David McDade Post 1• 18 May 2020, 15:50 • Edited by Nigel Gibson on 19 May 2020, 09:59
Section 4, Activity 3
This thread is for section 4, activity 3
What is appealing about the tutor role?
Teaching in computing and communications remotely is different from classroom instruction. In this activity, you should consider the tools that you have experience with to work remotely. How might you use these in teaching?
Activities you could consider are using online tools to debug code, screen sharing, use of development tools, asking questions, or using the phone.
Select an idea, how could the effectiveness of the idea be increased?
These are examples of the types of posts we might expect to see:
"Key things that appeal to me, are that the role is part time, so I can fit it around my other work and family commitments. It gives me the opportunity to work with students focusing on their individual needs rather than preparing learning material for large groups. This maps well to online tools as I can use these effectively for small group teaching, at evenings at weekends without additional travel. I can interact using voice, video and text chat. I can use interactive white board activities to engage students and observe how they solve problems, so I can offer hints about their next steps."
Use the "Reply" button below to contribute to this discussion.
(Image CC BY-SA 2.0 Flickr user Andrew Filer https://www.flickr.com/photos/afiler/)
In my experience, the "difficulty" of subjects like mathematics or programming are that although they are "expositional" in nature - i.e. there are underlying theories or techniques that suit a "lecturing" environment, the "real learning" occurs when attempting to apply that learned theory - by attempting problems or writing some code or developing a design. This could be address at first by working through an example, sharing a screen with a debugger/development environment fro example. When the students attempt the problems themselves, it may be more appropriate to use conferencing tools to allow collaboration. Individual students may also want one-to-one help via, say, Skype or telephone.
Welcome to the course and the forum, and it is good to see that you are already making progress and posting on the activity threads.
Perhaps you could also post on the introduction thread, saying a little about what you would like to get out of the course and any general questions you might have about the course.
I think the tutor role appeals to me because it is a much more personal experience than large lecture halls. On a practical note, I have always enjoyed being involved in many things – teaching, consultancy, education, etc. The OU tutor role seems to be an identity that is compatible with lots of others. It feels like you can be an OU tutor at the same time as being many other things!
The working remotely aspects are very interesting to think about because many of the tools that you can use to help deliver activities online will actually be useful for computing students to learn. For example, using code repositories for sharing examples or using IDEs that allow pair programming, such as Atom, are going to be useful tools for the student to know about.
When I am learning something new, I use video a lot. I find it very therapeutic to record what I am doing, describe it, and then share it on video sharing sites. Also, because you are narrating as you record, you are thinking about what you are doing. My videos are not very professional, because their purpose is solely for myself - in helping me learn new concepts. It is a happy coincidence that other people seem to stumble across them find them useful too. This approach of recording as you do could be adapted to a teaching scenario, students could be asked to record their screen to help them learn what they are doing – but then you could also feedback on these recordings.
I have not even begin to write my own response to this activity yet, but wanted acknowledge what an awesome study tip that is. Even if not physically recording by video, to record in someway how you are doing what you are doing as if to teach someone else must have a huge benefit to the way you process it. I may try this myself, thank you :)
I think if I am being truly honest what appeals to me is the opportunity to give back in a way that I can work around both my family and my educational commitments, as I wish to continue studying when I have completed my undergraduates. I would be coming to the role with the skills that I have experienced and come to expect throughout my study. using the online classrooms through adobe, telephone, email and as I flourish in the Discord environment for its synchronous and asynchronous communication maybe using a secured server to speak with my students.
In my experience in the STEM club and on the group work for TM254, the environment is relaxing and helps build relationships as in real life. It also encourages engagement and flexibility between those communicating. It would make it easier to highlight to me, as a tutor, the things that I need to focus on in tutorials, and ultimately help the students attain the goal of succeeding in the module.
I and curious at heart and a life long learner, learning new things and the idea of tutoring interested adult learners with well prepared material appeals to me. I find computing and Mathematics an interesting broad subject area and like the ability of being able to study modules. From my experience in education I had to create many lessons a week as well as teach and this can affect the work/life balance. The ability to work part-time and remotely fits with where I am in life, using email and other methods to respond back to students and colleagues at a suitable time for myself. I am used too and welcome real-time online tutorials, this prevents feeling isolated and promotes teamwork.
I have gotten used to working and collaborating remotely using technology in work, e.g. MS Sharepoint and source-code repositories. Communicating with my staff or colleagues over audio and visual and sharing content in both directions using tools such as MS Teams. In most of my recent roles I have used Whatsapp and latterly Discord to setup formal or informal work groups e.g. a major incident group, there are privacy problems with doing this (private mobile numbers) and I hope Adobe Connect forums has this functionality and better privacy features.
In the past I been lucky to have access to virtual labs for testing purposes and online debugging tools. It would be good that all tutors and students have access to such tools from their home and have the ability to share such an environment, real-time, between tutor and students or just the students themselves . I have not used Adobe Connect but I also hope it has the ability to record both audio and video from whiteboard sessions.
Finally, it would be great if students had access to all OU resources on their smartphones, so they can access them when it is convenient.
I have never used virtual labs. They look like a wonderful resource for learning/teaching, but my only concern is that they need to be endorsed by OU if not required in the module content. Using them on a personal initiative of the tutor would raise issues. But yes virtual labs are great! However, the ones I saw on internet were for activities performed by an individual. Do collaborative virtual labs exist?
What appeals to me in this role is the opportunity that it offers to support students in their academic journeys. From reading about the success stories of some OU graduates, I know how important getting a degree means to them. So, being able to contribute to making their dreams happen inspires me.
In my previous role as a Demonstrator, I supported students in a face-to-face setting during practical sessions as they engaged with their worksheets. So, with respect to supporting students in remote settings, online debugging tools, screenshots of codes, screencasting and use of Adobe connect will come handy.
I’m curious to find out from the experienced OU STEM Tutors here, how effective they have found the use of discussion forums in tutoring the students? I reckon that the discussion forum will also be a good way to remotely engage with students, as more students can benefit from a single post.
Hi Emmanuel, I've jumped in here to say hello because we "met" (virtually) earlier this year, it's great to see you here! :-)
Discussion forums can be a very useful way of supporting students - and I think that's slightly different to "tutoring" students because (in my view) one is passive and the other is active. Working with groups of OU students isn't like working with students at a brick university or with children at school, we support learners rather than directing/instructing/"teaching" them. Of course, we do a bit of the latter but not as much as I might do in another university. And you are spot on, sometimes a single post in a forum will help a group of students. The evidence of that is probably in this forum isn't it? Participants are learning from each other without - always - directly contributing to a particular discussion.
Hear, hear! Some of my research has looked the way individual interactions on forums like Stack Overflow have the potential to reach many more developers who are solving programming problems on their own. The interactions may have a more profound impact on the direct participants, but they are useful also to the larger group.
I reckon this is not unlike a group discussion in a classroom. I don't always need to directly ask the question of the lecturer, I gain a lot just by being there. Still, it seems to me that in a classroom environment there are ways to peripherally participate (through nods and shakes of the head or verbal assent disagreement) that don't exist online.
Is it the role of an AL to generate and sustain discussion online, and are there ways they stimulate this peripheral participation?
Is it the role of an AL to generate and sustain discussion online, and are there ways they stimulate this peripheral participation?
This can vary a lot from module to module. Some will have forum-based activities, such as programming challenges in TM111, where tutors will be given responsibility to support the activities.
In most modules the forums are run by moderators who will support students in a similar way to the way Jenny and I are supporting you this forum.
I agree with you about the AWS vitual machines, GitHub and Datacamp. Great learning and collaborative tools. But in order to use them they must be endorsed by the OU. If these existed when I took the IT Computing courses and they were prescribed by the module content, it would have made the learning much easier and relevant to current technology.
Briefly, the interest in becoming a tutor is two-fold:
- Some of my best learning experiences were while undertaking my degree course, not only did I meet really interesting people, many form part of my professional network today, and have supported my gaining new roles.
- The ability to impart knowledge gained, and to give something back by making a difference.
Wow, you have hit a high bar here, I am 90% mathematics and 10% software knowledgeable, leaving little room for system knowledge other than the parts intertwined with mathematics, I have now almost completed all my level 1 courses with the OU towards a BSC in mathematics and will be starting M208 in October, the courses you gave us to look at were level 2, level 3 and post graduate, although I found the material you chose quite interesting and I understood the subjects being discussed and I could reassemble the architecture of a two tier system in real life (simply put, the shopkeepers till rings up £20 for the goods that I have brought and I hand the shopkeeper a twenty pound note for the goods and he lets me leave the shop, he does the same for many other customers) but I must admit in this section it was still such a high bar for me.
I feel from a previous section that Stage 1, as an AL at the present time would be my limit otherwise I would not be giving the student or the OU the best I could achieve, as a tutor, I simply believe it is important to know your limits and express these to your employer as this is the best scenario for the student and of course as your knowledge increases then along with support from your employer taking on more difficult tasks is correct.
The thing I feel I could bring to STEM is my understanding of mathematics to help students struggling with concepts such as basic algebra, computer algebra (x++), quadratics, networks ect, from the real world I have taught courses on maintenance data base systems and have been involved with many BMS systems in buildings including those in pharmaceuticals.
I am also very reachable and understand, if a course has a cut off date for (TMA's) then for me if possible that is working time to midnight, I will sit there with my iPad ready, for that cry for help.
Bear in mind that this part was put together from the perspective of teaching in computing and communications, with your maths background you could look into some of the maths modules at stage 2 and 3.
I've managed to track down some stage 1 content on OpenLearn, this course has extracts from TM111 and TM112 in it:
And there is content on OpenLearn taken from the maths modules you can look at as well. For example M208 Pure Mathematics
You can find the module codes linked to the various degrees here:
Practically, tutoring would allow me to fit teaching around my other research duties, and would improve my prospects of a lectureship.
However, the tutoring role at the OU appeals to me because it aims (and I think succeeds!) to support learning. I completed my Ph.D. research almost entirely remotely, and my recent
post-doc was also completed remotely. I know first hand how difficult it is to sustain
motivation and connection at a distance as a learner, and I am curious to understand more about what learning means on the tutoring end. Though this course is giving me very good insight to this process, it remains
imagine that it is something best experienced.
I think, for me, the key to success both in my PhD and in my post-doc were the personal connections I made with people at a distance. Technology made these connections possible, but it was the person on the other end of the connection that mattered.
In contrast, I have tried to take a number of MOOC courses in the past and I almost always fail to complete them. I think this is because the quality of the materials is not as high. Lessons are almost always structured around facts, but do include much detail to encourage thinking or growth. There are often discussion boards, but they don't entice, and are not connected with the learning material. Automated emails are sent for a while if I haven't logged in, but then they stop.
So as a tutor, I would try to find ways to use technology to support personal connections. I think one on one tutoring time could be supplemented with screen sharing and a connection through a tool like Skype or Hangouts in much the same way that paired programming sessions are often conducted remotely. I think good interactions through chat or discussion boards would help, but I also think that voice and to a lesser extent video are important parts of communication and connection. Finally, one of the greatest gifts I have been given as a learner is that of being read - so I think that being able to send materials in development to tutors, and knowing that they will be read and responded to would be an immense support. For this, email is best!
It was not easy, I assure you. I wouldn't recommend it unless it is absolutely necessary, and certainly nowhere except at the OU.
Because I did the research at the Open University, I was fortunate to benefit from the same ethos. In part, it was this experience that made me curious to learn more about how students working on other degrees learn at the OU and about the AL role.
Just a reminder that tutorials are not usually 1-2-1. They are usually group tutorials, and any students on the module can attend. So they may be students that are not in your tutor group, and your students could be attending tutorials run by another tutor. There could be a variety of reasons for this, for example the tutorial time is more convenient for them.
I enjoy finding ways to use technology in teaching. Online learning gives students ‘thinking time’ and allows them to consolidate learning, both of which are important when learning programming. Using MS Teams, one thing I tried was sharing a code snippet and asking students to work out what the code does. This allowed the quicker students to guide the others but it also highlighted pitfalls and misconceptions that can cause frustration when learning programming. I particularly like the fact that an online discussion is available for people to refer back to if they didn’t understand something at the time.
I have quite a bit of experience in giving support to customers remotely, talking people through fairly complex processes over the phone or webcam, so I feel some of my support background will port over to the distance teaching aspect of tutoring.
I also like that the role is part time, allowing me to continue in my current role. My hope would be that I could continue as a tutor once I retire from the 9to5, hopefully taking on more modules as time and experience permit.
I would enjoy working with the students, guiding them through the potential difficulties as thy begin their OU journey; using the various technologies available such as Adobe Connect and the forums to engage with them.
I enjoy teaching and applying technology into it. I like online interaction; videos, chat, discussion etc. It is fantastic feeling when you can create interactive and comfortable environment for the students with effective use of modern technology. As a part time tutor I can study as well and develop my skills and knowledge; that provides flexibility for me and for my students.
The appeal for me is I can fulfil the role while training as a computer science teacher (career change).
As a former OU student I have empathy with the requirement to balance work, study and life pressures.
The main benefit of remote study is that it is more suitable to reach out and help on a one to one (individualised) basis, therefore mitigating a diverse range of abilities, requiring a more individual student specific approach.
I have significant experience in running remote workshops and team meetings. These skills are transferable and will be effective when tutoring students.
The remote learning experience is reflective of real world IT today, for example I have successfully ran project teams spread across India, Germany and USA. Remote collaboration and communication are a way of life within computing in the 21st century
From my first year and first course with the OU my path changed completely, I hated school but loved learning with the OU. I started my degree when I was in my late 30s and became a teacher in my 40s. I get job satisfaction from being a teacher that I have never achieved in any other job and want to spread the love of learning to others. I also enjoy having variety and flexibility in my work life. I work as a teacher part time (70%) where I mostly finish early afternoon. I enjoy working from home evenings and weekends and have always had multiple part-time jobs ratehr than one full time job. Tutoring for the OU means I have more flexibility to work around other commitments (I have a horse too) and I find teaching others always deepens my own understanding.
I already utilise lots of online resources for my GCSE and A Level teaching and moved away from any paper based resources as much as possible quite a few years ago. At school I use Google Classroom and Google Drive and have collected a whole range of other websites that are useful and give students the variety needed to learn in different ways including independently. There are so many tools available to interact with students now. This year has taught us a lot about interacting during lockdown and really shown us the importance of embracing technology!
I genuinely find the tutor role appealing since I would be engaging with a diverse set of individuals that have a shared goal over the duration of an entire course. This offers an opportunity to support students whilst at the same time reinforcing and expanding my own understanding. Additionally, the format of the engagement, i.e. part-time, well structured and with remote (and some face-to-face) tutorials appears to facilitate engagement that promotes diversity and broad contribution.
So far as interacting remotely goes, I guess the whole Covid experience has given a great many people some experience of this. In my case, I have worked remotely quite regularly over the years and Covid for me was a case of moving from about 60% remote to 100%, rather than the whole leap. What this means is that I have developed many personal techniques over time for remote interaction, as well as familiarity with the tools that are out there. Certainly 'pairing' remotely with colleagues to solve problems is one of these and I could see doing so either in a tutorial or one-to-one session with students. Both synchronous tools, such as Google Meet or Zoom as well as asynchronous tools such as email, Slack, or the OU forums can form part of the interaction mix. I am pretty comfortable with any of those (although personally I think that Zoom is a terrible piece of software).
Because I have never stopped learning things, both professionally and for general interest, I find it rewarding to be in the company of other who have the same attitude of inquiry, whether my relationship to them is as student or teacher.
One of the things I am keen to work with more is to use video conferencing, Zoom type lessons, I have used these tools quite extensively when working for commercial companies when developing strategies or producing content. I am especially interested working in the context which is different from formal "lessons". The example I would give is that having discussed a piece of work the students would then continue with their own work but the "session" would remain open. Students could then ask a question which the tutor. or indeed other students could address, but as far as the rest of the students are concerned, it would be up to them whether to participate.
The capacity to share work, documents, or other resources offered by these tools I would anticipate would be stimulating. Plus it gives the tutor the opportunity to adopt disruptive methods should the situation arise.
We don't currently use Zoom with students. Instead we have rooms in Adobe Connect for tutorials, which allow video, but it isn't used by many due to the bandwidth that is used. However it does also allow document sharing, whiteboards and, importantly for computing modules, application sharing, alongside text chat and audio.
What appeals to me is the flexibility of the role. It's part-time, largely home based, and you have some control over the scheduling of events. It's also something that I think is an extremely worthwhile thing to do. The more I read about it the more I come realise this. Finally its two things that I enjoy doing - IT, and talking about IT.
In my last role (which I retired from last year) I was responsible for the roll-out of MS Teams as our collaborative working platform. I'd previously gone through lots of other file store/conference call/screen share type systems. but they all had drawbacks. Frankly, Teams is a reasonable stab at bringing it all together as seamlessly as possible. I've seen it used in anger on real developments and it's real strength is team-work when teams are not co-located. It would be great for distance teaching/learning purposes also. I see that OU is using Adobe Connect which I've not tried, but here's hoping it's as good as Teams.
I agree with many other posters on the point that flexibility is surely one of the appealing aspects of the role of a tutor. I think it is also rewarding to be in contact with the students and to help them in their learning journey.
I would use Skype or MS Teams for tutorials and video-conferencing. Maybe also a group on Facebook or Whatsapp might be useful.
Some good ideas here. If you do become an OU tutor, you will discover that we currently use Adobe Connect for online tutorials with students and they can be used at other times, such as giving individual support. Teams is used for some staff events and we have access to Skype for Business for calling students.
Being a tutor will be rewarding for me as a member of staff as well. It would certainly be a good opportunity to be immersed in my modules' content and get direct experience of the student engagement with the module, though it is worth thinking carefully because it means spare time to take on this additional work.
One thing I find appealing about the role is the flexibility of it, by that I donlt just mean time wise for myself, rather the fact that students are primarily taught the bulk of the topics by distance learning, a tutor largely helps where students have problems understanding specific areas rather than delivering all the material themselves. This seems to me very satisfying to be concentrating on areas where students are having the most difficulty and then helping them oversome these difficulties.
This would lead to some very interesting activities developing additional resources to support speciic students or all students with specific areas of a topic.
Facilitating learning in this way is very satisfying and I have found students really excel when they can go at their own pace and there is flexibility of choice. The idea of owning their own learning can be hard for some to wrap their heads around, especially if their only experience of education has been formal, but once it clicks it can be a huge motivator and confidence builder.
Whilst much of my teaching to date has been face to face, I have also developed interactive (pause-do-continue) video materials for students to use to enhance their learning.
Most recently I have done a lot of online teaching and feel I have developed a lot of the skills required for online teaching and learning.
Maths and computing are both subjects that can be difficult to learn in big groups, and I think the different ways in which tutors and students can interact in varied online ways can allow a tailored approach to be taken to ensure that the needs and struggles of an individual are met.
I think what appeals most to me is the fact that you can get to know students well, where as you can't in large lecture theatres. You can become more focused on what really matters to the students, and can direct them more easily to resources that are suitable to them as an individual. There are so many new tools due to covid that are available to use, which eliminates the requirement to travel and doing our bit to save the planet. I also think that as a society we are more likely to voice opinions without embarrassment.
In terms of remote teaching, I have experience with different conferencing tools including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Whereby. I have combined screen sharing a presentation, chat communication and audio/video Q&A, with sharing website resources and videos on Vimeo whilst completing projects using Scratch programming. I could increase effectiveness by utilising a collaborative whiteboard tool or Mural to enhance engagement and interaction.
The appeal to me of an AL role with OU is a combination of the part time way of working possible with OU, the provision of an excellent curriculum from which to work. This coupled with my teaching qualifications adds up to an interesting and fulfilling career.
During my PGCE year it was necessary to teach remotely for months at a time. I have therefore developed skill in the use of both synchronous and asynchronous technologies with which to teach.
As a student myself at OU, I find that in STEM subjects, when attending tutorials, if we are broken into different groups in Adobe connect, the tutorial is very productive. We can share our thoughts about how to resolve a problem, we encourage each other when we find the same difficulties. After one of these sessions, I leave with my head buzzing!
I think for me the reasons I want to be a tutor are trying out a different career, without the worry of creating all the content for the course as well. I am passionate about demystifying tech as everyone will need these skills going forwards, even if they aren't acting as a developer themselves.
I was the only women in my year, or any year at uni on my degree. The lectures were obviously skilled subject matter experts, but I often found it hard to relate some concepts back to real world examples. I think that's a useful skill that I can bring to give context to the class materials more.
Also the importance of inclusive design and accessibility in tech, not just for what these people will end up doing in their future careers. Also as a so many people with disabilities do study through the OU showing that this is a career option for them. Especially with covid more roles are becoming virtual this should open up the job market more for this group as well as parents or carers who need more flexible working options.
As far as tech goes, I already deliver training, webinars etc via teams, zoom, google meet / classroom and other virtual platforms to small and large groups. So be that role plays, slides, or live demos of functionality people can follow along with.
I think trying out this tutor role alongside my current work will help me think through my own career progression more. Also give me more options for the future if I can't work full time for whatever reason.
One aspect I particularly enjoy about being an OU tutor compared to the work I did before teaching 'A' level, is the choices offered to students about engagement. In schools and colleges, 'A' level students are all expected to contribute to discussions, to complete the tasks set and study the same materials. With the OU, students have a lot of choice about how much they engage with the study materials, with their tutor and with each other. This level of autonomy is good, and reduces the pressure on both student and tutor in trying to demonstrate that everyone is participating.
As with most the remote working is very attractive. I have had the opportunity to work from home many times in my career. For me this is ideal as I have cystic fibrosis and so I have to be very carful about what environments I expose myself too. Using public transport in flu season is out of the question. I also like how I am able to work at my own pace at any time. Being able to take an hour to walk the dog and think about my work is vital for the problem solving process.
For the activities I would do, I would certainly be willing to do live demonstrations of the normal work flow of writing some code. I would also consider helping students with some extracurricular studies relating to their current module. For example helping them to gain a working knowledge of developing mobile phone applications on the Android platform.
In recent years I have noticed a growing trend of development teams using Linux so I would also look to offering some tutorials on developing with Linux.
The main areas of the role which appeal are not related direct to STEM as this isn't the area I specialise in but flexibility and working around your own time appeals and allows for interaction with adults possibly looking for a more flexible approach. also developing online teaching strategies appeals especially due to the current climate
Tutoring appeals to me in serveral respects. When during my career, I was involved in teaching people, giving training courses, many aspects of the work were the sorts of thing one would do as a tutor. And while I enjoyed to the teaching, I often felt a bit frustrated because the confines of giving a training course - particularly a specific and usually vrey tight schedule - often meant I was unable to spend all the time I needed to with individual students, nor the had the opportunity to explore ideas of relevance but outside the course syllabus. The tutor role seems to me to offer all the good things about the teaching I used to do, but with the major drawbacks removed.
The part time aspects of the role are also attractive. I'm at an age where I'm no longer looking for a full time role, but certainly want to be doing something, and ideally something which is positive and worthwhile. Helping people learn and improve themselves is surely that
Part 4 Activity 3
I'm interested in the tutor role for a number of reasons:
Firstly from my own personal development perspective I would get the chance to work with a diverse variety of people.
Secondly, I would get the chance to employ tools that I have experience with, to help the student community, online working groups, blogs, review sessions, and hopefully some working group session where we could examine say attack techniques - however for the right reasons education.
Thirdly, I enjoy working with people. There is nothing better than to see someone grow, develop and get through any adversity, in my view we always become stronger as a result. However getting there can be a real journey.
Finally, whilst there are many reasons, I have been on the other side of the fence, as an OU student. I can relate to the time management pressures and variety of distractions that face students, the highs and lows. I consider this to be a useful insight.
Every time I help a member of my development team or working colleague to dealing with technical topics, I feel good. It is a positive sensation and I'd like the idea to have the opportunity to extend this with a part time job. Moreover, I'll have the opportunity to learn something new from the students.
Like most people who have commented here, I also like the flexible nature of the role.
In terms of technologies, Jupyter Notebooks are a great way to share executable and editable code with accompanying explanations and hints. Also, as others have mentioned, the forums are very useful, not just for people asking questions, but for other people who had the same question and can read the answers.