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Using Technology to facilitate flexible approaches to academic personal tutoring

1 February 2021

3 minutes to read

Using Technology to facilitate flexible approaches to academic personal tutoring

At the University of Exeter, the Academic Personal Tutor plays a key role as the first point of contact for students. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, new tools have been needed to facilitate those important conversations.

Recognising that opportunities for face-to-face conversations would be limited, an integrated suite of digital tools – Microsoft Teams, Class Notebook and Microsoft Bookings – have been used to support Academic Personal Tutors in communicating with their tutees in what we call the ‘Academic Personal Tutoring Hub’.

This suite facilitates seamless virtual conversations both one-to-one and in groups, offering a virtual, collaborative workspace to address Exeter’s three tutoring themes: Transition, Progress, and Realising Ambition.

A flexible approach to Academic Personal Tutoring has also allowed disciplines to work with their students in a variety of ways that are integrated into the curriculum.

Peer Mentoring

For example, several disciplines have incorporated peer mentoring within group tutorials. Students from 2nd and 3rd years are trained and supported to provide advice and guidance to 1st year students.

In the Biosciences Department at Penryn, tutoring ‘families’ have been created comprised of undergraduate students from all years. ‘Family’ meetings are timetabled weekly, with second and final year students encouraged to take a lead in supporting both first years and each other.

These families – using Microsoft Teams as the platform to meet and share files – have provided a space for mutual support, which has proved more important than ever during the pandemic.

Developing Essential Academic and Professional Skills

Formally assessed modules have allowed students to develop essential academic and professional skills via their Academic Personal Tutorials, and the resources developed have been shared widely across other disciplines.

Using Microsoft OneNote to host the academic and professional portfolios within the student Class Notebooks has also proved a convenient way for students to share their academic and professional development and achievements with their tutors. It has also allowed the sharing of confidential meeting notes from one-to-one meetings.

The Academic Personal and Professional Learning Evaluation (APPLE) self-eva

luation form, developed in the College of Medicine and Health, has been shared with colleagues and students to support this portfolio creation.

Through the form, students can self-audit their academic and professional skills development, and produce evidence statements to support future job applications.

The form was developed following an audit of authentic job descriptions and has become a compulsory, credit-bearing element of degree programmes in the college.

The APPLE form has now been adapted by other colleges and is being used in tutorials with students in a range of other disciplines.

 

Facilitating Student Appointments

Microsoft Bookings has been made available to all Academic Personal Tutors to make it easier for them to arrange appointments with their students. Academic staff across the university have found this saves time, administration and helps their tutees to contact them more easily. And with the added convenience of online meetings, feedback suggests student attendance at tutoring meetings has increased.

“Generally, I think the people are turning up more,” said Dr Charlie Bishop, Senior Lecturer, Senior Academic Tutor, Law. “Partly because we have got that reminder in their calendar, but also because it’s online and easier to just log in for a meeting. I think students are preferring it for the most part. They don’t have to come all the way to campus for a 15-minute meeting with their tutor.”



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