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Talking it through
When Stephen Hawking lost the ability to speak in 1985 he realised with great frustration that he could no longer talk through a problem with others and in so doing clarify his thoughts.
For a student to be able to talk through a subject with tutors and fellow students is a vital component of learning that risks being absent where e-Learning is supposed to provide all of that. Face to face in tutorials and at other events, such as in a debate or subject-some specific society is ideal. The next best thing is having formal a Google hang-out and other interactions that are live (synchronous) as well as asynchronous.
What is meant by a ‘tutorial’?
|From E-Learning V|
In my decade+ using these platforms (I first attempted a module of the Open & Distance Learning MA in 2000/2001)we’ve gone from ‘computer-based learning’ and ‘web-based learning’ to ‘online learning’ and ‘e-learning’ or ‘eLearning’. ‘MOOC’ (Massive Open Online Course’ is a dreadful term so ‘Free Online Course’ must surely be better?
It’ll pan out over the years.
I have come to like ‘hang-outs’ (a term coined by Google) as an informal online gathering. A lecture online, is by default something akin to a ‘TED lecture’ surely? Webinars are a reasonable catch-all and perhaps what becomes of an OU Live moderated sessions?
Regarding tutorials, though traditionally small groups, a tutor and one or two, maybe three students for an hour – it is these asynchronous conversations that match this where the role of ‘tutor’ is taken by the educators, but also by well-informed contributors – this can happen here. The learning effect is, I would say the same, or very similar. You offer thoughts, these are challenged, or people agree and add or amend them and in this way you ‘construct’ meaning. Constructivism is one of the older ‘learning theories’, whereas ‘connectivism’ is very much a product of learning like this.
These is called a blog platform, yet it has affordanced of what used to be called a ‘Bulletin Board’ (I did one of these with the OU in 2001. Think text messages strung together in a kind of Excel spreadsheet). A blog, for my money, has a modicum of independence of design, tools and sharing. Go see WordPress. I wouldn’t change much here though. I cherish the new things I learn from people on totally different courses, the company and support that I know is here too.
My thoughts on a FutureLearn MOOC on the Treaty of Versailles that tried to conclude the First World War
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.1. World War One: Paris 1991. A New World ...
The content here, how produced, presented and managed by FutureLearn is the perfect catalyst for a diversity of contributors. As interested in the strengths and weaknesses of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) as a platform, this from FutureLearn is showing the value of many connected minds coming together and feeding of each other. It strikes me that as people group around a line of thought, with the educators and contributors, the kernel of a tutorial forms: ideas are offered, shared, adjusted, politely corrected, fed, developed and consolidated.
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.2. The clean design style of Dorling-Kindersley
It intrigues me to understand what the formula for success is here: the simplicity and intuitive nature of the FutureLearn platform; a clarity that in multi-media terms reminds me of those Dorling-Kindersley books; the quality of the ideas professionally, creatively and unpretentiously presented … and a topic that has caught the Zeitgeist of the centenary commemorations of the First World War and its consequences rather than the chronology of the battles and the minutiae of military tactics.
For someone who has studied seven of the eight or nine Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) modules my continued interest in e-learning is diverse; it includes however not the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) per se, but rather ways to escape the technology in order to recreate or enable the qualities that come from the ‘Oxbridge Tutorial’.
Fig.3. An Oxbridge Tutorial (1960s)
I am specific here because these tutorials are not seminars, webinars or lectures, an ‘Oxbridge Tutorial’ is typically either one-to-one, the ‘great mind’, the ‘subject matter expert’ and his or her student or ‘acolyte’ or one to two or three. The standard pattern of these is for the students deliver a short essay, around 2000 words, on a single topic from a reading list. In theory all the participants write an essay but only one reads his or her essay out that everyone then discusses. The tutorial lasts an hour. You have one a week … per topic. Some tutors, the natural and committed educators extend these tutorials into informal settings, picking up the conversation at meals and in other settings.
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.4. Learning from others: an exchange of ideas
You cannot simply transpose this kind of ‘tutorial’ to the Internet in the commercial sense as the educator hasn’t the time to give, repeatedly, an hour of time to just one, or two or three students. This is not the model that can support the educational desires of the 5 million in the world who crave a university place. Certainly, these students need peace, a roof over their heads, food and political stability and of course the infrastructure and means to own and operate a device that can get them online … a tall enough order, but smart phones could be as cheap as £10 within ten years … but then, it will be through the kind of connectedness between students, moderated and catalysed by the experts that this ‘tutor-like’ learning experience can be created.
I see it in this MOOC. I have seen it with a variety of activities in OU modules.
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.5. My takes on ‘Connectivism’ as a burgeoning theory of learning
‘Connectedness’ is a learning theory developed and espoused by George Siemens.
The value of the OULive Session
With six OU modules under my belt, five MA ODE and one MBA module and a year working at the OU Business School my personal and in-house experience of these live tutor moderate sessions convinces me that, for all their foibles Elluminate before and OU Live now are vital tools – they can give you some of that residential school/tutorial feel but CRUCIALLY they are an often well needed injection of ‘humanity’ if I can put it that way: humour, friendship, sharing and even team building and committment. My very best experiences of the MA ODE have been during and after such sessions – I wonder therefore if I go back through this OU student blog I can identify a ‘bounce in my tone’ coming out of them. There may be stats that if nothing else coming into and leaving a Live session increases activity and improves motivation – even works in favour of commitment and seeing it through?
Sometimes the appeal of the Elluminate sessions was so great that we’d meet up in Google Hangouts too afterwards to keep it going … the most memorable, and ‘clean, open and honest’ in an OU student way, was the ‘pyjama party’ we had. A laugh and worthy as a ‘memory making’ experience – and this with people across several time zones. We clearly had amongst us something of a hyper-gregarious ‘party girl’ (not a sexist term I trust, would ‘party person’ be better? Anyway, it isn’t gender specific, more the outgoing, gregarious, organising, doing person).
So yes, a crucial ingredient that personally I feel should be right at the start of any module. Hear a person laugh or sneeze, get a sense of who we all are and buy into that natural inclination amongst us to want to learn together, help each other out and feel we belong to a thing.
To add to my experience of this I will keep signing up to things so it is about time I wrote this up … doing a traditional, on campus MA is an extraordinary contrast. I really feel that it had might as well be the 1960s: long reading lists, back to back lectures (I fall asleep in the afternoon) and picking an essay title every couple of months for assessment … but you chat over coffee and share a sandwich in the canteen and slowly form a bond, even if it’s as if we are fellow galley slaves and to graduate will require two years of rowing! And come to think of it, one of the impromptu ‘hang outs’ we did in an MA ODE module included food and drink …
What I miss was getting to know six or seven people as people – not the 2dimensional ‘Gravatar’ and biog, but, as it can slip out, a person doing ‘person’ things even as simple as ducking out to answer the door or put on the kettle. Though odd if you think of them as a formal learning gathering where in one case a fellow student always brought a plate of food to the session and the other tended to be in bed – once, LOL, with her grumbling husband at her side trying to read a book! People eh!?
This is the point, to a degree, the door just open a chink, you see a little bit into the lives of your fellow students.
And do we learn something? I don’t remember, but is the learning the LEAST important reason for doing these things?
Fascinating, but possibly a couple of years since I did one.
What is digital ‘academic’ scholarship? Should 19th and 20th century definitions even apply?
Martin Weller published ‘The Digital Scholar’ in 2011 on a Creative Commons Licence. You can download it for free, or purchase the book or eBook, and then do as you will with it. When I read it I share short excerpts on Twitter. I’ve blogged it from end to end and am now having fun with a simple tool for ‘mashing up’ designs called ‘Studio’. It’s a photo editing tool that allows you to add multiple layers of stuff. I rather see it as a revision tool – it makes you spend more time with the excerpts you pick out.
You cannot be so open that you become an empty vessel … you have to create stuff, get your thoughts out there in one way or another so that others can knock ’em down and make more of them. Ideas need legs. In all this ‘play’ though have I burried my head in its contents and with effort read it deeply? Do we invoke shallow learning and distraction with openness? If we each read the book and met for a tutorial is that not, educationally, a more focused and constructive form of ‘oppenness’?
In relation to scholarship shoulf the old rules, the ‘measures’ of academic prowess count? In the connected world of the 21st century ‘scholarship’ is able to emerge in unconventional ways, freed of the school-to-university conveyor belt.
Weller, M (2011) The Digital scholar
A forum is not a tutorial, yet it aspires to be so
First posted in my OU student blog 9 September 2010
I drag these back into the open, to give them an extended life off a platform that self distructs two years after graduation, but also as a theme comes up for discussion and I need to see where my head has travelled.
A forum is not a tutorial, yet it aspires to be so.
The tutor is afforded no more privileges than any other contributor, democratic, but hardly giving them the attributes or affordances of the ‘chair.’ (Although I’m sure they have some useful control and buttons behind the scenes!)
A tutorial works best one-to-one (like therapy), face-to-face, or in a small group, say six at most, discussing in an synchronous environment.
(James Turner, Policy Director at the Sutton Trust suggested supplementary tutoring of school students one-to-one was most common, two-to-one worked even better because of the collaboratory experience. BBC Radio 4 10.00 Tuesday 7th September 2010, Accessed again 16.00 Saturday 12th September 2010)
You get a cue from the tutor to speak or contribute while body language and human politeness typically results in each person making contributions. Often the person who says nothing for long spells has the most insightful contribution because they have been listening.
I respect the person who says nothing the most – they have the most to say.
Twelve or more is a class. This is an e-classroom.
Easy to define as such, just consider the numbers.
I have taught classes of forty+ in secondary schools and taken ‘classes’ of sixty (with assistance) in an eight lane swimming pool. Numbers mean something, one to one is perfection, with two to one you lose nothing (and academics suggest you probably gain).
Moving up from this … a tutor group in the real world might be six.
No surprises when things don’t work so well, whatever the affordances, or excuses of asynchronous learning/messaging when there are groups of twelve or more.
Asynchronous forums are not a listening environment, nor due to the limitations of an OU Forums affordances and attributes does in foster the kind of discussion you’d have in real life.
A suggested improvement would be:
1) Put the tutor in the chair and have this position reflected in the layout of and the way message ‘tumble’ into the forum.
2) Compress or concertina all messages by an individual so that the ‘weight’ of their message, either the frequency of contribution or length is not given prominence. i.e. the short, infrequent post has equal weight with the more verbose or frequent contribution. This mimics real life.
3) To make all things equal the images files and silhouettes are reduced in size, to a pinpoint if necessary. Their only relevance is to identify who is speaking or who spoke, in which case our names would do. I’d just as happily pick a character icon from the Monopoly or Cludo, my gender, face, mood at the time of the picture etc: are not only irrelevant but they are probably counter to my usual stern disposition.
4) Use something like Harvard’s ‘Rotisserie’ system, deploy games and other events tactically i.e hosts/tutors and other strategically deployed postgraduate and/or PhD students are invited in from time to time to make a contribution.
Some suggestions. Some ideas.
Does the learning ever end? Not in this family
I introduce an 85 year old to an iPad, he wants one for what he can read, spots Engestrom’s ‘From Knots to Networking’ and he doesn’t look back.
Here he is taking a tutorial on Hegel some 50 years ago.
How the iPad works is less interesting than the subject matter. He takes to his first touch screen with little introduction.
He set up ‘The School for Leaders’ in Poland some 20 years ago and thinks he can use Engestrom’s ideas; I bought this and a few other elearning related books. Googling his name he stumblesupon a gallery of pictures of himself he’d never known had been taken and decides he wants at least one of these for his biography so calls his son over as the book is due to be published in the New Year. Prof. Zbigniew Pelczynski makes for an interesting father in law; he’s not the only academic in the house, art history, philosophy and politics are always part of the conversation between meals, walks and picking through bundles of papers and journals that sit in stacks around the house.
As my daughter is thinking about A Levels that includes History and Philosophy she is invited to sit with her grandfather so they retire to another room and listening in to bits of it I overhear what by all accounts becomes her first tutorial. He has such a gentle touch, listening, showing interest in how she is schooled, what she knows, how she is taught.
I press on through Book 2 B822 and reach chapter 6. Through-out I think how I might apply the ideas.