This past week academics and staff across the UK and internationally joined together for the third annual UK Advising and Tutoring Professional Development conference. Common themes of the conference supported the need to further establish roles and responsibilities of personal academic tutors, support student wellness and autonomy, and find effective ways to manage an increasing demands on tutors through learning analytics.
Dr Andrew Pye (Biosciences, University of Exeter), presented his research Student perceptions; what is ‘academic support’ and ‘digital academic support’? suggesting that digital peer and tutor support groups may offer a solution to student needs.
Pye recognized that some tutorials are effected by low student attendance, or students who come to campus only for a quick update that all is well and on track. This prompted his question of whether digital meeting may offer superior support for these situations.
Through an online survey asking students ‘Which of the following do you consider academic support?’ students responded predominantly that ‘academic staff office hours’, ‘feedback on assignments’ and ‘staff teaching taught modules’ as the main services. Surprisingly the ‘academic/personal tutoring system’ was ranked as 6th on the survey as most likely to be considered academic support (see figure below). Another interesting finding is that over 75% of students consider online activity as ‘being able to contact staff’, which further suggests that it may be a viable solution to meet student tutorial needs.
Further, when students were asked where they would go for advice and guidance on their course, they ranked the ‘staff teaching the taught modules’, ‘the academic/personal tutorial system’ and ‘students in their programme’ as the most likely resources for support (see figure below).
Piloting of a Yammer peer tutorial support trial is currently underway with 200 students from the Penryn campus to further understand the viability and impact of this format. Yammer offers students a social media platform for educational purposes allowing them to share files, link to emails and have instant live messaging (to name a few of the many functionalities). The Academic Development team is keen for feedback on this pilot and will be sure to further share good practices as the pilot progresses.