the one that is going to mark your
work, and is the one to go to if you’ve got problems. KAREN: So while students are
enjoying their relationship with their tutor, how
is that manifested? I mean, Peter was telling
us about assessments, and that tutors will often
be marking about 45 minutes to an hour on students’
individual tutor marked assignments. So they give them quite
detailed feedback. Is that something that’s
consistent throughout the module that each student is on? JONQUIL LOWE: Well, pretty much. So I mean that’s pretty much
a hallmark of study at the OU, is you do get this
fantastic one to one relationship with the
tutor who is looking at your work in detail,
and not simply giving you a mark, which to be
honest is in some ways the least important part
of the assessment process. What they’re giving you
is a lot of feedback about how to develop
as a student, how to become better
at your subject. So I sometimes call it
feedforward, not feedback, because it’s all
about you developing. And at the OU you
really do get a lot of that one to one teaching,
albeit at a distance, often much more
than you would get in a conventional university. KAREN: So a tutor might then
learn what a student’s doing, and might be able to
track their progress, and say you’re doing better at
this, or this is doing well. But each assignment is also
testing very different skills, isn’t it? JONQUIL LOWE: Yes. The assignments,
though, are created in a very structured way. So you’re progressing
your skills as you go through
the assignments. For sure, some of
the content matter may be that subject in that TMA,
this subject in the next TMA. But you’re also developing
this underlying set of skills as well, which is building
on what you’ve done in the previous assignments. But your interaction with your
tutor, I must stress this. It’s not just about assignments. So you talked about that
initial contact with your tutor. It’s really important. So when your tutor
is assigned to you, the next step is your tutor
will get in touch with you. And I would really
encourage students to respond to that contact. So your tutor will probably
say something like welcome to the module,
and give some idea of how you can contact them,
and when they’ll be available. Most tutors, let’s say,
well, they work part time. So you can’t really expect
them to be available 24/7. But most tutors
will respond to you if you email them within
a couple of days at most. And many, because
they’re working, they perhaps have their
email on all the time, they’ll respond immediately. Or you might prefer to
contact a tutor by text, say, or mobile phone,
or pick up the phone. Your tutor is open to
contact with you in the way that you are most
comfortable with. KAREN: What are the
important things, then, that one should
know about students? So if you’re a student,
what should you be telling your tutor
in this sort of contact, maybe when you’re replying
to their welcome email? JONQUIL LOWE: OK. Well, I mean as a tutor one
of the things that I usually do at the beginning
is to ask students what their aspirations
are, and what things they’re worried about. And I mean it’s
quite interesting. So there are two things
that most students are worried about. One is often essay writing,
because perhaps they haven’t done that since school. And the other is
time management. And I mean that is a big one for
our students, because about 3/4 of our students are working. Lots are bringing
up family as well. If you’re a part-time distance
student, almost by definition you’ve got a lot on your plate. And time management is going
to be something that you’re going to become very good at. KAREN: When we’ve asked people
watching now about their three main study concerns, by
and large time management is the thing that’s most
prominent for people, in addition to things
like understanding, forum engagement, keeping up. So there’s a lot going on
in terms of skills, I guess, and things that people are
going to have to juggle. JONQUIL LOWE: I
mean, time management is an interesting one. And it’s one of the
reasons why it’s really good to develop that
relationship with your tutor. Don’t feel shy about
contacting them. Because by far and away
the most common query that I get from students
is can I have an extension? So the TMA cutoff
date is coming up. And the student kind
of realises, oops, I’m not going to be
able to squeeze that in. I’ve got overtime this week, and
all sorts of things going on. So that’s a really,
really common request. Now as a tutor, I
mean, an extension of, say, a week I will
give without question. If a student wants
a longer extension, it’s problematic from the
sense that if you get behind with your studies it
has a knock-on effect. So it’s important to
talk to your tutor about why you need
the extension. It’s not simply can I
have it, but digging to those underlying reasons. And there’s a lot your
tutor can do to help you. So you mentioned the
questions students don’t ask. The one they don’t ask
about is substitution, mainly because they
don’t realise it’s there, or don’t understand what it is. So not every module,
but a lot of modules, operate substitution, which
means that for at least one or maybe one out of
two of your TMAs, you will be able to
have a mark which is the average of your
scores across all your TMAs, rather than the actual
mark for the TMA if that mark would have
been lower than the average. Now it happens automatically. But the way you can use
it with time management is it means that if a
TMA is substitutable, then if you’re really
pushed for time that’s a TMA where
you might say, well, OK, I haven’t got
time to do it properly. But I could put at
least something in and get a few marks. Or in the extreme,
you might say, well, OK I think I’m just
going to miss that TMA. And it means that when it all
comes to the final reckoning, you don’t actually
get 0 for that TMA. You get the substitution mark. So it’s a kind of
tactic you can use. Obviously if you
miss a TMA, you’re going to pull down
that average score. But particularly at level one,
where you either pass or you fail, so there’s a 40% cutoff. If you pass your TMA, or
your continuous assessment as a whole, then that’s fine. But we don’t have
classifications at level 1. So it doesn’t count
towards the classification of degree you eventually get. So it doesn’t determine
whether you get a 2.1 or a 2.2. What’s important at
level 1 is passing. So sometimes that’s
another time management technique you can use,
is just to perhaps lower your own aspirations. I mean we all perhaps like
to compete with ourselves and do the best we can. But sometimes
tactically, at level 1, all you really need to focus
on is passing your modules. KAREN: I was talking to
Peter Taylor earlier. We did a assessment
101, and we were talking about the importance of
reading the assessment guides, and understanding the
structure of a module. And this is where if there
was substitution available to that module, because it
doesn’t happen in all of them, that would be
outlined, as well as the weighting of the
various assignments that would form up the
overall assessment. JONQUIL LOWE: We’ve got the
DD102 website open here, which is a very big module. So quite a lot of certainly
the social sciences students might be
looking at this. So what you really
want to look at is assessment up
in that top tab. And there we go. We open it up. Now the important things
here are assessment guidance, which is the guidance that’s
specific to your modules. So that’s where
you’re going to find those weightings of your
TMAs, and any special rules for your particular module. So sometimes, for
example, assignments will have quite
tight word counts. It’s quite deliberate. It’s to make you prioritise and
think about what’s important, and structure your arguments
with tight, concise wording. So students are often
very concerned about what counts towards this word count. What about a table, a diagram? All of those kind of things. So in this module-specific
assessment guidance, there will often be things
like tables perhaps don’t count towards the word count. So that’s where you would look
for that specific guidance. If we just go back
to assessment, you’ll see at the bottom there’s
also this social sciences assessment information. And that’s more
general, the kind of rules that whatever
module you’re on, that those rules apply. KAREN: So if someone’s
looking at this, then, in terms of contacting their
tutor, because maybe they read this and they don’t
really understand substitution, or the implications of it. Or even perhaps the
learning design. You mentioned maybe
not doing a good job, but doing a little bit of a job. Because sometimes you can
learn something really valuable that may benefit a
later piece of work. So would that be
something, then, that you could talk
to your teacher about? JONQUIL LOWE:
Yeah, very much so. And what your tutor
might do, I mean if you know you’re really
busy at the moment, maybe you’re moving
house or something. So you know it’s
pressurised at the moment, but later on you’ll
have a bit more time, what your tutor might do is help
you focus on particular bits of the module now, and direct
you to what might be most important right now. But then after that crisis,
that time management crisis, you can go back later,
and then pick up and do a more thorough job. KAREN: And if you’re
using that study planner, you can tick off your progress,
so you can go back to it. We asked how often people would
usually contact their tutor– often, occasionally, or never. Do your students contact you
as often as you would like, Jonquil? Right. JONQUIL LOWE: It varies
a lot with students. Some students never,
ever get in touch. Some students it’s
a real struggle to even make that first contact. And I have to say
I’m persistent. If a student doesn’t
reply to the email, then I try phoning and texting,
and goodness knows what. I’ve had some lovely chats
with mums and dads as well. Get them to call me when they’re
back in from their festival. But other students kind
of fall into the pattern more easily of contacting the
tutor when they have a problem. And it might be quite regular. So perhaps before every TMA
they might be in touch just to check have I understood
the question correctly, and this, that, and the other. KAREN: So we asked you how
often you would normally contact your tutor. Jonquil, let’s see
what people have said. 85% have said occasionally,
with 8% often, and 8% never. JONQUIL LOWE: OK. Well actually,
that’s pretty good. That’s much better
than I expected. But I would say to the
8% who said never, you’re not doing it right. KAREN: Well yes. Although I’ve had students who
very successfully have managed to complete their study just
through being very, very conscientious with
very little contact. But also, there’s this issue
about not only just contacting, but often there’s a reason
why people aren’t contacting that may be due to confidence. So we asked how
confident people feel about contacting their tutor. Let’s see what people said
before we discuss this further. The choices were very
confident, fairly confident, or not confident. So 46% said they felt very
confident, although as I said, we have a conscientious
group of students often at the Student Hub Live. 31% fairly confident, and
23% not very confident. Is this a representative
sample, Jonquil, of how you think
most students feel about contacting their
tutor, bearing in mind these are occasionally in touch? JONQUIL LOWE: Yeah. I think that’s probably
about right, actually. I think a lot of students
are a bit fearful. And it could be you’re right,
the 8% who never get in touch, maybe they don’t need the
tutor, and that is fair enough. But some of those, that
may be a confidence issue. There are obviously some there
who aren’t confident, but are nonetheless getting in touch. So that’s good. They’re overcoming their fear. And I think usually once
you’ve broken the ice, it’s like any situation. Strangers are always a bit
intimidating, aren’t they? So once you’ve broken
the ice, once you’ve got to know your tutor,
then your confidence builds. KAREN: We’re getting
short on time so I’m going to cross-reference
to tell you about a session we did about when to contact
your student support team, and when to contact
your tutor, which is available on the catch up. But broadly, Jonquil,
is there a time when it’s inappropriate to
field something to your tutor, if you’re not sure
whether you should be in touch with your student
support team and your tutor? Do you ever get offended if
people ask you a question that’s maybe isn’t
quite meant for you? JONQUIL LOWE: No. No. I mean, your tutor
is really there to help you with
the module itself. So the academic content,
and with your study skills. But your tutor is also
a kind of one stop shop. Because if you’ve got a
query that’s not something the tutor will deal
with, the tutor will know or find out
who you should contact. So if your computer system
is playing up, they will say, OK, here’s the IT
help desk number. Call them. And with other issues it might
be your student support team that you should contact. But that’s fine. Your tutor will just say,
yeah, that’s one for them. KAREN: Brilliant. Are there any last
words of wisdom you’ve got for students out there about
making the most of their tutor? JONQUIL LOWE: Well I
think that’s actually, you’ve really said it yourself. Do make the most of your tutor. You tutor is there to help. And so pull your tutor
into your support system. KAREN: And they
can always tell you if you’re asking
too many questions. JONQUIL LOWE: I’m
sure they never would. KAREN: No, I don’t think
I’ve ever said that to any of my students. But yeah absolutely. Jonquil, thank you so
much for joining me today. It’s really nice to
see tutors, and to hear how much they really do
want you to get in contact. So if you are that percentage
who aren’t in so much contact, do make the most of them. As Jonquil says, they’re
often in institutions and applications that may be
very relevant to a field you may want to go into. So do pick their
brains about things. Sophie and HG. All all right over there? Has everyone had their dinners? Is everyone happy? Have we seen enough
fluffy animals for today? HJ: Not too sure about that. It keeps popping up. SOPHIE: That, and My Little
Pony again, funny enough. KAREN: It’s silly
time, isn’t it? SOPHIE: We have had some
very nice comments in. Gail has said that she was
reluctant to phone her tutor if she has a complex query. She figured they’d rather
consider their reply than do it on the
fly as phone call. Would you agree, Jonquil? JONQUIL LOWE: Well, I think your
tutor will make a judgement. It may be a query
that’s complex, but it may be something
they’ve come across before, and so perhaps can give
you an answer straightaway. But if not, I mean, that’s fine. Your tutor will probably say,
well, I don’t know offhand, but I’ll find out and phone
you back, or email you back. So it’s fine. However complex
your query, I think you should still get in touch. KAREN: Oh, definitely. But there’s something
about the process of writing and articulating
sometimes, isn’t there? That when you sit down and
think I’ve got these questions, and sometimes if I’ll say, can
you email me what they are, it gives students an
opportunity to actually consider things, and often
answer things themselves in the process of doing that. But also it can give me time to
think about some of the things I might want to bring to that. So it can be a good way of
initiating the conversation. But as you say,
Jonquil, sometimes it’s nicer to have a conversation
on the phone about it. JONQUIL LOWE: It is. Yeah, and sometimes
your tutor actually isn’t going to answer
your questions out right, but actually might
start asking you questions that are
designed to make your mind think in
a different way, or go down a different channel. So it’s kind of a
two-way process. It’s good. KAREN: Excellent. Well Jonquil, I’m afraid that’s
all we’ve got time for tonight. But thank you very much. Right. We’re going to
have a short video. We’re going to talk about
what is a forum in this video. So that will give you
an outline, particularly important for new
students who may not be used to Open University forums. And then we’re going to come
back with some life science with Nick in about five minutes. So we’ll see you very soon. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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