2.6 The ethos of correspondence tuition

Leading on from earlier discussions on tuition and the skills and attributes required to be an effective tutor, The Open University highly values the relationship between tutors and their students, and the vital role correspondence tuition plays in that relationship.

At the OU, there are two aspects to the tutor role in correspondence tuition, the first of which is assessment. This is an essential and integral part of the process of learning. The second is the individual tuition and personal encouragement, or feedback that is provided to students.

If we were to examine this in more detail, correspondence tuition is the personal learning support given by OU tutors concerning their students’ work on tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). This entails supporting students in their preparation in advance of a TMA and responding (in written, spoken or electronic form) to the TMA itself. It also includes following up afterwards to support further learning needs, through clarification or discussion.

At the OU, correspondence tuition serves many different purposes, for example:

  • Encouraging students
  • Teaching students
  • Facilitating the development of skills
  • Helping students attain learning outcomes
  • Individualising the learning experience and making it personal
  • Being flexible and responsive to the needs of students
  • Evaluating strengths and weaknesses in students
  • Encouraging reflective practice in the student
  • Identifying the next steps in learning
  • Feeding forward and determining the mid to long-term goals of the student
  • Encouraging independent learning.

Activity 4

Case study

A tutor has recently taken on a cohort of 20 students for a particular module. Most of the students in the cohort have studied with the OU. However, there are a few students that whilst having not studied for a number of years, they have also never studied with the OU. After a recent online tutorial combined with poor TMA results, the tutor has become concerned that these students are starting to disengage with their module.

Using the bullet points above, what two steps do you think the tutor can take to get the students back on track with their studies? Also briefly describe one or two other methods that can perhaps be used in combination with the chosen steps.

Post your thoughts to the discussion forum [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   and comment on some other posts. Do you agree with the other posters?


You may have selected other steps from the list. Below is a model answer:

Encouraging students – further individual engagement with the students through email or perhaps by phone to discuss any difficulties and provide encouragement and a way forward. If problems are more serious, then perhaps refer the issue to student support.

Feeding forward and determining mid to long-term goals – this could perhaps be carried out through feedback in the TMAs and, in particular, through summary feedback that is returned with each marked TMA, as well as through individual conversation.

2.5 Skills and attributes of an Associate Lecturer

2.7 Developing independent learning