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Online one to one tutoring for school children

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On the BBC news last night, I saw a brief extract of what was supposed to be online tutoring.  It all looked quite slick in terms of the quality of the picture and the tutor seemed empathetic but it seemed to be an example of the constraints of using a tool that provides a webcam of the tutor rather than a Whiteboard as in Adobe Connect.  The tutor held up a piece of paper that had a sentence on and asked the school pupil what mistakes there were (some words that should have been in capitals were in lower case).  She had to check the learner could see and it probably was not very clear.  With Adobe Connect, this can be put on the whiteboard, which would be clearer.  She then asked the learner how to correct it.  Again Adobe Connect might look less slick but would have the affordance of allowing the learner to be able to correct it themselves by using the "draw" tool.

It seems worrying that money is being spent on online tutoring tools that seem superficially "modern" but a less spectacular looking platform like Adobe Connect (or OU Live and Elluminate - previous OU tools) would be better in terms of pedagogy and allowing learners to do more themselves.

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Intensity and online tutorials

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Last Saturday, I had two online tutorials and was again struck by how intense they seem to be compared to face to face teaching.  There were several instances that struck me in this regard.

In the first tutorial, there were originally three students.  One suddenly disappeared and I was left wondering why that was.  She has not written since to explain so I am left slightly mystified.  Did she have technical problems?  If so, why not write to explain?  Did she think she was not getting what she wanted? 

Then during the rest of the tutorial, there were two students.  I know one quite well as he is in my tutor group and we have met face to face.  This means I feel comfortable pitching content to his level and interests.  We can refer back to previous conversations, his TGF contributions and assignments.  The other student was unknown to me which means I was having to react to any clues I could obtain about whether what I was doing was too quick/slow, complex/simple and my judgements were not helped by the way she was keener to use the textbox facility than speak.  She was also influenced by the way her family was in the room and sometimes this would presumably have affected her concentration.  My student was very sensitive to the dynamics and was keen to not dominate and eventually, it seemed like there was useful discussion and learning taking place.

The group for the afternoon tutorial was larger and this in some ways led to even greater diversity.  Three students only used text box chat and one of these hardly even used that and so I have no idea whether she obtained anything useful from the tutorial as I have no clue about her starting level and level of understanding of what we did.  However, the three who did use the microphones were engaged. I had not met any of the students before but one was in my tutor group so I did know something about her.  It seemed like we were able to do work where the students discussed issues in quite an exploratory way.  There was use of speech and text boxes as well as the drawing tool in the whiteboard so there was a rich multimodal communication.

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Associate Lecturer Assembly

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 23 Nov 2018, 10:03

I have been spending the day at the Associate Lecturer Assembly.

There was a brief talk by Mary Keller, the Acting Vice Chancellor, followed by a more extended discussion.  She was persuasive and quite inspiring in some ways.  She seems very committed to the vision of the Open University making a difference to students’ lives.  She also seems flexible about ways of working, including the continuance of face to face as well as online tuition.  I certainly feel more optimistic about the OU’s future than under the previous VC.

We were also updated on the prospect of an AL contract.  There has been discussion of the for nearly two decades but it now looks more likely than at any previous time.  This should make the position of tutors more secure.

In the afternoon, there was an interesting talk by Cath Brown, President of the Open University Students Association.  We discussed the issue of whether we thought we should encourage students to use microphones rather than text chat in online tutorials.  I tend to think it should depend on context but the widespread use of text chat in online tutorials can be useful but is very tiring for the tutor if they need to speak and monitor and in these cases, tutorials should be kept to one hour in length.

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Adobe connect session

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 6 Apr 2018, 17:19

Last night's session for E304 (Exploring English Grammar) was interesting.  The students coped well with what are quite complex concepts, related to mode.

It was noticeable that many of the students did not have working microphones and this poses some challenges for the teacher.  It makes getting feedback particularly slow.  Students can write in text boxes and I can see that a student is in the process or writing, it is hard to predict when they are going to finish writing and what they are likely to say.

I quite enjoy online tutorials but they are often very intense for the tutor as they need to think about what they are going to say as well as monitoring chat boxes, remembering who can be called on to speak (as they do have working microphones) and manipulating slides and working the whiteboard at the same time.

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Elluminate compared to Adobe Connect

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:20
I had a go with using Adobe Connect a few days ago.  It seems quite simple compared to Elluminate.  This is both good and bad.  From the point of view of students having problems connecting, Adobe Connect seems more successful but it seems to be more limited pedagogically.
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