Achieving Student Centred Facilitation in Online Synchronous Tutorials

Diane Butler
The Open Univeristy, United Kingdom

Lynda Cook
The Open Univeristy, United Kingdom

Vikki Haley-Mirnar
The Open University, United Kingdom

Catherine Halliwell
The Open University, United Kingdom

Louise MacBrayne
The Open University, United Kingdom


The advent of digital capabilities in synchronous communication technologies has enabled the UKOU STEM faculty to move much of its tutorial provision from a face-to-face setting online. Direct observation, in this study, of around 70 hours of online tuition has revealed that the ethos of student centred facilitation, which previously characterised most OU face to face tutorial provision has now largely been lost. Despite the affordances of interactive tools within the platform used for tuition (Adobe Connect), staff delivering synchronous online tuition have largely adopted a didactic approach with a focus on content to cover. Interviews with staff in this study reveal significant frustration that students are not more active participants within tutorials and describe how their best effects to foster staff to student and student-to-student interactions frequently meet with failure. Student satisfaction with tuition experiences, however, is high with most students describing tutorials as highly valuable to their learning. In addition, data analytics reveal that many students make significant use of recordings of synchronous tutorials and frequently, by choice, rarely attend sessions live. Student surveys and in-depth interviews with students and staff reveal a lack of shared understanding of the role of tutorial provision within our distance-learning context.

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