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Christopher Douce

Working with the tutor website

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Every module has a student facing website which is likely to slightly change for every module presentation, and an accompanying tutor facing website. The ‘tutor website’, as I’ll call it, is a really important resource for any tutor who is tutoring a module.

This short blog post highlights some of the most important elements of a tutor website. Every version of a tutor website is slightly different, but is likely to contain a few common elements: one or more forum spaces, a space to access resources (which may, or may not, be also the forum areas), and a space to have online meetings (although the module team and you line managers might choose to use different rooms in some circumstances).

Tutor websites are ‘go to’ places if you have any questions about any element of the module that you’re tutoring. If you have been asked a question by a student, and you’re not sure how to answer it, you should feel free to ask for help on the tutor forum. Also, if you’re unsure how to interpret, or to mark an element of an assignment, you should also ask on the forum. Tutor websites are monitored by curriculum managers, which means they are able to quickly highlight issues to module team members, or even the module team chair.

You usually gain access to the tutor’s website through a link on the student’s version of the module website. Alternatively, your curriculum manager might send you a link, which you should then keep in a safe place. Two recommendations about how to do this are: save the email in a folder that relates your module, and save the link to the ‘your links’ section on TutorHome or to your dashboard.

Forums

Different modules will have different forums. One module might have one main forum, where all tutors exchange perspectives and experiences. Another module might have dedicated forum spaces for each of the TMAs. A recommendation is to have a look at each of these forum areas, and subscribe to each of them.

Subscribing to a forum means that you are sent an email message whenever anyone makes a post. The advantage of subscribing, and receiving an email notification is that your email account can give you an overview of what is happening and what questions are being asked. If you have a high level of email traffic, a practical suggestion is to set up an email filter, so forum messages are all sent to dedicated folders. Do refer to one of the other blogs here about effectively managing your IT. On the subject of forums, do also refer to another article that is about student facing tutor group forums.

Some modules will apply a single component assessment strategy, where module performance is assessed purely through TMA scores. If your module adopts this approach, you might have to carry out what is known as a coordination exercise, which may take place either within a dedicated forum, or on a dedicated forum thread. The aim of the coordination exercise is to ensure that all tutors are marking to the same standards. If you are unsure whether this applies to your module, do speak with your line manager.

Activity

Find an equivalent of a tutor’s café forum. A café forum can be thought of as an informal space where views, opinions and experiences can be shared. If you can’t find a café forum, go to the main module forum area. Look for a thread where tutors introduce themselves. If you can’t find one, start one by posting anew message. When you have made the post, make sure you subscribe to the forum area to you can see everyone’s reply.

On some tutor websites, there might be a forum that is used by tutors to share tutorial resources, such as PowerPoint files, and accompanying resources, such as handouts, which might be in the form of Word documents. Sometimes, tutorial resources might be shared within the resources section, or through another tool, which is known as a Wiki.

Activity

Find out whether your tutor website has a forum where tutorial resources area shared. Identify a couple of discussion threads where sharing takes place, downloading some PowerPoint resources. Open these resources, and consider how a tutor might use this PowerPoint resource within a tutorial.

Resources

As well as being a space to get help and support, the tutor’s website is also a space for the module team to share some essential resources for tutors. For every TMA there will be a set of accompanying tutor notes. These notes, which typically take the form of a Word document, offers exacting guidance about how each student’s TMA should be marked. As well as offering a summary of the marks that should be allocated, they also offer guidance about what answers are acceptable, and what kind of feedback should be offered. The tutor notes represents the offical ‘line’ from the module team about what is acceptable and what isn’t. The role of the tutor is to interpret the student’s submission, the module team’s tutor notes, and to provide constructive comments to help to facilitate learning.

Activity

Find the tutor notes for the next TMA. Download a copy of it, and then get a printout of them if you feel this is an approach that might works for you. Read through the notes, highlighting sections that you feel you need to pay close attention to. You might want to consider highlighting important parts of the marking scheme. 

When I start marking, I always begin with a new printout of the tutor notes. I usually print them double sided, with two pages on a side, just to save a bit of paper, and staple them all together. I also get a printed copy of the TMA questions, so I have them side-by-side. I highlight key sections, but sometimes add my own handwritten notes. By the time I have finished marking, my own set of tutor notes look to be a bit torn and ragged.

Some module teams use the Resources section of the tutor websites share additional resources, such as a link to a set of frequently asked questions, or FAQs, or a set of links to any other documents that may offer further background materials that might help with the marking and the provision of feedback.

Activity

Look for a discussion about one of the TMA questions a forum area. What issues are being discussed? Has the issue been resolved? Have there been any contributions by the module chair or the curriculum manager?

Tutor rooms

Since tutor websites are editable VLE websites, sometimes the module team will add an online room, which can be used to hold module wide meetings. When a module is presented for the first time, the module chair, curriculum manager and other members of the module team will run what is known as a module briefing. This is where the module team highlights some of the key elements of a module design, summarising its structure and assessment strategy.  Module wide meetings may also be sometimes. used to prepare for exam and EMA marking.

Activity

Find out if your tutor website has a module meeting room. If one is available, click on a link that allows you to view a summary of previous recordings. What recordings can you see? Do you notice a recording of any module briefing?

A note about Netiquette

The tutor websites forums are incredibly helpful. If you have a question, no matter how difficult, invariably there will be some tutors who will be able to offer some practical advice to help you out. The tutor forums only work when everyone is willing to share experiences with each other. If you post a question to the tutor forums, do be prepared to answer other questions that are posted. The effectiveness of these spaces relies on everyone being willing to contribute.

Also, if you download a tutorial resource that has been shared by a fellow tutor and wish to modify it, and make use of it in your own tutorial, do acknowledge whoever it was who created the original version. If you do make improvements or enhancements to a resource, do also consider sharing your updated version with your fellow tutors.

Reflections

The tutor website is one of my ‘go to’ places.

I access it before the start of a new presentation and find myself accessing it regularly throughout the academic year, mostly to access, review and respond to posts that are made on the tutor’s forum. I might, of course, access the site to download updates to the tutor notes. 

A tutor website is used as a repository for resources. If you need inspiration for an upcoming tutorial, the Tutor website is likely to contain presentations that have been prepared by the module team and fellow tutors.

It is a place to visit to ask questions and to highlight issues. If you notice an issue with some module materials, or marking guide, to make a post to one of the forums. Similarly, if you have a student asking questions about the module materials, or the module, that you don’t entirely know how to respond to: ask a question. There will always be a response, often within hours of sharing your point or posting your question.

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